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ERDOGAN’S LONG ARMS: ABDUCTIONS IN TURKEY AND ABROAD

 

The Origins of the Problem

Turkey’s struggle to draw the country more in line with the pillars of the European Union faced a long and accelerating slide. The country’s Freedom in the World score has been in free fall since 2014 due to an escalating series of assaults on the press, social media users, protesters, political parties, the judiciary, and the electoral system, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fought to impose personalized control over the state and society in a deteriorating domestic and regional security environment.

Turkey’s drift into the grip of authoritarianism began before the failed 2016 coup. The government’s heavy-handed response to nationwide Gezi Park protests in 2013, the start of a purge against members Gülen community after the corruption investigation in December 2013 paved the way for the emergence of an illiberal government. Many observers and experts pinpoint this year, 2013, as the major turning point for Turkey’s drift away from liberal democracy. The steady descent into an autocratic system leads to the full breakdown of the rule of law, judicial independence, and corrosion of the integrity of Turkey’s bureaucratic institutions following the sweeping purge after the failed coup attempt in 2016.

The signs of the conflict first came to surface after Erdoğan made clear his intentions to establish a more authoritarian rule with the powers vested by the 2011 referendum. The battle lines were drawn after the infamous graft operations of 17 and 25 December, in 2013, where prosecutors rounded up some politicians and businessmen who were under surveillance in a longitudinal investigation. Erdoğan said the corruption files were nothing but a sham, perpetrated by the Gülen movement as a soft coup in line with the interests of the foreign powers, which were envious of the Turkish rise as a global power.

Hizmet had long been hailed as the soft power for the country with its huge focus on education and humanitarian aid activities as well as interfaith dialogue efforts. “Gülen schools portrayed Turkey as a mystical but adaptable and open-minded country, and became a place for building intimate connections with elites and their children in dozens of countries.” Erdoğan used the movement’s international prevalence as a proof for his claim that it became the tool for the foreign powers.

When President Goes to War

Erdoğan has vowed on many occasions to uproot the Gülen Movement wherever it is. He did everything in his capacity, banking on the state power, and striking new partnerships with his old enemies against the Hizmet, which Erdoğan started calling the Parallel Structure. Erdoğan declared a “witch-hunt” against the movement, purging Gülen’s followers from public services, crippling its media power, erecting red-tape obstacles, cowing its institutions and companies with interminable inspections, etc. Finally, on July 15, 2016, a coup attempt, which Erdoğan declared Hizmet as the main perpetrator and used this argument to justify his undemocratic measures.

Erdoğan said: “Neither in the East nor in the West is a single member of this organization comfortable as before, nor will they be. If not today, then tomorrow, one day every member of the FETO traitors’ front will pay for his treason against the country and the nation.2 ” FETÖ, the abbreviation for the Fetullahist Terror Organization, was chosen by him to demonize the movement.

A Cultural Genocide

Erdoğan was not simply flapping his jaws. He has already been doing everything to make life unbearable for the Gülen followers inside the country. The coup attempt, which the Hizmet never claimed involvement in and renounced from the first moment, gave him an unquestionable and unchallenged excuse to completely disregard the current laws, as well as some international laws like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, under a state of emergency. What ensued was a witch hunt at an unprecedented frantic intensity.

According to the research conducted by the AST as of February 2020, investigations have been carried out on more than 610,000 people. The number of people arrested as a result of these investigations has already gone above 160,000 and counting. Currently, about 63,000 political prisoners are behind bars in the Turkish prisons. A total of 780 children are inside these overcrowded prisons, where their mothers endure agonizing troubles to raise them. 6,021 academics were expelled from their universities; whereas 15 private universities, which had affiliations with the Hizmet were shut down. 3,003 schools and dormitories were closed, millions of books were burned. Roughly 200 media outlets were seized and were either converted to pro-government mouthpieces or muzzled completely. 161 journalists were imprisoned. 4,463 judges or prosecutors were dismissed from public service and some were incarcerated. Tens of thousands of polices officers were axed. The licenses of 1,539 attorneys are currently under trial and 580 of them are in jail. 11 people died under arrest or during interrogation. 93 prisoners were killed due to torture and ill-treatment.

Globalizing the Theatre of War

Erdoğan also attempted to convince countries through carrot and stick policies or more diplomatic means to join his personal fight and do the same to the Hizmet members within their borders without heeding too much about what the rule of law by its very own nature requires. Various governments didn’t hesitate to jump on the bandwagon and yielded to the diplomatic pressure from Erdoğan to arrest and deport members of the Gülen Movement active in their countries. Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Turkmenistan are some of these countries. In some countries, like Myanmar, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and Sudan, the countries didn’t even follow their own laws while carrying out the deportations. In some countries, the local intelligence agencies cooperated to seize Gülen followers, while in some others, Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) didn’t even need to ask for permission to stage an operation.

In Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Malaysia, and Pakistan, the domestic authorities blatantly violated international laws by deliberately deporting or letting Turkish intel agents kidnap Erdoğan’s opponents, who had applied for asylum or had UN protection against persecution.

Vicious Methods Inside the Country and Abroad

Although ascertaining the exact number is not easy, an estimated total of 130 people (refer to AST’s research) were abducted inside and outside Turkey through nefarious methods, brushing away even the most basic rights to fair trial and defense. Some of these people whisked away abroad by clandestine operations, were under the protection of the United Nations. They were subjected to heavy tortures, made to sign fake testimonies, turned into the living dead, and even murdered. Ankara was even accused of exploiting the Interpol system by submitting extradition requests for over 40,0003 individuals with arbitrary terror charges, revoking passports of the dissidents who struggle to survive as expats, issuing arrest warrants on fake accusations, etc. MİT organized covert operations to abduct and bring to Turkey mostly people with alleged ties with the Gülen movement, sometimes in collaboration with the relevant authorities of the country and in some other cases without even bothering to inform them.

