The Stockholm Center for Freedom and four other NGOs on Friday submitted a series of observations to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) on the implementation of Article 20 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The NGOs asked CAT to initiate an inquiry into Turkey as these organizations are convinced there is reliable information containing well-founded indications of serious and systematic violations of the convention in Turkey.
Among the main arguments addressed in the document sent to the CAT Secretariat are the following:
“Following the graft probes of December 17 and 25, 2013 that exposed the prevalent corruption within the government, the then Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has initiated a gruesome scheme to seize control of all aspects of the Turkish society. The bogus coup attempt of July 15, 2016 granted the Erdogan Regime the carte blanche it needed. The Regime, with all the state apparatuses including the judiciary under its tight grip and a well-oiled propaganda machine fed by appropriated public funds, turned the Gulen movement into a scapegoat and unleashed its wrath onto innocent people in Turkey and around the world.
“This wrath demonstrated itself in a government policy of wide-spread, deliberate and systematic human rights violations. The notoriously-long custody periods with little to no oversight due to introduction of state of emergency and ensuing legislative decrees, Gulenists have been pressured into making “confessions”. The judiciary is far from being independent and impartial, and as such, there has been effectively no judicial review of arbitrary detentions – numbers of which is more than 400 in a regular week. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has so far found nine cases of fundamental human rights violations pertaining to cases of Gulen movement followers.
“Systematic, deliberate and wide-spread torture as a government policy, which manifested itself lastly with the torturing of diplomats in Ankara Police Headquarters, is made possible by, inter alia, practices of prolonged detention, prohibition of lawyer-client meetings and/or violation of their confidentiality, dissolution of all prison monitoring boards and prevention of obtaining fair medical examination reports. The practice of torture to extract confessions is well documented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). These practices include battery, rape, sexual assault and threats thereof, electroshocks and waterboarding. The acts of torture take place particularly at the time of arrest and during the preliminary detention. In addition to the communication a list of alleged perpetrators of torture or ill- treatment is also submitted to the United Nations as an Annex.
“Not only Turkey lacks competent and willing judicial bodies to investigate well-grounded allegations of torture, it also suffers from obscuring of evidences of torture. For instance, in a leaked confidential document, the Directorate General of Security (National Police) instructs all 81 provincial police departments to cover up traces of torture in detention centres and not to use official detention centres [for torture] ahead of a fact-finding visit by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the Council of Europe (CoE). The OHCHR and HRW both underline pervasive climate of fear and difficulty to document and investigate acts of torture and other forms of ill- treatment.
“The Erdogan Regime’s security and intelligence arms have not abstained from abducting people either. All 26 cases of enforced disappearances in Turkey so far follow a similar pattern, which proves the fact that it is a systematic effort. The victims spend months with their conditions or whereabouts unknown, are subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Enforced disappearances are not confined within the borders of Turkey, the government abducts people abroad as well. Turkish Foreign Minister brazenly boasted about kidnapping of 100 individuals by the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) from 18 countries. These victims have also reported being subjected to severe torture.
“Penitentiaries are no exception to the rule of systematic human rights violations. In lack of official figures, it is estimated that there are more than 3000 inmates held in solitary confinement. Prolonged detention in solitary confinement is a degrading punishment in itself, but more importantly, it is conducive to other acts of torture and ill-treatment. As such, there are 54 documented, murky cases of suicide in penitentiaries. These suspicious deaths are in fact due to torture and lack of adequate medical care.
“The Erdogan Regime has also systematically targeted vulnerable groups such as expectant or new mothers, elderly, sick and disabled persons. The OHCHR reported 50 cases of women being arrested just before or after giving birth and estimates that there are 600 mothers held in detention with their young children. In almost all cases, these women were charged with alleged offences of their husbands, ina total disregard for the principle of individuality of criminal responsibility.
“The information available provides a reasonable basis to conclude that multiple offences within the scope of Article 6(c) and 7(1) of the Rome Statute have been committed by the Erdogan Regime as a government policy, in its systematic and widespread attack on followers of the Gulen movement, particularly in the aftermath of 15 July coup attempt. There are also strong indications that rape (Article 7(1)(g) of the Rome Statute) and threats thereof have been systematically and deliberately resorted to by the government in its attacks against the movement.
“International Association for Human Rights Advocacy in Geneva (IAHRA GENEVA), Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF), Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), HRD Human Rights Defenders e.V. and Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) do take the opportunity to call on the Committee Against Torture as well as all relevant bodies of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and other international organizations to initiate investigations and to stay vigilant in prevention of practices of systematic and widespread torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the Erdogan Regime and bringing perpetrators of such acts to justice. The said organizations pledge to remain active in its endeavors to this end.”