ATO report shows Turkish gov’t keeps detainees in a place akin to a ‘concentration camp’

The Human Rights Commission of the Ankara Medical Association (ATO) in a new report has harshly criticised a sports hall that was converted into a detainee processing facility in the province, according to a report by Turkey’s left-wing Evrensel newspaper.

“There is no official detention or arrest center at the Ankara Police Department’s counterterrorism branch, and in the 21st century, in the capital of Ankara, there are places and conditions that have more of the qualities of a concentration camp,” Onur Karahancı, who wrote the report, told a press conference on Tuesday.

The commission found that detainees were taken to a sports hall whose air conditioning unit made constant noise of between 60 and 65 decibels, where there was human sweat and body hair on the ground and where inmates were not given individual bedding.

There was no way for detainees to tell the time, they said, and those with chronic illnesses were having difficulty knowing when to take their medication.

There were only two wash basins, three toilets and four showers, and as the shower doors had fallen off, three stalls had trash bags affixed as makeshift curtains.

Detainees were not allowed to go outside or to access books or newspapers, the report found, and those who might pose a threat to one another were nonetheless made to sleep in adjacent beds.

The refusal of police to provide any privacy for medical services and procedures is also against universal medical ethics and human rights, Karahancı said.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) had previously received credible reports of mass torture and abuse in an unofficial detention center in the Turkish capital. According to an account provided by a group of lawyers who have knowledge of the cases of the recent detention of some 1,000 people, police committed torture and abuse on victims in a sports hall that was converted into a detention center a short distance from Ankara city center.

The facility, owned by the State Waterworks Authority (DSİ), was used to inflict both verbal and physical torture on victims including threats to kill, rape, beatings, strappado and spraying with ice cold water.

The lawyers, who wanted to remain anonymous for reasons of safety, told SCF that male suspects in custody were not only subjected to torture but also threatened with the rape of their wives and daughters by the police. Female victims were directly threatened with rape.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with Ahval)

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