Inside the country, certain figures were abducted in broad daylight. 29 people (refer to AST’s research) were registered as victims of enforced disappearance. A majority of these people were released, while some are feared to have been killed since no news has been heard from them for years now. Some of the survivors found the courage to tell the gory details of the torture they had been subjected to. Almost all of the people who were turned over to the police and were arrested show signs of heavy physical and psychological damage.

The Scope of the Report

The report consists of three parts. The introductory part will first offer a consolidated approach towards the nature of the war Turkish State has initiated against the Gülen movement, with an emphasis on Erdoğan’s passion for vengeance which has exacerbated the conditions for the Gülen followers. A thorough discussion over the abductions and enforced disappearances within the framework of international law will also be presented in the first part.

The second part will shed light on how the Erdoğan administration extended its operations against the Gülen movement followers all around the world by stipulating and examining all known cases around the world. The third part will deal with the enforced abductions in Turkey, also called the Black Transporter cases.

Part 1- Introduction

It is no secret that Turkey’s authoritarian political Islamist regime, headed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has long been suppressing opposition in the country. Hand in glove with the shady elements of the country’s former powerhouses, its fight against any kind of political dissent has been carried out through harsh measures that have often invoked the dark memories of the witch hunts of the Middle Ages.

As revealed in a myriad of incidents, the actions engaged by the Turkish state to squelch and muzzle the critics include a list of the most baleful forms of crimes against humanity. Hate crimes such as defamation and libel gush out in torrents every day from a colossal propaganda machine against any segment of the society that dares to position itself opposite the government. Once shunned as a despicable act even for the nation’s intelligence agency, profiling has become a daily routine of not only state institutions, but also some non-governmental organizations. The profiling files are published in national media outlets as if it is a most ordinary thing. Open or covert threats, physical attacks, and torture in the name of the state and for the “holy” purpose of saving the dignity of Erdoğan’s position are no longer counted as crimes. Nor is this all: those who use force towards this aim are revered and rewarded.

Among all these sinister crimes, this report will attempt to throw light upon one of the most contemptible, one that the state has been relentlessly committing recently under orders of Erdoğan: forced disappearances, abductions, and quid pro quo renditions of the dissidents in Turkey and abroad. It will also attempt to show how the autocratic regime has been employing state institutions as well as what appear to be non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as visible actors in the process of its persecutions.

Besides the fact that the magnitude of such efforts to silence, persecute the dissenting voices has not abated within the borders; the Turkish state has also escalated its cross-border operations against the dissenters. These unbridled and often reckless actions have caused in many cases problems in relationships with other governments since such engagements are a clear violation of international treaties. Such actions are considered a direct interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, as well as an unconcealed denial of their national sovereignty.

It goes without saying that these clandestine operations also pose a crime against humanity, and, as evident in the UN practices in similar cases, may become subject to international tribunal proceedings. Unfortunately, in this sense, Turkey has descended to become a part of the club of countries which hardly respect the foreign jurisdictions while conspiring against persons or communities they deem the enemy. North Korea stands out as a notorious example, as it uses enforced disappearances, abductions, renditions, and assassinations of political opponents as an ordinary practice to eradicate the figures it finds “inconvenient” for its stability. How unfortunate it is to see the public indifference in Turkey as Erdoğan steers the country, which had once been a regional model for its seemingly successful combination of Islam and democracy, towards the path of the most oppressive regimes of the world, with such despicable and inhumane actions of enforced disappearances, torture and murder.

An enforced or involuntary disappearance is a direct assault on human rights, which cannot be legitimized on any grounds in terms of international law. Neither can it be conceivably acceptable in terms of humanity and conscience. The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance provides a satisfactory definition for this crime. Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992 as a body of principles for all States, the declaration defines an enforced disappearance as incidents in which “persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law”.4 How can one justify such a vicious act?

What is even worse is that the Turkish authorities have only rarely repudiated extreme and illegal measures to silence the opposition. On the contrary, the top government officials have boasted of them to win the favor of the masses for domestic political gains. Even bureaucrats from security and intelligence units have embraced such practices. The Turkish media, which has almost completely become a subservient tool of the government and a loyal amplifier to propagate Erdoğan’s messages to the masses, is brimming with success stories of how people are beaten and snatched in front of their children and wife or with “delightful” details of how these “bad guys” were whisked away from a foreign country — with or without the cooperation of the officials of that country — as if they were not talking about the devastation of real lives, but rather narrating fictional spy thrillers.

This report aims to put a particular focus on these devastated lives: to examine abductions and enforced disappearances by the Turkish state inside and outside its borders. It tries to include as many cases as possible by resorting to open resources, as well as by trying to get access to the personal accounts of those who survived.

Background

The Erdoğan’s regime has traditionally made the capital of such shady methods to attack its enemies and the groups it sees detrimental to its core establishment. The Kurdish opposition, for instance, has long been a usual target for surreptitious assaults and assassinations. Likewise, leftist groups, communists, and Alevites have also been subjected to similar underhanded actions. During its fight to exterminate the Kurdish separatist insurgency, thousands of victims were vanished, especially in eastern and southeastern Anatolia. Even today, two decades after their disappearance, the mothers of abducted and most likely killed children meet every Saturday in İstanbul to ask for at least a graveyard for their children. In recent years, however, the main victims of the extrajudicial practices have been the members of the Gülen movement or Hizmet.

Gülen movement’s supporters mostly agreed with AKP’s policies that strengthened the country’s democratic institutions while forcing the anti-democratic elements of the established state to retreat. However, as Erdoğan became increasingly more enthusiastic to fill the void left behind by the defeated ancient régime with his own dictatorial desires, the relations between the two groups deteriorated. Erdoğan accused Hizmet of perpetrating a plot to topple his government in December 2013 with two graft operations that implicated some businessmen close to him as well as a few members of his government and started a massive campaign against the movement.

