The Ankara Bar Association last January had decided not to publish a report drafted by the bar’s Human Rights Center on allegations of torture of detainees in the custody of the Ankara police, upon which the lawyers who prepared the report resigned and the bar administration eventually had to step down after a public backlash. The new bar administration posted the unpublished report on the association’s website on January 2.
According to the report, the detainees interviewed by the lawyers allegedly were stripped naked, sprayed with cold water and exposed to sexual harassment, beatings, threats and insults.
On January 17, 2022, human rights activists claimed on social media that dozens of people affiliated with the Gülen movement, a group critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were detained by the counterterrorism unit of the Ankara Police Department and that they were subjected to torture during their interrogations, which were conducted in the absence of their lawyers.
Relatives of the people who were allegedly tortured applied to the Ankara Bar Association and requested legal assistance in pursuing the allegations. As a result, members of the Human Rights Center operating under the bar association went to the police department and interviewed the victims in custody and drafted a report that included the allegations of torture.
While human rights organizations were waiting for the report in order to publicize the allegations of torture by citing the bar association, in a statement dated January 26 the Ankara Bar Association announced that a criminal complaint would be filed regarding allegations of torture without mentioning the report.04.04.2022_tarihli_ihm_rapor
Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service on February 7, 2022, Ankara Bar Association President Kemal Koranel denied the allegations of censorship. “We have done our part in terms of human rights and freedoms. We have filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor’s office. To date, the Human Rights Center has prepared 13 similar reports. Only one of them has been published. We don’t have a procedure for publishing every report,” he said. However, Koranel announced his resignation from the Ankara Bar Association presidency and board membership on March 23, 2022.
The report finally published yesterday states that the Ankara Bar Association lawyers were unlawfully prevented from having their phones with them during the interviews in order to prevent them from taking pictures that would prove torture. However, it is clear from photographs in the appendices of the report that some lawyers were able to secretly take photographs of several torture victims.
The detainees told the lawyers that they were interrogated under the guise of an “interview”; that they were forced to become informants; and that they were exposed to threats and insults.
The interviewees stated that medical examinations were done by a person in a doctor’s coat walking through the detention center corridor, shouting and asking if anything was wrong. They added that no one had contact with the doctor because they were afraid and weren’t sure if the person was really a doctor or not. They also said they rarely went to the hospital for examinations contrary to the law.
One of the interviewees stated that he was kept standing for a long time in handcuffs, adding that he was stripped naked and repeatedly threatened with rape with a bottle. He also said he was soaked twice with cold water.02.03.2022_tarihli_ihm_rapor
The report also says another interviewee was told by the police to do a striptease for them during the interrogation.
One interviewee told the lawyers that he was subjected to a brutal beating and witnessed another detainee being beaten very badly. The same person added that he felt he had to sign the papers put in front of him, fearing for his safety.
Several detainees also stated that the room where they met with their lawyers was surveilled and that they were asked questions about the content of the meetings they had with their lawyers.
The lawyers who drafted the report underlined that the statements of the people interviewed at different times did not contradict each other; on the contrary, they were complementary, and when the statements were evaluated as a whole, it was confirmed that the people had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
Nordic Monitor previously published a report released by London Advocacy and Human Rights Solidarity last month that torture and inhuman treatment are increasing in Turkey and that investigations into officials who commit these crimes are either not conducted or are covered up by the government,
According to the report, since 2016 members of the Gülen movement and Kurds are at high risk of accusations of terrorism-related charges, and hence torture and inhumane treatment.
Due to government pressure, the fear of being tortured again and humiliation in society, torture victims are hesitant to share their experiences, which is the most common problem faced by human rights defenders working on torture in Turkey. That is why very few cases of torture come to light. Undoubtedly, torturers benefit the most from this.