PACE committee urges stronger action to eradicate torture and ill-treatment in detention facilities in Europe

Adopting a draft resolution on June 21 based on a report by Constantinos Efstathiou (Cyprus, SOC), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has called for enhanced measures to combat and eliminate torture and other forms of ill-treatment in detention facilities.

“The Council of Europe must ensure that the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is upheld. Persons in detention are in a vulnerable position, and States are under a duty to protect their physical well-being and to account for any injuries suffered,” the committee said.

Parliamentarians strongly condemned “the systemic or widespread use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment” in countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, citing reports that reveal videos and photos of torture and ill-treatment in Russia and in Azerbaijan, and the resurgence of torture and ill-treatment in police custody and prisons in Turkey.

The committee stressed the urgent need for concrete action and proposed a series of recommendations to member States and States parties to the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT Convention).

Most recently, 22 prison staff members, comprising guards and two administrators, were detained on warrants issued by Turkish prosecutors for alleged torture and mistreatment of inmates and embezzlement of public funds.

In April 68 women who are incarcerated in Ankara’s Sincan Prison in a letter asked the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to take immediate action on suspicious deaths in the country’s prisons and to launch an investigation into them.

Turkey has experienced a marked resurgence of torture and ill-treatment in custody since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces.

An annual report on human rights violations in Turkey drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu revealed 5,361 incidents of torture or maltreatment in 2022. According to the report, 80 minors were among the 5,381 people who were subjected to mistreatment in Turkey last year, including 1,280 incidents of torture or maltreatment taking place behind bars.

The US State Department, which issued its 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices with a subsection on Turkey last month, listed credible reports of suspicious deaths of persons in custody, among other rights violations in the country.

The report addressed the issue of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, citing domestic and international rights groups who “reported that some police officers, prison authorities, and military and intelligence units employed these practices.”

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