Here, a paragraph must be inserted to briefly recall the dramatic overturn of the relations between the AKP and Hizmet, which also marks the time when the country started severing its already flimsy connections with the rule of law. When Erdoğan’s network of shady relations was laid bare by the corruption operations, the politician promptly declared that his government was under attack by the global powerhouses which didn’t want Turkey’s rise again as a regional actor and that these secret organizations assigned Hizmet to finish off his party, the only hope for the revival of the old magnificence of the country. His declaration paved the way to justify his undemocratic measures and dark propaganda against members of the movement. In just a couple of days, he changed his rhetoric utterly from praising how aloof a movement of sincerity and devotion the Hizmet is, to how fiendish a demon it actually is and that it is responsible for all evil in the country. Erdoğan said Hizmet volunteered to become a puppet of the nation’s foreign enemies and so it is also the enemy of the people and for this very reason, a total annihilation would be good for everyone. This reasoning, inspired suddenly by the corruption cases, interestingly convinced Turks, possibly owing to the extremely loyal media power Erdoğan has and to the general inclination of ordinary Turkish people towards accepting conspiracy theories. The further away the conspiracy theories are from reality, the more credible they become, especially when they are repeated by such a powerful figure as Erdoğan. The politician lost no time in hitting the roads and started public rallies all around Turkey, sometimes in three different cities in a single day, to tell the same lies to the masses, while every single message from his mouth was multiplied by the media to reach millions over and over again. At the same time, the prosecutors and law enforcement officers who had participated in the corruption operations were either demoted or assigned to insignificant units, contrary to current laws. Erdoğan’s next step would be to seek cooperation against the common enemy with the former actors of the deep state, who had been forced to retreat after their coup plans were exposed.

A systematic and sweeping purge of the critical figures in the state bureaucracy ensued; the victims were largely the people affiliated with the movement. Following the failed coup of July 15 in 2016, which Erdoğan blamed on Hizmet and its leader, the purge became even more widespread, and the methods turned more vicious.

Hizmet had been labeled as a terror organization by Erdoğan’s cabinet as per the recommendations of the National Security Council (MGK), a still powerful unit of the former regime, but a considerable portion of the domestic public opinion was still in favor of Hizmet, as the movement had always praised peace over violence, dialogue over conflict and education over everything else. Gülen had frequently maligned anyone resorting to terror in the name of Allah as non-believers and the most dangerous enemies of Islam; therefore, many were still shrugging off Erdoğan’s defamation campaigns and his continuous attributions of terror to Gülen and his followers. But after the July 15th botched coup attempt, with the help of a torrential flood of a one-sided narration of the coup details, it didn’t take long until public opinion completely turned against Hizmet and its leader, even though they were disavowing the coup repeatedly from the first moment on. With the help of an enormous public outrage against anything and anyone related to the Gülen movement, Erdoğan found the strength and excuse to disregard any obligation to stick to laws, fairness, and mercy. When he shouted in public rallies that all Hizmet followers must be exterminated, he got applause. When he ordered the plunder of the properties of Hizmet members, he got cheers. When he asked people to snitch on their relatives and friends from Hizmet, he got standing ovations.

Profiling and persecution of members of the Gülen movement was now not only a leisure pursuit of ordinary people, but also a task assigned to the state’s institutions, government agencies, AKP bureaus, and elected and appointed local administrators from governors to chiefs of villages.

Embassies were also commissioned with coordinating the profiling and spying activities on the expat members of the Hizmet movement. These missions included a variety of operations from mere intelligence gathering and stalking to threatening, harassing, and even physically assaulting the critics of Erdogan. It is quite likely that embassies have also been actively involved in the preparation and logistics phases of abductions and renditions. The mastermind and executer of the operations was Turkey’s main spy body, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), as well as the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), were also active participants in the covert intel operations around the world.

Ironically, the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) also joined the lynch party as a voluntary contributor to the assignment by the MİT to identify people critical of Erdoğan within expat communities, in clear contradiction to the obligatory assignment by the religion to help these people become brothers and friends.

Turkish preachers from the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) have been actively employed in these intelligence-gathering activities at the government’s request. Even though these were initially said to be “false media claims,” Secretary-General Bekir Alboğa later confessed that “a few” imams provided information to the Presidency of Religious Affairs.

Furthermore, as per later news, German police investigations revealed that these accusations may only be the tip of the iceberg, meaning that such efforts could be taking place across Europe, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium.

State-run news companies, Anatolia News Agency (AA) and Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), spared no effort to follow the dissenting figures and make sensational stories about them in the countries where they operated. The Yunus Emre Institute and the Maarif (Education) Foundation, which acted hand in glove with the Turkish government to forcibly seize the educational institutions built and operated by the Hizmet movement in various countries, were also active participants in the clandestine warfare against the Gülen movement across the world.

Last but not least, government-funded private think tanks and organizations like the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), and the Turkish Heritage Organization, must be counted among the essential actors. They organized panels, conferences, and events, as well as issued a variety of publications, to disseminate ideas designed to bleach the government’s extrajudicial, arbitrary, and inhumane actions as inevitable measures taken at extraordinary times. They have also vied to garner support for Erdoğan and his party among Turkish communities while at the same time collecting information about the owners of the voices against Erdoğan within these communities.

