Amnesty International Calls on Turkey for Justice in Trial of Police Officers and Prison Guards Accused of Torturing Activist

Press Release
September 24, 2012

Amnesty International Calls on Turkey for Justice in Trial of Police Officers and Prison Guards Accused of Torturing Activist

New Verdict due Oct. 1 in Torture Case; Turkish Justice System 'Facing a Key Test'

Contact: Carolyn Lang, clang@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International calls for justice for Turkish activist Engin Çeber in a court ruling whether police and prison guards had a role in the torture that allegedly killed him four years ago. On October 1 the Bakırköy Court of First Instance will determine the involvement of 60 state officials in his death from severe head injuries in custody on October 10, 2008.

The trial opened in February this year, several months after the Supreme Court of Appeals in Ankara overturned an earlier judgment which had convicted 19 police officers and prison guards over Engin Çeber’s death.

“With this ruling the Turkish justice system is again facing a key test – the choice is between allowing the injustice of the past to persist or dealing a blow to impunity for torture and providing justice for Engin Çeber,” said John Dalhuisen, director of the Europe and Central Asia program at Amnesty International.

Death in custody

Police in Istanbul arrested Engin Çeber on September 28, 2008 after he took part in a protest against a police shooting of another activist the year before.

Police officers and prison guards allegedly ill-treated him in custody, resulting in his death from head injuries on October 10, 2008, three days after being transferred to hospital from Istanbul’s Metris Prison.

The first trial in the case concluded in June 2010 when a court found four of the officials guilty of causing death through torture, and handed down life sentences. It was a historic trial in Turkey, where no public official had been convicted of causing death through torture.

But in late 2011, Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals used legal technicalities as a basis for overturning the ruling and ordering a re-trial which began in February this year.

“Following this re-trial, the Turkish authorities must ensure that Engin Çeber’s family not only see justice delivered but also receive reparation for his death,” said Dalhuisen.

“A full resolution to this case will send a strong message that Turkey is taking steps to deal once and for all with an appalling legacy of torture in custody,” he said.

‘Zero tolerance for torture’

The Turkish government’s declared commitment to end torture in Turkey remains unachieved. Engin Çeber’s case is emblematic of the persistent allegations of ill-treatment against law enforcement officials. Acts of torture have very seldom been brought to justice.

Amnesty International is joining Engin Çeber’s family to call on Turkish authorities to bring an end not just to the torture itself, but also the rampant impunity that allows those responsible for the ill-treatment to remain at large.

“We are not just pursuing this case as a family – we are doing it because we don’t want others to die as a result of ill-treatment,” Engin Çeber’s sister Şerife Çeber told Amnesty International.

Through an online video and action on social media, the organization is calling on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to ensure justice for Engin Çeber and to bring an end to the impunity for torture by state officials.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.