Credible reports of mass torture and abuse in an unofficial detention center in the Turkish capital have been received by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a monitoring group for rights violations in Turkey, according to a report on their website on Monday.
An account provided by a group of lawyers who have knowledge of cases of the detention of some 1,000 people last week indicates that the police have been engaging in torture and abuse on victims in a sporting 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 perpetrate both verbal and physical torture on victims including threats to kill, rape and beat as well as 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.
One suspect told his lawyer that “I heard all kinds of cursing and swearing against my family during the interrogation. They threatened me with raping my family members. We are subjected to all kinds of abuse and physical violence here. I saw one man who had a black eye. I witnessed another man having difficulty in walking because police shoved a baton into his anus. So many victims have marks on their bodies from abuse and torture. One doctor wrote a report documenting torture, but the police were trying to falsify the date of the report.”
The same suspect added that “we heard this torture and abuse could go on for a longer period, but we were told police are rushing because they are expecting to receive hundreds of detainees in the coming weeks. They need space for newcomers. That is why they are subjecting us to intensified and heavy torture and abuse so that they can turn suspects into informants.”
The lawyers also complained that the sporting hall only has one working toilet for hundreds of people who were kept there in inhuman conditions. They are all forced to sleep on the floor next to each other on a piece of sheet laid down on the floor. They also believe the conditions in that detention center are worse than reported because they have very limited access to suspects in police custody.
Last week Turkish prosecutors issued detention warrants for 4,900 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, with 1,009 of them detained in simultaneous raids across Turkey’s 72 provinces on Wednesday.
The list was reportedly drawn up by Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT), which profiled unsuspecting citizens based on their political views and ideologies.
Since there was no solid evidence to warrant their detentions, police have been using torture to extract forced confessions out of the suspects, who in many cases are compelled to sign statements that were prepared in advance.
The suspects, many of whom are educators, are alleged to have been members of the Gülen movement, which is critical of the authoritarian and repressive regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The suspects were detained without the knowledge of their lawyers and interrogated without their lawyers being present.
A leaked confidential government document last year revealed that Turkey’s police have been using unofficial detention centers across the country. Apparently concerned over an impending visit by a delegation from the Council of Europe (CoE) Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) that was scheduled to carry out inspections between Aug.
28 and Sept. 6, 2016, the acting deputy head of the Turkish National Police warned all officers about the visit and ordered them to avoid using sports facilities as detention centers during the delegation’s stay in the country.
The official also asked police officers to obey international rules of detention while the delegation was in Turkey and ordered them to reorganize all detention centers and to make the centers ready for the inspection as quickly as possible.
Among the locations where detainees are reported by media to have been tortured or subjected to maltreatment are Ayaş Prison in Ankara’s Sincan district; the gymnasium at Ankara Police Headquarters; the gymnasium at the Ankara Police Academy; the Special Forces headquarters in Ankara’s Gölbaşı district; the solitary confinement cells in İstanbul’s Silivri and Ankara’s Sincan prisons; a warehouse behind Ankara Police headquarters; the gymnasium at Diyarbakır’s Gaffar Okkan Police Academy; and Diyarbakır’s Bağlar gymnasium. A room immediately next to the attorney-detainee meeting room at İstanbul’s Vatan Police Station is also believed to be among such locations.
Despite a last-minute attempt by the Turkish government to cover its tracks on torture, the CPT is believed to have documented serious torture and abuse cases during its fact-finding visit to Turkey. That is the reason why the Turkish government denied the approval request by the CPT to make its report publicly available.
In December 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer talked about an environment conducive to torture following a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016. He noted that Turkey is not following up on investigating torture allegations. Melzer’s visit, the first by a UN torture expert to Turkey since 1998, came a month after US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Turkish police of torturing detainees. On Oct. 27, in a 43-page report titled “A Blank Check: Turkey’s Post-Coup Suspension of Safeguards Against Torture,” HRW documented 13 specific abuse incidents concerning Turkey’s post-coup detainees. The alleged abuse cases ranged from the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation to severe beatings, sexual abuse and the threat of rape.
Human rights group Amnesty International reported on July 24 that it had received credible evidence of detainees in Turkey being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since the failed coup on July 15.
Confirming the claims, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, president of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), said during the Ankara Bar Association’s general assembly on Oct. 16 that people imprisoned as part of a government crackdown on the Gülen movement are being systematically tortured in the most barbaric ways including rape, removal of nails and the insertion of objects into their anuses.
“They remove the nails of colleagues [during detention] at police stations. Believe me, I saw people who underwent a colostomy after they were tortured with objects inserted into their anuses in prison and police stations,” said Kozağaçlı.
According to an SCF report on March 22, 2017 under the title “Suspicious Deaths And Suicides In Turkey” there has been an increase in the number of suicides and suspicious deaths in Turkey, most in Turkish jails and detention centers where a torture and ill-treatment is being practiced.
In most of the 54 cases mentioned in the report, (which was later updated with a list of 60 cases) the authorities concluded that they were suicides without any effective, independent investigation. Suspicious deaths have also taken place beyond the prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention.
According to a statement from Interior Minister Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. On May 6, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since July 15 of last year.