Based on such underhanded investigations and espionage, the Erdoğan’s regime would first ask the rendition of its critics from the countries they were lawfully residing in. Depending on the nature of its relations with them, Turkey first asks through legitimate channels for the deportation of the people it is seeking. If this step proves unsuccessful, Turkey then attempts to offer bribes or use its influence to pressure these countries to hand over the wanted persons. The different milestones of this path are formulated in a report by the EU’s Open Dialogue Foundation: “When non-democratic states do not succeed in attaining extradition by legitimate methods, extra procedural forced expulsions (case of the employees of the Turco-Moldovian lyceum Orizont) or abductions (case of Vladimir Yegorov, Aleksandr Frantskevich, Murdali Khalimov) of the wanted persons often take place. Such actions are implemented on the basis of cooperation between the law-enforcement agencies and special services of both states, in secret, without observing lawful procedures, thus depriving persons of the opportunity to defend their interests in court (cases of Abdullah Büyük, Aminat Babayeva, Yusuf İnan, Salih Zeki Yiğit, Alma Shalabayeva, Muratbek Tungishbayev, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov).

Enforced Disappearances in International Law

Enforced disappearances have universally been categorized as some of the most heinous crimes that can possibly be committed by malicious state actors. All relevant instruments of international law expressly forbid enforced disappearances, given that the act entirely circumvents avenues of due process while inflicting undue trauma upon both the abducted and the relatives of the abducted.

In a straightforward definition of “forced disappearance”, the Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons states, “forced disappearance of persons is… a grave and abominable offense against the inherent dignity of the human being.” The Convention also adds, “forced disappearance of persons violates numerous non-derogable and essential human rights” and reaffirms that the systematic practice of disappearance “constitutes a crime against humanity.” The International Criminal Court expands upon this definition of enforced disappearance, detailing it as the “arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.”
Finally, one of the most recent instruments of international law, the 2006 Convention on Enforced Disappearance, Article 1, provides an indubitably worded right to all persons:

“No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance.”

A signatory to the United Nations’ Conventions, the Republic of Turkey has violated international laws and the human rights of its victims in all countries detailed in this report. Furthermore, the Turkish administration has utilized baseless national security arguments to justify its egregious behavior across the world. The Turkish government’s unabashed attempts to terrorize Turkish nationals across the world has violated the sovereignty of states in 16 known cases detailed here. International law prohibits the use of enforced disappearance under all circumstances as follows:

“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 for enforced disappearance.”

The Republic of Turkey, the current Turkish government is overseen by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and all relevant actors involved in the process of terrorizing, abducting, and transporting people around the world to further their objectives continually violate widely recognized international laws, national sovereignty of countries subject to such operations, and local rules and regulations of relevant countries. In sum, the Erdogan Regime and its constituent parts, especially members of the intelligence community taking part in worldwide operations have committed crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations.

Turkey’s extraterritorial incursions to kidnap dissidents and its similarly egregious actions in its own jurisdiction have been substantiated with many cases, and this report will attempt to shed light on as many cases as possible. Nonetheless, one needs to first examine the grounds the Turkish authorities base their actions on.

On April 17, 2014, the Turkish Parliament empowered the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) with the legal authority to conduct undercover missions outside Turkey’s borders with a critical change in Law number 2937. Another important change was introduced in 2017 with the decree-law number 694 that rendered the MİT subordinate directly to the presidency and the President was assigned as the chair of the National Intelligence Coordination Council (MİKK), which would become the main strategy-making body for MİT’s moves outside Turkey.11 MİT now became able to realize to-the-point operations without facing any impediments that could have arisen if parliament had not been bypassed by attaching the agency directly to the almighty presidential post.

As we will discuss in the proceeding parts, although the domestic reactions to the MİT’s covert operations inside and outside the country have been limited, they garnered huge repulsion from certain states and international organizations, as its actions were perceived as a form of deprivation of liberty.

An individual’s right to liberty can be compromised so long as it is in compliance with international law. Article 9 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights clearly defines the arbitrary deprivation of liberty as a lack of respect to grounds and procedures prescribed by law. Both articles provide in indisputable terms the conditions that any individual must be well informed, promptly or at the time of arrest, of the reasons for their arrest and of any charges against them in case of arresting. Furthermore, any individual must be brought before a judge or a similar judicial authority without delay.

However, in Turkey’s practice, people are abducted without even knowing what their crimes are or who exactly has captured them. They appear in court only after months of heavy tortures, if they are lucky to live long enough. Indeed, they can’t see even the faces of their abductors or torturers, much less their lawyers or families.

Turkey’s abduction operations abroad have in some cases been in cooperation with the hosting countries, while in others, the Turkish operational units simply utilized underhanded methods, drawing strong reactions from those countries. For example, the Mongolian Deputy Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh denounced the abduction attempt of the Turkish teacher Veysel Akçay on the grounds that “it is an unacceptable act of violation of Mongolia’s sovereignty and independence and Mongolia will strongly object it.” The Turkish Ambassador in Ulaanbaatar would, without a moment to spare, reject any kind of knowledge or involvement in the operation.

Another harsh backlash came from Kosovo after Turkey kidnapped five teachers and a medical doctor who had affiliations with the Gülen movement. Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj fired his interior minister and spy chief for their alleged complicity. Kosovo’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a stern statement in which it said, “the arrest and deportation of the Turkish citizens with a regular residence permit … is … in direct contradiction to international norms.”13 Erdoğan lambasted Kosovo’s PM, who had said the followers of the Gülen movement “were not deported but were stolen,” as if he was talking to one of his underlings or to any Turk who dared to question him, saying Haradinaj would “pay” for what he did. Enver Robelli, a prominent Kosovar journalist, told Al-Monitor about Erdoğan’s unbridled disparagement of the Kosovar PM: “People are irritated that Erdogan attacks the prime minister. Most [local] media [report that] Erdogan behaves as if he were the king of Kosovo.”

Nate Schenkkan from the Washington Post wrote, “The idea that Turkish intelligence would brazenly abduct its citizens from a country with which it has putatively good relations is a shocking offense against both international human rights standards and bilateral norms.”14 Schenkkan elaborated on Turkey’s flagrant “transnational repression.”15 He asserted that Turkey has pursued an aggressive policy to silence its perceived enemies in at least 46 countries.

