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Press release on the occasion of the international day in support of the victims of torture

Today we mark the “International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture”. As we do stand in solidarity with all the victims of torture, we would like to bring to your attention the following:

Torture is an inexplicable and horrendous act that ignores basic humanitarian values, downgrades an individual to the level of an object. Torture has been a shameful invention of humankind and an indispensable feature of “legal” systems that reach to evidence from suspect/defendant and used as a tactic of inhuman punishment and intimidation by states in many parts of the world. Torture, a crime under international law, is prohibited in the absolute sense and cannot be justified under any circumstances. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

Bearing this in mind, we as HRD, did initiate a litigation campaign under Universal Jurisdiction in Germany, in context with torture and ill-treatment cases in Turkey. Today we have submitted, inter alia, 5 individual complaints, who were subject to torture and ill-treatment in Turkey, and now living in Germany. In addition to our submission a list of alleged perpetrators of torture or ill-treatment is also submitted to the Federal Prosecutor as an Annex.

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 Gülen movement into a scapegoat and unleashed its wrath onto innocent people in Turkey and around the world.

Systematic, deliberate and wide-spread torture as a government policy, which manifested itself lastly with the torturing of diplomats in Ankara Police Headquarters,  as well as in the case of Deniz Yücel, 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.

Under the Emergency Regime, three Decree Laws Nos.667-668-696 offered impunities for the public servants and civilian for all type crimes committed in the pretext of protecting the Government. These decrees, then were approve by the Parliament and have become permanent laws (Law Nos. 6749, 6755, 7079). Under these laws, Istanbul and Trabzon Prosecutorial Offices rendered non-prosecution decision with regard to complaints of victims of torture.

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 centers and not to use official detention centers [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. Further to that, the Turkish Governments prevents the COE’s CPT to publish its 2016-2017-2018 reports.

Furthermore, there 26 cases of enforced disappearances in Turkey. All of them 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.

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, in a total disregard for the principle of individuality of criminal responsibility.

The available information provides a reasonable basis to believe that multiple crimes committed after coup attempt in the context of a widespread and systematic attack against Gulen Movement Followers (GMF) in Turkey pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy, within the meaning of section 6-(3)  and  section 7 – 1, 5,6,7,8, 9,10 of Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch –VStGB). After July 2016 bogus coup attempt the following conducts have been committed:

Genocide defined in Section 6(3) of VStGB as; “with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”

Crimes against humanity under Section 7 VStGB:

  1. Willful killing constituting a crime against humanity under article 7(1) of the Statute;
  2. inflicting, with the intent of destroying a population in whole or in part, conditions of life on that population or on parts thereof, being conditions calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, constituting a crime against humanity under article 7(2) of the Statute;
  3. Torture as a crime against humanity, pursuant to article 7(5) of the Statute;
  4. Rape and other forms of sexual violence constituting a crime against humanity under article     7(6) of the Statute;
  5. Enforced disappearance of persons under article 7(7) of the Statute
  6. Causing serious physical or mental harm constituting a crime against humanity under article 7(8) of the Statute;
  7. Unlawful deprivation of physical liberty or in violation of fundamental rules of international law under article 7(9) of the Statute;
  8. Persecution” constituting a crime against humanity under article 7(10) of the Statute;

We do take the opportunity to call on the Office of the Federal Prosecutor 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. We pledge ourselves to remain active in our endeavors to this end.

For further information:
Human Rights Defenders e.V.