781 people reported torture in Turkey in 2023: rights foundation


A total of 781 people sought assistance in 2023 from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) for themselves or a relative due to alleged incidents of torture and ill-treatment, according to a recent TIHV report.

The report states that 739 individuals personally claimed to have been subjected to torture, while 42 reported it on behalf of a relative, bringing the total number of applications to the TİHV over the last decade to 7,548, and since its establishment in 1990, to 21,894.

The report also notes that six people died in custody under torture.

Torture in custody and prisons is a systematic problem in Turkey about which local rights groups, parliamentarians and state authorities receive hundreds of complaints every year. Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution that expressed concern about an increase in alleged incidents reported from Turkey in past years.

The report indicates that 81.8 percent of the torture victims (598 individuals) underwent formal detention processes, while 18.8 percent (133 individuals) said they experienced unofficial detentions without formal records. This high rate of unofficial detentions is reportedly linked to police interventions during public demonstrations.

Rights groups also complain about a climate of impunity, with most complaints against alleged incidents leading to no substantial investigation, in some cases despite available CCTV footage.

Among the victims, 240 identified as women (32.8 percent), 428 as men (58.5 percent), and 63 as non-binary. The age range of victims spanned from seven to 77, with nearly half (49.2 percent) aged between 19 and 35. June and July saw a spike in applications due to police interventions during Pride Week events.

The highest number of torture reports came from Istanbul, with 251 applications, followed by İzmir (172), Van (161), Diyarbakır (125), Cizre (40) and Ankara (32). İstanbul’s police department topped the list for locations where detainees reported experiencing torture.

The distribution of torture reports shows a significant concentration in the southeastern and eastern Anatolia regions, home to a large Kurdish population. Kurdish speakers accounted for 67 percent of the reports, a stark contrast to the 23.5 percent of the Turkish population from these regions, highlighting a disproportionate impact on Kurdish individuals.

Eight of the reported torture cases occurred outside Turkey.  Since a coup attempt in July 2016 the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has employed extra-legal methods to secure the return of its critics after its official extradition requests have been denied. The government’s campaign has mostly relied on renditions, in which the government and its intelligence agency, MİT, persuade the relevant states to hand over individuals without due process. The victims have been the subjects of a number of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, house raids, torture and ill-treatment during these operations.

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