Additionally, he recounted the allegations that it was abusing the Interpol as a political tool to target its opponents. “Ankara has revoked thousands of passports and achieved the arrest, deportation, or rendition of hundreds of Turkish citizens from at least 16 countries, including many who were under UN protection as asylum seekers. It has successfully pressured at least 20 countries to close or transfer to new owners dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Gülen movement schools,” he wrote.

The regime’s blatant moves against the followers of the Gülen movement have also been registered in detail by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its annual country reports since 2017. The report wrote under the Torture and Ill-Treatment in Custody section in 2017: “Cases of torture and ill-treatment in police custody were widely reported through 2017, especially by individuals detained under the anti-terror law, marking a reverse in long-standing progress, despite the government’s stated zero tolerance for torture policy. There were widespread reports of police beating detainees, subjecting them to prolonged stress positions and threats of rape, threats to lawyers, and interference with medical examinations.”17 The report mentioned the abductions by “unidentified perpetrators believed to be state agents” in at least six cases. The report for 2018 marked the continuation of allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment in police custody and prison and the lack of any meaningful investigation into them as a source of deep concern. Furthermore, it would also lambaste the lack of any effective investigations into these serious assertions by the judiciary.

The same report for the next year recorded only exacerbation in these sources of concern without any sign of progress.19 Different from the previous reports, it would point to a pervasive culture of impunity for members of the security forces and public officials implicated. The report would also criticize in harsh terms Turkey’s barring of the publication of reports on the findings of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in their two visits to detention places in Turkey. “Turkish authorities continued to seek the extradition of alleged Gülen supporters, many of them teachers, from countries around the world. Countries that complied with Turkey’s requests bypassed legal procedures and judicial review. Those illegally extradited in this way were detained and prosecuted on return to Turkey,” the report asserted.

Confessing Abductions

Despite undeniable evidence that the enforced disappearances were carried out openly or covertly by several state institutions, mainly by the intelligence and the security units, different government representatives and bodies have vehemently rejected accusations in their official statements. Despite that, their deliberate or on-impulse confessions are available even in the sources that are publicly accessible. Although it is universally accepted as a heinous transgression of the basic human rights and is widely shunned, Turkish authorities have interestingly defended abductions of dissidents in Turkey or abroad, not in blurted-out blunders but in deliberately stated confirmations. In the following paragraphs, some examples of such remarks will be highlighted.

Before proceeding with its abductions, Turkey first tried to capture the dissidents through formal mechanisms and within internationally approved norms, such as requesting the extradition of Gülen movement members. But as its demands were turned down in some countries, especially in the democratic world where the supremacy of law is respected, the Turkish government started to use extrajudicial ways like abductions to bring these people back.

Thinly-Veiled Threats by the Politicians

Turkish president Erdoğan has encouraged his loyalists time and again to make life unbearable for Hizmet followers and ordered law enforcement units and intelligence officers to kidnap his critics and punish them, even hinting vaguely of their murders. For instance, in one of his speeches, he said: “Some countries eliminate terrorists whom they consider as a threat to their national security, wherever they are. This means they accept that Turkey has the same right.” He then hinted about his target: “This includes the terrorists they shake hands with and praise. I hope we will have good news for the nation on this matter soon.”

In one of his early statements in September 2016, he would say that “no country or region around the world will ever be a safe haven for FETÖ and its militants.” The Turkish autocrat described the members of the Gülen movement as cancer cells that must be exterminated, leaving no remnants. “Those who fled abroad before or in the murky atmosphere of the coup d’état should never feel safe. … The children of this country should return and tell whatever they know to the relevant authorities. If they don’t, they’ll pay for it. At any rate, we won’t support them as our citizens. … We will take due action wherever they are captured,” he said.

Similar comments would spill from Erdoğan’s mouth during a joint press conference with Kosovar President Hashim Thaçi in Ankara on December 29, 201624: “Our crackdown on them both at home and abroad is underway and will continue to be the case in the future. Wherever they flee, we will be hot on the heels of the leaders and militants of terrorist organizations.”

Former Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ nonchalantly admitted that Ankara’s spy agency “bundled up and brought back” 80 suspects against their will, as part of their global response to so-called threats to Turkey’s security from the Hizmet movement. He also called the capture of Turkish dissident s from Kosovo, which had caused a serious commotion in that country, as “a great success.”

Commenting on the Kosovo abductions on the state-run TRT radio, Erdoğan’s lawyer Hüseyin Aydın also said similar abductions by the Turkish intelligence would continue. The Kosovo operation was not marking any “paradigm shift” for the MİT, and it wasn’t the first of its kind, said Aydın. “Fugitive Gülenists will walk looking behind their backs all the time. The National Intelligence Organization will continue its operations everywhere. After the government’s success at home, there was a need to carry out operations targeting the movement’s overseas network,” he threatened.

Following suit, the other members of the Turkish government, as well as loyal followers of the president, have expressed similar thoughts. There have been repeated calls for kidnapping, killing and torturing of Gülen followers from these circles; nevertheless, even though these are heinous hate crimes, prosecutors simply turn a deaf ear to any such threats if they are leveled against Hizmet members. This is a public craze, an unfathomable intemperance that is hardly tolerated even under actual war conditions. Even warring sides try to avoid atrocities against civilians, especially children, the elderly and women. However, different units of the state and the civilians, chiefly Erdoğan himself and his zealot loyalists, have repeatedly called for abduction and torture, even murder, of any Hizmet member in Turkey or abroad — even if they are elderly or women — and the plunder of their properties.

Erdoğan’s son-in-law even publicly encouraged the AKP zealots to kill Gülen movement followers, saying he would butcher them wherever he sees them without even batting an eyelid.27 While talking to a group of students that were granted scholarships to study abroad, Berat Albayrak said, “This gang of traitors is now pouring their poison and treason in cooperation with a disgusting ‘diaspora network’ all around the world to smear and betray this nation and this religion abroad. … If I were you, I would not have been able to restrain myself, I would have butchered them wherever I saw them. … These fugitives, stateless traitors, live very normal lives,” he added.

Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, as he was answering questions from the press on September 21, 2018, said, “Now, look, it may be the US or some other places, other countries in which the FETÖ nested, or some other regions, the operations by our relevant units and institutions in these places will continue uninterrupted. Therefore, they will continue feeling the breath of the state of the Turkish Republic on their necks. No one must ever doubt about this. Of course, I am not able to give you any details as to which countries, here or there, but anything may happen at any place. Let me express that our president has a clear order on this matter and that our units have been conducting professional efforts at the fullest possible extent. There may be operations in other regions, too, similar to the one in Kosovo. The Turkish Republic will not allow FETÖ to inhale a peaceful breath, everyone must know this.”28 The Kosovo operation he was referring to had stirred a huge backlash in the Balkan country as its Prime Minister stepped up to sack the internal minister and the head of the security forces for their negligence, which tainted the country’s sovereignty and made Kosovo seem like an unchecked and unprotected field where the agents of other countries could freely do whatever they want.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on April 4, 2017, “We do not stop chasing after them [Gülen movement participants] at home and abroad. We are breathing down their necks. We won’t give these traitors and dishonorable people room to breathe.”29 He would repeat the same threats over and over again by using the exact same words in a venomous tone as he spoke in Antalya in February 2019: “We are breathing down their necks. We will grab their necks and bring them back to Turkey. We will make the whole world a dungeon for them. We are hot on their heels all across the world. We are closing their associations, schools. We are closing down them all, or we are making them closed down. Lastly, Pakistan Constitutional Court declared them a terror organization.”

In some other incidents, the Turkish authorities revealed their plans to resort to underhanded operations against the members of the Gülen movement. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, for example, asserted on March 2017 that the Turkish state units have plans to whisk away the opposition figures, who had escaped the AKP persecution and sought refuge in Germany as political asylees. “One day, these FETÖ terrorists may be shocked to see where they are located, you know. I’m telling you from here, it is not that easy.”31 In one of the most famous such incidents that also kicked up a row in the US, the US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn allegedly discussed with representatives from the Turkish government a $15-million offer in exchange for delivering Fethullah Gülen to Turkey.32 This single case alone depicts the exorbitant plots the Turkish government has schemed and ventured even in the US, much less the countries with less established democratic institutions. Within its own borders and abroad, the Turkish government will continue to round up and bring in the dissidents to fill its currently-under-construction 228 new prisons.

Threats From Loyalists

Pro-government figures not only from politics but also from the media, also encouraged abduction, torture, and killing of government dissidents in Turkey and abroad. Erdoğan’s former speechwriter Aydın Ünal, for instance, penned threats bluntly against the Hizmet members in his column in a pro-government media outlet. The following quote is taken verbatim from his column in Erdoğan’s Yeni Şafak newspaper: “Certain Fetullahists continuing to live does not serve the interests of neither Gülen nor U.S. intelligence. They should prepare for the extrajudicial organization executions approaching, rather than conduct an operation through the judicial theater.”34 When he wrote these lines, he was also an MP of Erdoğan’s party. He claimed that the Hizmet would do something like this to journalists in exile since their lives would no longer “serve the interests of the movement.” These lines, however, were nothing but providing an early excuse for the MİT’s covert operations to assassinate these dissidents.

Another pro-government journalist, Cem Küçük, made an even direr statement. During a live television program, he insisted Turkish intelligence agencies kill family members of people who were arrested over their (alleged) affiliations with the Gülen movement. He was very critical even about the prosecutors, who had notoriously been very tough on the followers of the Gülen movement, accusing these prosecutors of being excessively lenient. He suggested that instead of asking questions and taking answers in conventional ways, the detained people must be subjected to a variety of tortures during their enforced stays in prisons. One of his suggestions to effectively convince Hizmet members to confess their attributed crimes was to “to hang them out of the window by their legs.”

Unfortunately, the Turkish state is already executing much worse cruelty against the alleged members of the movement. There are innumerable grueling accounts of how Hizmet members are treated in prisons.

The threats that come from Erdoğan’s zealot followers must also be noted. There have been countless physical assaults against members of the Hizmet movement inside Turkey, but there are concrete signs that the acts of intimidation and cannonade are being deliberately organized in other countries as well. For example, some German press outlets reported that AKP MP Metin Külünk was ostensibly providing funds for the Turkish “Ottoman Germania” gangs. There are surveillance camera records showing this politician in contact with the gang members while allegedly giving them money. A ZDF news reported evidence that Ottoman Germania was indeed assigned to carry out attacks on the Turkish dissidents living in the country. A former member of the European Parliament Ozan Ceyhun wrote on social media, “Gülenists in Germany will have many sleepless nights. We owe that to our martyrs.” Likewise, Dursun Baş, the chairman of the German branch of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), addressed two members of Stiftung Dialog und Bildung via Twitter, saying, “How do you dare to go out on the streets? For you, there will be no easy death.”

Sedat Peker, a mafia leader who was released from prison by Erdoğan in 2014, openly threatened dissidents with death but was acquitted by the court without even a slight warning, much less due to punishment. Peker, who was embraced by Erdoğan on many occasions and has very close relations with the youth of Erdoğan’s party, said, “We will force into the jails after hanging all of whomever we catch on the trees, flag poles. We will hang them in the jails as well. We will hang them on the poles from their necks,” and the court accepted these words as nothing more than normal expression of one’s opinions. People quit attending mosques for regular prayers due to the fear of getting assaulted by partisans, and their buildings were stoned or burnt by arson even in major European countries. Turkish businessman Ali Ekrem Kaynak was killed in Amsterdam sometime after he was verbally and physically assaulted by Erdoğan loyalists over his proximity to the Hizmet movement. There have been similar incidents in the US as well.

