Turkish police ill-treatment of detainees needs decisive action – CofE

Decisive action needs to be taken over the Turkish police’s ill-treatment of detainees, the Council of Europe said in a report published on Wednesday.

The report by the council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) laid out its findings from an ad hoc visit to Turkey in 2019 to examine the treatment and safeguards afforded to detainees. 

The CPT said that, compared to the findings of the 2017 visit, the severity of alleged police ill-treatment appears to have diminished. 

“However, the frequency of allegations remains at a worrying level,” it said. 

“The Committee stresses once again the need for more decisive action by all relevant authorities in order to combat the phenomenon of police ill-treatment in Turkey and reiterates its recommendation that a clear and firm message of ‘zero tolerance’ of ill-treatment be delivered to all law enforcement officials, from the highest political level, namely the President of the Republic.”

The CPT said that the 2019 delegation received a considerable number of allegations from detainees – including women and juveniles - of excessive use of force and physical ill-treatment such as slaps, kicks, punches, and truncheon blows by security officers after detainees had been handcuffed or otherwise brought under control. 

“A significant proportion of the allegations related to beatings during transport or inside law enforcement establishments, apparently with the aim of securing confessions or obtaining other information, or as a punishment,” the CPT said.

The CPT said it remained concerned over legal restrictions regarding access to a lawyer during the initial phase of police custody for certain serious crimes.

It also said that the system of mandatory medical controls at the outset and end of custody
“remained fundamentally flawed” as in the vast majority of cases law enforcement officials
continued to be present during medical controls and such controls were often carried out without any physical examination. 

“Moreover, several persons claimed that they had been threatened not to show their injuries by police officers present during medical controls,” the CPT said.

The CPT said that, while the detention facilities it visited were in a good state of repair and generally clean, major deficiencies made them unsuitable for more than a few days of detention. 

Many cells did not did not have access to natural light, and none enabled detainees access to open air. Conditions were cramped, with up to four people being held in a 9 m² cell and detainees were often not provided with blankets or mattresses. Several detainees complained of being denied sufficient food, water, and hygiene products. 

The CPT delegation visited a number of police and gendarmerie establishments as well as remand prisons in different parts of Turkey and interviewed hundreds of persons who were or had recently been held in police custody in the Ankara, Diyarbakır, Istanbul and Şanlıurfa areas. The delegation also went to Imralı F-type High-Security Prison.