İHD Special Report:
Enforced Statements, Interviews, Informant-Making, and Abductions through Coercion and Threats in 2020
5 November 2020
The Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği –İHD) had shared with the public its special report on “Forced Statements, Interviews, Informant-Making, and Abductions through Coercion and Threats in 2019” along with a balance sheet on 13 January 2020. In the special report, İHD had put forth that such practices had become a repressive policy of the state following the state of emergency (SoE) that was declared following the coup d’état attempt of 15 July 2016, while these practices had constituted multiple offenses including threat, insult, torture, deprivation of liberty, malfeasance in office that are prescribed in the Turkish Penal Code (TPC).
Applications filed before İHD and news reports reveal that such practices have been on the rise for the last three years, complaints have not been investigated effectively, and the perpetrators have not been punished.
İHD’s 2018 report on the issue had identified 160 such cases. According to data presented in İHD’s 2019 report, a total of 71 persons lodged such applications before İHD’s central office and its branches: 8 persons before İHD’s central office, 36 before its İstanbul Branch, 8 before its Diyarbakır Branch, 8 before its İzmir Branch, 5 before its Ankara Branch, 1 before its Malatya Branch, and 5 before its Batman Branch. Further, İHD’s Documentation Center identified 13 persons who were abducted and subjected to enforced informant-making offers and threats while they were released without any official action taken. The center also identified another 61 persons who were subjected to forced informant-making offers and threats (in custodial and extra-custodial places), while 5 persons were offered the same while in prison by public prosecutors or other security officers. The total number was found to be 150 persons within this scope.
Only within the first ten months of 2020, however, 6 persons lodged applications before İHD’s central office on the same matter while 11 applied to its İstanbul Branch, 5 before its Diyarbakır Branch, 14 before its İzmir Branch, 5 before its Ankara Branch, 1 before its Mersin Branch, and 3 before its Van Branch making a total of 45 persons. İHD’s Documentation Center identified 10 persons who were abducted and subjected to enforced informant-making offers and threats while they were released without any official action taken. The center also identified another 72 persons who were subjected to forced informant-making offers and threats (in custodial and extra-custodial places), while 4 persons were offered the same while in prison by public prosecutors or other security officers and 29 persons were threatened via social media. The total number was found to be 160 persons within this scope.
İHD belives that the actual figures are well above its findings but the victims seem to refrain from filing complaints before public prosecutors’ offices or İHD for that matter.
When one studies the applications, the summaries of which are presented in the appendix, it is seen that these repressive methods are being used mainly against students, members of political parties, members of the press or families of the detained. Intelligence and anti-terrorism officers threaten people and psychologically torture them with false promises of support pertaining to matters they are vulnerable about since they have access to private information about them. They threaten people with detention, abduction, torture or death and unlawfully force them to become informants saying that they would always pursue them. Sometimes these attempts go even further with persons abducted and subjected to physical and psychological torture for months on end without knowing their whereabouts.
İHD’s 2019 report stated that no effective investigations were launched into the cases of Messrs. Salim Zeybek, Gökhan Türkmen, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, and Mustafa Yılmaz who had been abducted and held for 7 months. Of these persons, Gökhan Türkmen and Yasin Ugan stated for the first time in 2020 that they had been abducted and tortured. Moreover, Mr. Yasin Ugan indicated in his statement that the persons who abducted and interrogated them through methods of torture for 7 months kept on visiting the prison they were held in and threatened them not to change their statements while the prison management organized these meetings that were held in the prison infirmary but the guards made him sit facing the wall thus he was not able to see the faces of those who abducted him. Although Messrs. Türkmen and Ugan told the courts in their statements about their accounts of abduction and 7-month torture, no effective investigations were launched into the matter.
Although it has been more than a year, there is still no information about the faith and whereabouts of Mr. Yusuf Bilge Tunç, who was allegedly subjected to enforced disappearance on 6 August 2019, merely a month before the reappearance of Messrs. Salim Zeybek, Gökhan Türkmen, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya and Mustafa Yılmaz.
For instance in 2020, S. D., who lodged an application before İHD’s Diyarbakır Branch on 16 January 2020 stated the following: “I was taken under custody by the gendarmerie at my home on 20 December 2019 around 6 a.m. I was taken to an interview room in the evening of the first day. They both insulted me and accused me in the room. It took about an hour. When I refused their charges they resorted to violence. They did this with a baseball bat.”
Not only do law enforcement officers, but also other public officials are involved in threats and other coercive methods in some cases. For instance, M. T., an 11th grade high-school student in İzmir, lodged an application before İHD’s İzmir Branch on 21 January 2020 and stated that he was summoned by the vice-principal on 13 January 2020 while he was in class. M. T. saw that three police officers were waiting for him in the vice-principal’s office, who asked to talk to him in private, while the vice-principal left his office so that the officers could easily ask M. T. about his family and relatives and gave him their telephone numbers. In a similar application lodged before İHD’s Diyarbakır Branch, A. Ç., a high-school teacher in Bismil, stated that the principal of his school called him telling that the vice-director of the provincial national education directorate wanted to see him. When he went to the vice-principal’s office he saw three plainclothes police officers there, the vice-principal left the office after handing his keys to the officers while the officers threatened him when they were left alone. According to A. Ç.’s account, police officers tried to persuade him to become an informant for them by saying “You, too, are a civil servant like us; we have to help each other out” and took his phone number. A similar incident happened in Ankara as well. S. S., who was taken under custody on 27 November 2019, stated that he was receiving phone calls non-stop after his release. After receiving a call, plainclothes police officers immediately approached him talking constantly about his daughter. The officers, according to S. S.’s account, threatened him about his daughter while at the same time urging him to cooperate with them. S. S. also stated that persons who identified themselves as police officers took him out a bus from Keçiören to Kızılay in Ankara on 5 February 2020 at 11.00 a.m. when the bus stopped at the Beşevler metro station, which was out of its route, and forced him to a café. The officers asked him about HDP (Halkların Demokratik Partisi – Peoples’ Democratic Party) and attempted to threaten him by asking questions about his daughter, adding: “We are responsible for your release from custody. If we want, we can get you detained again. We will see you again.”