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THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN TURKEY’S PRISONS: ANALYSIS OF THE CASES, FINDINGS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Introduction

This report informs about the confirmed Covid-19 cases seen in Turkey’s prisons. Based on this and the official statements, the report presents its findings and recommendations.

The notoriously overcrowded prisons in Turkey pose serious health threats to inmates during the coronavirus pandemic, as indicated by the statements of the inmates’ relatives who have reached us, and the written and oral statements in open sources, as well as the reporting of human rights activists and organizations. The recently passed Execution bill is also not able to eliminate those threats due to its unfair and discriminatory nature.

Coronavirus Cases

Numerous audio recordings – which were shared in social media and later whose contents were confirmed by their sources – pointed to the inhumane conditions in prisons. Such claims as in the recordings were also expressed in the statements of many inmate relatives. These indicate that the rights to life of the inmates in prisons – which is among the most basic and universal human rights and protected by the 10th amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey and the article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – are under clear, serious, and near threat, as asserted by the inmates themselves.

The statements of the inmates and the inmate relatives about the conditions in prisons are listed below.

April 3, 2020: “Ahmet Turkmen, 68, has a history of chronic heart disease and underwent a serious by-pass operation, among other serious health problems. He has been held in Kayseri T-type no. 1 prison for the past three years and his 14-year sentence for being a member of a terrorist organization is on appeal. … Despite the Forensic Medicine Institute’s advice that Turkmen undergo a health check every six months, he has been taken to a health check only once in the last three years. Covid-19 poses a serious threat to Turkmen’s life, who resides with 10 prisoners in a three-person cell. Turkmen’s attorney applied to the Supreme Court of Appeals on March 18th for his release due to the threats that Covid-19 poses to his health conditions.

Ismet Ozcelik, 61, is the former principal of a Malaysian school and has been held in Denizli T-type prison in Turkey since May 2017. Despite applying for asylum to the UN Refugee Agency in Malaysia, Ozcelik was kidnapped in Malaysia and forcibly taken to Turkey. In May 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Turkey must release Ozcelik and pay compensation for violating his human rights guaranteed by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. However, Turkey did not implement this decision. … Ozcelik’s 10-year sentence is still in the process of appeal. Ozcelik, who has a heart condition, reported that no timely medical intervention was provided to him when he felt he had a heart attack in 2019. Ozcelik’s attorney stated that despite the significant amount of time that passed, he was not provided with a copy of the detailed report for the health check Ozcelik underwent following his emergency complaint. Ozcelik’s attorneys applied to the Supreme Court of Appeals in mid-March for his release due to the threats that Covid-19 poses to his health conditions.

Hussein Soykan, 48, a former police officer, has been held in Karaman M-type prison for 44 months. … Medical reports show that Soykan has a chronic lung condition and that one of his lungs had collapsed (pneumothorax) in the past. He was rushed to hospital twice while in prison. Soykan stays with 28 prisoners in an eight-person cell. Another prisoner in the same cell, Amir Gulaç, died on October 20, 2019, shortly after his attorney pleaded about the poor prison conditions having negative impacts on the health of prisoners. Gulac’s cause of death is thought to be heart failure. The Forensic Medicine Institution is expected to release the autopsy report on Gulac’s death. Covid-19 is seemingly a lethal threat to Soykan, given his health conditions. Due to the severity of his health conditions, Soykan’s attorney applied to the Supreme Court of Appeals on March 19 for his release. [1]

May 8, 2020: In the B12 cell of the Silivri prison no. 7, inmate Huseyin Kacan’s examination request was refused by officials despite him repeatedly saying that “We are not feeling okay, test us (for the coronavirus)”. There are 39 inmates in the B12 cell. It is claimed that the prison administration has not dealt with the inmates despite the coronavirus symptoms seen on April 25. Although the seriousness of the situation was understood after a 48-year old inmate fainted, no testing attempt was taken. After the relatives of those staying at the cell called Alo 184, the national emergency number, the Ministry of Health sent first responders to the prison for testing. The testing was conducted on May 6, 2020 and the test results were released on May 7, 2020. According to the results obtained from the E-Nabız (the ministry’s health portal), everyone in the cell tested positive. Nevertheless, the prison administration took no action for those inmates. They still refuse to do anything for their treatment. [2]

May 8, 2020: D, whose husband is in the B-12 cell, does not want to be named because she is worried about the health of her husband’s parents who have heart disease. After learning that her 39-year old husband tested positive for Covid-19, D described what happened to the Arti Gercek news: “After I learned about the cases in the cell C-7, I was worried and asked him about their situation. He said that ‘On Monday, they took away two friends from the cell and never brought them back, I think they tested positive. As a matter of fact, we all fell ill, it was like a flue, some have thrown up’. I asked if they were tested. ‘Put aside testing, we are given only a small amount of soup for both sahur and iftar. The situation is so desperate. The phone call is the

first time we were given masks’, said my husband”. Ekrem Solmaz, the father of another inmate, Yasin Solmaz from cell C-7, also found out last night that his son’s Covid-19 test was positive. [3]

May 11, 2020: HDP Kocaeli deputy, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu called attention on the huge jump in the number of Covid-19 cases in Silivri prison. Gergerlioğlu had earlier announced that there were Covid-19 cases at cells B-10, B-12, C-7 in Silivri prison no. 7. Recently he added that there are also cases at cell C-6 of Silivri prison no.8 and the coronavirus is spreading to cell 5. [4]

May 11, 2020: An inmate’s relative, whose husband is held in cell C-6, and who wants to remain anonymous, said that some 30 inmates in the cell have tested positive and 4 inmates have tested negative whereas the remaining few inmates’ test results were not informed. She also added that while those who have tested negative were taken to another cell, those who have tested positive remain in the same cell and are not receiving any sorts of treatment. Emphasizing the seriousness of the situation, the inmate’s relative stated “The incident dates back a while. Numerous inmates in the cell had high fever complaints two weeks ago. Nevertheless, the complaints were not taken seriously so the situation grew worse and the virus spread to many more.” [5]

