PACE expresses concern about increase in torture allegations in Turkey

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Wednesday adopted a resolution on torture and ill-treatment in places of detention across Europe, addressing the increase in alleged incidents reported from Turkey in past years.

PACE said the rise in allegations comes despite the government’s “zero tolerance” message, overshadowing the country’s earlier progress in the area.

Initiated based on a report by Cypriot MP Constantinos Efstathiou, the resolution named Turkey among the countries where credible reports suggest that torture and ill-treatment tend to be systematic and/or widespread, along with Azerbaijan and Russia.

The assembly said it welcomes recent decisions delivered by Turkey’s Constitutional Court finding violations of the prohibition of ill-treatment and ordering new investigations into complaints.

Yet, prominent Turkish lawyer Ali Yıldız, who spoke to the Stockholm Center for Freedom, said the top court’s role has not been so positive, pointing out that it limited the scope of its rulings to the lower courts’ procedural failures without establishing the existence of torture, in some cases despite mounting evidence.

Yıldız said such decisions, which already come belatedly, further prolong the process and allow the authorities to tamper with evidence or benefit from the statute of limitations.

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.

PACE adopted a similar resolution in June of last year, condemning “the systematic or widespread use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment” in countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Although victims can include people detained or imprisoned on any grounds, several documents in recent years have indicated that the practice is more pervasive and systematic when it comes to people detained during demonstrations that include criticism of the government or those targeted on other political grounds such as their alleged ties to political and civil networks not approved of by the government.

Another abuse that has made the headlines in recent years is the systematic and arbitrary strip-searches of detainees and prisoners.

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