Annual Report: Turkey 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Turkey 2010

View More Research

  • Ethem Aç?kal?n, head of the Adana branch of the Human Rights Association (?HD), faced seven ongoing prosecutions as a result of his work as a human rights defender. In October he was convicted of "inciting enmity or hatred among the population" and sentenced to three years' imprisonment for criticizing the state government's imprisonment in 2008 of children involved in protests, including against withdrawal of family health care benefits. An appeal was pending at the end of the year.
  • In December Muharrem Erbey, Vice-President of ?HD and head of its Diyarbak?r branch, was arrested on suspicion of membership of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) which is alleged to be part of the PKK. The police interrogated him about his work for ?HD, and reportedly seized data on human rights abuses from ?HD's Diyarbak?r office. He remained in pre-trial detention at the end of the year.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be reported, with many abuses taking place away from official places of detention. Those accused of ordinary crimes, as well as people accused of politically motivated offences, were vulnerable to ill-treatment.

  • In January the trial began in Istanbul of 60 state officials, including police officers and prison guards, on charges connected with the death in custody of Engin Çeber in October 2008. Some of the accused faced charges of torture. The trial continued at the end of the year.
  • In October Resul ?lçin died from head injuries after being detained in the south-eastern province of ??rnak. A statement from the governor's office pre-empting the official investigation indicated that the death did not result from ill-treatment.

Impunity

Investigations into alleged human rights abuses by state officials remained largely ineffective and the chances of bringing officials to justice were remote. During the year no independent human rights mechanism or independent monitoring of places of detention was adopted.

In January the parliamentary Human Rights Inquiry Committee reported on prosecutions of law enforcement officials in Istanbul in 2003-8. It found that, in 35 criminal cases against 431 officers, not one conviction had followed. In June the Criminal Procedure Code was amended to allow the prosecution of military officials in civilian courts.

  • In October the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that a gendarmerie officer charged following a fatal shooting in the south-eastern province of Siirt should not face punishment. The shooting occurred when unarmed civilians threw stones at the officers' vehicle and chanted slogans. Although the court recorded that the shooting was disproportionate, it acquitted the officer because of "the gravity of the physical attack…, the fact that it continued increasingly despite the warnings and the totality of the conditions of the region".
  • In September, Ceylan Önkol, a young teenager, was killed in an explosion near her home in the Lice district of south-eastern Turkey. Witnesses said she had been grazing cattle close to Tapantepe gendarmerie station and reported hearing the sound of a mortar immediately before the explosion. Neither a full autopsy nor a prompt crime scene investigation was carried out. The authorities said that "security reasons" prevented them from visiting the scene until three days after the death.
  • The prosecution of Ergenekon, an alleged ultranationalist network with links to state institutions, continued. Those accused included both serving and retired senior members of the armed forces. The court accepted a second indictment in March and a third in September. However, the prosecution was not broadened to include an investigation of alleged human rights violations.

Prison conditions

Allegations of ill-treatment on transfer to prison persisted and, in a number of cases, prisoners' access to appropriate medical treatment was denied.