Methods of repression and threat have gone so far that even the caucus members of the third largest party in Turkey are threatened. Serhat Aktumur, a member of HDP’s Central Executive Board and the Co-Speaker of HDP’s Youth Assembly, was abducted on 18 September 2020 by three people before the Kantar crossroads at Kayapınar District in Diyarbakır. According to Aktumur’s account, these persons showed him their National Intelligence Agency identification cards and proposed to talk to him in the name of “conversation” (sohbet). When he refused to do so, he was battered and forced into a vehicle where he was subjected to violence. According to Aktumur’s account, another person got into the vehicle before a shopping mall in Bağlar District and while he wanted to escape he failed. Aktumur underlined that he was forced out of the vehicle while he was blindfolded in the urban forest on the way to Silvan and a person named “(Police) Captain Nihat” warned him not to visit İHD and stop talking to the press. Aktumur said that they threatened him saying “If we see you here again, we will shoot you in the head” and left him in the forest. Aktamur added that the same persons who had called him before told him that he should go to the police station the following day to see “Captain Nihat.”
HDP deputies and politicians including Serpil Kemalbay, Murat Sarısaç, Hüseyin Kaçmaz, Habip Eksik, Nuran İmir, Semra Güzel, Murat Çepni, Hasan Özgüneş, Ayhan Bilgen, Veli Saçılık, Emine Çetiner and artists Gökhan Yavuzel, Ferhat Tunç, Pınar Aydınlar along with author Gülfer Akkaya have been threatened by an account called “jitem.turkey” on social media in 2020 on various dates which said “Death will find you hewal, wait; şewbaş. Code name Yeşil.”
It has also been reported that persons attempted to intimidate inmates in prisons through methods of repression and threats. For instance, the press reported on 3 July 2020 that sick prisoner Ekim Polat was being held in a solitary cell in Manisa Akhisar T-Type Prison where wardens threatened him with death. The news report alleged that the wardens told the petty offenders in the prison that Ekim Polat was “an enemy of the state” adding “you can do whatever you like to him.”
Moreover, perpetrators have threatened some of the victims saying that they would get in trouble if they applied to İHD. For instance, A. T., who lodged an application before İHD’s İstanbul Branch on 29 February 2020, stated that two plainclothes police officers stopped him as he was getting on the metrobus, took his identification card, and forced him into a vehicle saying that he had to give a statement. According to A. T.’s account, he was then taken to Topkapı cemetery where the officers asked him various questions and warned him not to go to İHD adding that someone they knew went to İHD, which, they said, was a mistake.
Although İHD communicated these applications to the Ministry of Interior, the Law Enforcement Supervision Commission, and to the Human Rights Inquiry Committee at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT), no effective investigations have been initiated. A sub-committee to supervise the law enforcement within the GNAT’s Human Rights Inquiry Committee has not been established yet. Although the Law Enforcement Supervision Commission was established within the Ministry of Interior in 2019, its activity report has not been issued yet.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- Public prosecutors should take action against acts of abduction and enforced informant-making, which constitute multiple criminal offenses like threat, insult, torture, deprivation of liberty, malfeasance in office that are prescribed in the TPC while effectively investigating such complaints and the perpetrators should be identified to stand trial without the protection of the state. The Ministry of Interior and the Board of Prosecutors and Judges should fulfill their responsibilities as well.
- GNAT’s Human Rights Inquiry Commission should establish a sub-committee to supervise the law enforcement and review applications.
- The Law Enforcement Supervision Commission should take effective steps to deal with violations cited in this report.
- GNAT’s Security and Intelligence Commission should inquire the illegal activities of intelligence organizations by establishing a sub-committee by force of its mandate and responsibility originating in law and should take effective measures to prevent illegal activities cited in this report.
- The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) will be asked to visit Turkey on this matter. And applications will be lodged before the UN’s competent bodies.
 İHD. “2019 Yılı Baskı ve Tehdit Yöntemleriyle İfade Alma, Mülakat Yapma, Ajanlaştırma ve Kaçırma Olaylarıyla İlgili Özel Rapor.” 13 January 2020. https://www.ihd.org.tr/2019-yili-baski-ve-tehdit-yontemleriyle-ifade-alma-mulakat-yapma-ajanlastirma-ve-kacirma-olaylariyla-ilgili-ozel-rapor/ Also see the previous year’s special report on the same issue in English: <https://ihd.org.tr/en/ihd-special-report-on-testimonies-interviews-forced-informant-making-through-methods-of-coercion-and-threat-and-abduction-cases/>
 İHD. 2018 Report on Human Rights Violations in Turkey. 19 April 2019. < https://ihd.org.tr/en/ihd-2018-report-on-human-rights-violations-in-turkey/>
 JİTEM: Abbreviation for “Jandarma İstihbarat ve Terörle Mücadele” is the Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit, widely known as the embodiment of the so-called Turkish “deep state.” “Yeşil” (a.k.a. Mahmut Yıldırım) is known to be one of the most notorious members of JİTEM.
 Misspelling of heval: Kurdish for friend and şevbaş: Kurdish for good night.
Click to read the full report in English: 20201105_IHD Special Report on Informant Making and Abductions