Those Responsible for Openly and Publicly Torturing Veli Şaçılık and His Friends must be Tried!

Under the State of Emergency Decrees, paragraph 15/2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 4 of the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights have been violated, resulting in the abolishment of even fundamental human rights in an attempt to establish a lawless authoritarian regime. 

The violation of human rights have taken a number of forms, including the shutting down of television stations and news agencies, arrest of journalists and elected officials including members of parliament and mayors, the seizure of local administrations, dismissal of thousands of academics and hundreds of thousands of public servants from their posts, institutional and judicial violations, subsuming of the judicial system under the authority of the executive branch as an instrument of the state, erosion of electoral neutrality and security, the rendering of state mechanisms and other agencies for the mediation and investigation of complaints, including the constitutional court, as ineffective and dysfunctional, and finally the erosion of the freedom of association through the closing down of various civil society and legal organisations. This trend of rights violations has found its most recent expression at the the Human Rights monument located on Yüksel Street in downtown Ankara, which was blockaded and surrounded by metal fencing. Symbolically speaking – human rights in Turkey have been blockaded.

Through informal dismissals and a number of other processes resulting in rights violations, hundreds of thousands of citizens have been deprived of their right to due process of law, being subjected to action outside of the official legal framework. This refusal to view our citizens as possessing rights has effectively resulted in a kind of “civil death.”

Those opposed to this situation, including the public servants dismissed from their posts and those citizens who take a conscientious stance against these violations from the four corners of the country have been resisting these developments for months in order to express their concerns and their grievances and to secure their livelihoods. Two of these protestors named Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça have been taken into custody dozens of times, and on the 196th day of their resistance and the 76th day of their hunger strike, they were violently arrested by law enforcement officers. Veli Saçılık, who has been protesting his dismissal and demanding his reinstatement was violently assaulted by law enforcement officers this past week, targeted at close range with dozens of rounds of plastic bullets. Other protestors like Veli, including Acun Karadağ and Esra Özakça faced the same treatment at the hands of law enforcement officers. 

The proliferation of these new and complex forms of torture and reckless violence applied to citizens claiming their rights, as seen with the case of Veli Saçılık, is unacceptable.

According to the 30617 numbered and 01.06.2017 dated report detailing the incidents surrounding the Veli Saçılık case, and on examining the photos and video footage documenting the incident which were circulated online with the approval of Veli Saçılık, we observe the following;

1. Video footage documents how a number of law enforcement officers targeted Veli Saçılık at close range with plastic bullets, and continued firing at him after he had fallen on the ground while gas emanated from the gun barrels. Photos revealed a number of swollen patches of skin and red sores on Veli Saçılık’s back and the rear portion of his legs aligned in a structured pattern. A number of bruises and marks suggest heavy contact with a hard object as well. The written judicial report notes a bruise on each of the shoulder blades, 2 bruises in between the shoulder blades, 4 bruises on the lower back region, and 3 bruises on the rear portion of the left femur, constituting a total of 11 bruises with a width of approximately 1.5 cm, as well as an irritated and swollen region with an area of 6X10 cm. on the lower back. The written judicial report detailing the 11, 1.5 cm wide bruises as well as the regions of irritated skin and marks suggesting heavy contact with a hard object appear highly consistent with the video footage and photographic evidence detailing the shots fired at close range followed by the appearance of a tear gas-like chemical substance shortly after the firing of the plastic bullets. 

According to the video footage documenting the targeting of Veli Saçılık by a number of law enforcement officers at close range with plastic bullets who continued to fire at him after he had fallen to the ground, resulting in the 11 irritated and swollen bruise marks observed on his body indicating that the plastic bullets contained a tear gas-like chemical component, this evidence suggests that the incident must be investigated within the framework of the definition of “torture” regulated under the Y.07.3 code and under the section of “other acts of maltreatment”, carried out by “state officials,” involving the heavy use of a chemical substance.

By signing the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Turkey has accepted the authority and supervisory power of the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT), as well as accepting the series of warnings, recommendations and suggestions included in the Recommendation Section of the report released on 26-27 April 2016 evaluating Turkey’s fourth periodical report. 

According to reports received by UNCAT through trusted sources concerning the recent torture and mistreatment of individuals detained by law enforcement officers, in the Recommendations section of its report, the Committee expressed its concerns regarding these recent developments and reminded Turkey of the absolute prohibition of torture in accordance with the 2nd paragraph of the 2nd Article of the Convention Against Torture which details that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” 

This cautionary reminder issued by the Committee has become even more relevant under the current exceptional conditions. The actions taken against Veli Saçılık and those resisting alongside him including Acun Karadağ, Esra Özakça and Semih’s mother Sultan  Özakça constitute acts of torture and thereby violate the Conventions Against Torture. It must be remembered that torture is a crime against humanity without a statute of limitations. The fact that the government is currently in power does not preclude the government from being investigated and prosecuted in the future for acts of torture. 

We hereby warn the authorities:

● Cease and desist from taking action against Veli Saçılık, Acun Karadağ, Esra Özakça and Sultan Özakça. These people are simply demanding their reinstatement and attempting to make their voices heard.

● The acts of torture enacted against Veli Saçılık and his friends need to be immediately investigated and the responsible law enforcement officers must be prosecuted. 

● The shameful metal barriers blockading the Human Rights Monument on Yüksel Street should be removed immediately – human rights belong to everyone.

We cannot stand by as spectators as these events unfold. We will continue to follow up with the complaints presented to us by Veli and his friends and they will continue to recieve any all the support and assistance possible. These criminal acts taken against Veli and his friends will be reported to the relevant national and international channels for complaint and all possible initiatives will be taken regarding these illegal acts. 

HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION