26 June 2019
26 June International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
Today is 26 June, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture proclaimed by the United Nations…
In 1997, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Human Rights Association (İHD) and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) would firstly like to state that for us EACH DAY is one in Support of Victims of Torture as our raison d’être is to work for the eradication of torture both at home and abroad. İHD has been recording tens of thousands of cases of torture and ill-treatment since its inception in 1986, while HRFT has been providing physical and psychological treatment and rehabilitation services to more than 17,000 individuals subjected to acts of torture and other ill-treatment practices since 1990.
Torture is a crime against humanity, it is absolutely prohibited!
We would like to remind the authorities a fact that we have been persistently reiterating for years once again: Torture and ill-treatment are absolutely prohibited. Within the scope of human rights law, the norm of prohibition of torture is a result of the demand to protect the right to life and the person’s physical and mental integrity which no one has the right to violate.
This prohibition stands out as a superior rule, in other words as jus cogens, within the hierarchy of norms in international law. Prohibition of torture may in no way be subjected to any exceptions, no reservations may be put forth to bend the prohibition of torture. Competent authorities may not issue orders and directions to this end.
This rule is not an arbitrary statement uttered by human rights defenders. Indeed, Article 2 § 2 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Turkey has also signed, reads verbatim: “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.” In other words, no one may be subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment regardless of whatever he or she has been accused of.
The prohibition of torture has been designated in supranational documents, declarations and conventions as well as in domestic law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 5), UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 7), European Convention on Human Rights (Art. 3), UN Convention Against Torture, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Art. 7), along with the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey (Art. 17) and Turkish Penal Code (Art. 94) within domestic law unmistakably prohibit torture.
Torture is known to signify any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person’s physical and mental integrity intended to oppress and dissuade that person by destroying his or her sense of self. When one also takes into account the cases in which torture is brought into view, praised, awarded with impunity; it is seen that torture is not merely an assault against an individual but is instrumentalized as a form of intimidation against all members of the society, particularly the relatives and loved ones of torture victims.
TORTURE has become a common practice felt by everyone in everyday life…
As has been indicated in the appended note, “A Brief Review of Recent Torture Allegations,” there are grave allegations and cases that point out to a substantial escalation in the number of acts of torture and other practices of ill-treatment to punish and/or intimidate, and/or establish authority over persons and/or utilized as a means of criminal procedure (intended to exact confession or to obtain information / “collect evidence”) in our country in recent years. Acts of torture in official custodial places, extra-custodial places, the streets, prisons, virtually everywhere have become commonplace along with interventions by security forces using “excessive and disproportionate” force which amount to the level of “torture” in assemblies and demonstrations. Moreover, developments and changes which might have utterly devastating long-term effects have been witnessed recently in the human rights legislation including regulations on the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
Solely the acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment that have been perpetrated within these last few months are sound indicators of the degree to which torture has become an ordinary fact in everyday life felt by everyone. Recent cases of torture in Şanlıurfa’s Halfeti District and Ankara have become visible through the witness accounts of those who were subjected to torture or their relatives or their attorneys which have also been reflected in court records along with the reports drafted by rights-based bodies including İHD and HRFT.
Authorities attempt to render the policy of impunity quotidian to make it the rule
The major reason why torture is at a high level in our country is the presence of a very alarming culture of impunity that contradicts the absolute character of prohibition of torture. The primary factor that enhances and extends the scope of this culture is the fact that impunity is indeed a policy implemented by the state itself. State and government officials of all ranks have long been engaged in rhetoric and conduct that defend force used by the law enforcement, even encourage it, and legitimize torture. Particularly the current political power has recently been tending to legitimize torture under the disguise of “counter-terrorism,” “state of emergency,” “national security,” and “public order.”
When the political authority has such an approach, none of the reasons that give way to impunity can be talked about and discussed. These reasons include, but are not limited to, the failure to launch ex officio investigations into allegations of torture and public officials who are perpetrators of torture, lack of effective and independent investigations, resorting to the “permission” system to prosecute such public officials, deferral of sentences and the subjective mentality of public prosecutors and judges far away from impartiality.
Further, the problem of impunity has recently taken on an even more serious dimension through the introduction of legal regulations intended to merely “guarantee” impunity.
Acts of torture should immediately be put to an end and all the necessary steps be taken to grant “redress/remedy” rights of those subjected to torture
First and foremost, acts of torture should immediately be put to an end.
The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) issued its “Concluding observations on the fourth periodic reports of Turkey” on 2 June 2016 incorporating 47 recommendations, one of which was a call to the Turkish State to “unambiguously reaffirm the absolute prohibition of torture and publicly condemn practices of torture, accompanied by a clear warning that anyone committing such acts or otherwise complicit or acquiescent in torture [would] be held personally responsible before the law for such acts and [would] be subjected to criminal prosecution and appropriate penalties.” The necessary steps to meet the requirements of this recommendation should be taken without delay.
The derogatory, provocative language of violence that praises torture and perpetrators of torture used by state authorities and the political power by way of the press should be dropped.
It is entirely the state’s duty to stop torture, above all else, and to clarify torture allegations by initiating prompt and effective investigations into such allegations.
Therefore, effective and impartial investigation processes should be initiated into all current and previous offenses of torture, those responsible for such acts from all ranks should stand trial, be convicted, and the policy of impunity should end.
The State, all the relevant institutions, and physicians are responsible to conduct their legal investigations and medical documentation in line with the principles laid out in the İstanbul Protocol when faced with torture allegations. Any conduct to the contrary constitutes a crime.
In order to meet the requirements of the absolute prohibition principle, torture allegations should be promptly, effectively and impartially investigated based on the principles laid out in the İstanbul Protocol, they should be inquired into by independent committees and each stage of fair trial processes should be undertaken in line with international ethical and legal rules.
The international conventions and documents that Turkey signed overtly indicate that those subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment have the right to “redress/remedy” independent of the identification, apprehension, prosecution or conviction of perpetrators. These documents state, at the same time, that the liability to guarantee these rights and their exercise with all their dimensions lie with the states. The right to “redress/remedy” encompasses the concepts of “effective remedy” and “reparation” as well. The comprehensive reparative concept entails restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.
All legal regulations, particularly the decree laws issued during the state of emergency and Law No. 7145 that provided for the de facto perpetuation of the state of emergency, which pave the way to torture and other forms of ill-treatment, reinforce the shield of impunity, extend the period of police custody to 12 days, eliminate procedural guarantees should be repealed in their entirety and new legal amendments that will secure the absolute prohibition of torture should be introduced in no time.
The current Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey, which is claimed to be serving as the “independent and impartial national preventive mechanism” that is an important instrument in the prevention of torture, should be abolished; a preparation process should be planned with the participation of all relevant parties regarding the establishment of an effective national preventive mechanism in the light of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and recommendations of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT); custodial places should be rendered available for the inspection of all CSOs and NGOs.
Although the liability fully lies with the state to ensure the absolute prohibition of torture, we would like to remind that we, as the society, are responsible as well.
Because we cannot let some other citizens that we co-exist be hurt “in our names.” Protecting human dignity is everyone’s duty to keep on being human. Therefore, prevention of torture and acknowledging the pain that torture brings about is a common responsibility of all.
Within this scope, human rights bodies are, at the same time, at least places of apology on behalf of the society to all those subjected to torture.
Consequently, we want this reality which is reflected in the appended data not be fate and we want “torture” that contradicts our very human existence and overshadows our hopes for a brighter future to be absolutely eradicated from our country and the world.
We will never keep silent against allegations of torture coming in from Şanlıurfa, Ankara, Turkey. Based on all our experience which also has a special place in the world and our raison d’être, we would once more like to declare that we will actively and resolutely undertake our duties and responsibilities in identifying and documenting torture, in the reparative and legal processes including the treatment and rehabilitation of those subjected to torture; we will continue rooting for them with all our resources in order to let all people subjected to torture live with human dignity underlining our faith that human beings are human beings with their rights.
And, we will certainly put an end to torture.
A world free of torture is possible!
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey Human Rights Association
Appendix: App. A Brief Review of Recent Allegations of Torture