May 14, 2020: According to the information given by Ali Riza Karaboğa, who remains in Silivri prison no. 7, to his wife during their phone call, two inmates from their adjacent cell were tested for the coronavirus and sent back to their cell despite being tested positive. During the phone call with her husband two weeks ago, Karaboğa mentioned that their body temperature was measured for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak. During this week’s phone call, he also added that their body temperature was measured for a second time, and masks were provided for phone calls. [6]

May 14, 2020:  Being among the coronavirus risk group, journalist Çetin Çiftçi, who was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison and has been in Sincan prison for 8 months, was diagnosed with Covid-19. Çiftçi, who also has kidney and heart problems, was reportedly under treatment. After Çetin Çiftçi’s wife, Selda  Çiftçi personally inquired about her husband’s situation, she found out that he had been taken to the hospital many times while in prison. [7]

May 14, 2020: Stating the huge increase in the number of the coronavirus cases in Silivri prison, HDP Deputy Omer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said that 45 inmates stay in some of the 7-person cells. Gergerlioğlu also shared some letters from the relatives and prisoners. Here are a few of those letters:

  • “Z. A. stays in the Silivri prison no. 5. In a phone call with his mother; he said that he had been taken to the infirmary twice, and then a sample was taken from him in a requested ambulance, but that he had not been informed about why the sample was taken, and that he had been sent back to his cell without being taken to a hospital.”
  • “My brother stays in the Silivri prison no.2. He had said in our call last week that they were given so little food. We are so worried about my brother’s life, given the coronavirus threat. He is staying with 44 other inmates in a 7-person cell and the food service was so problematic due to the releases in the open prisons.”
  • “In Silivri prison no. 7, there stays 43 inmates in cells. The coronavirus outbreak spreads into the prison. Some 30 inmates have shown symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. For weeks, there is a shortage in the prison canteen service, inmates denied access to soap, shampoo, and napkins, they use dishwashing liquid when showering and inmates were forced to take shower in cold water (due to the lack of provision of hot water).”
  • “At the C-7 cell of Silivri prison no. 7, unfortunately, an inmate was tested positive forCovid-19. The remaining 45 inmates in the cell are at greater risk. We are so worried about its spread to the other inmates in the cell.”
  • “M.E. stays in Silivri L typed prison no. 5. As per his family, the inmate stated that he has a dry coughing problem which is among the coronavirus symptoms, that there are inmates in his cell with chronic diseases, that they were denied access to personal hygiene materials, that there is a shortage in the regular provision of cold and hot water, that they are not well-informed about the pandemic, that hygiene and proper cleaning of the dining holes were not adequate and no social distancing rules are being implemented, that the food being served is unhealthy and improper, and that a quarantine room is not available in the prison.”
  • “My brother, H.O. stays in Silivri prison no. 8. When we talked to our brother, he said that there were patients who tested positive for the Covid-19, and they are in physical contact with those patients and that their request for testing was refused by the prison administration. He also said that they are staying in overcrowded cells. We are worried about my brother’s life. At my brother’s request, we ask them to be tested.” [8]

May 14, 2020: “My husband, R.K. is held in Silivri L-type prison no. 8. His first test for Covid-19 was negative. Today, however, the E-Nabız (the health portal) showed a second positive test result. Then I called the prison, but they said that a second test was not conducted and will happen later. Despite the positive test result in the E-Nabız, the prison (administration) states that the second test was not conducted. When I reached out (to the prison), I was told that he was transferred to another cell due to his negative test results and that he will have his phone call rights on Tuesday morning which is today. However, when I called the prison today, I was told that the phone call was postponed to Sunday. I haven’t received any news from my husband which is worrying me.” [9]

May 14, 2020: “Prepared by the HRFT Documentation Center, a report on the human rights violations associated with the Covid-19 outbreak in the period between March 11, 2020 – May 10, 2020 was released. According to the report, despite the calls which are based on the international standards and norms, inmates were completely restricted from family visits and partially restricted from attorney visits. Besides, the report stated that even after the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged governments to take action in preventing the catastrophic rates of the COVID19 infection, the inmates’ limited access to proper health care, healthy food, fresh water, and hygiene materials during the pandemic amount to ill-treatment. [10]

May 15, 2020: Şakire Solmaz, the wife of ex-cadet Yasin Solmaz who has been sentenced to prison for life, M.T., the partner of teacher M.T., B. Çicek, the wife of ex-police officer Ali Çiçek, and Fatih Çiçek, Ali Çiçek’s uncle and attorney, stated what they have been through during last week. They shared with Bold Medya their relative’s Covid-19 diagnosis reports that were obtained from (the Ministry of Health’s health portal) E-Nabız and the petitions that they submitted to the courts for their release. “They avoid us like the plague, no one is here to help”, said Şakire Solmaz, the wife of Yasin Solmaz. Being locked up for 42 months, Ali Çiçek stays at the B10 cell of Silivri prison no. 7. His wife, B. Çiçek said “He rested for two days with a high fever. But he said he is fine now. Yet, the cell conditions are so bad. Foodservice is problematic. He said he has never seen so little food being served before. They were buying breakfast products from the prison canteen, but it is closed now. There is always a queue for the restroom. There is a queue even for the fridge, the living conditions got heavier. It is so crowded here, even if someone feels okay, the other who is not feeling okay affect him”. Another inmate staying at the B12 cell of no. 7 is the teacher, M.T. Being locked up for 19 months, M.T. was diagnosed with Covid-19. Having not seen her husband for 65 days, and stating that a week amounts to a year for her since May 6, his wife M.T. talked about her phone call with her husband “Last time I spoke to my husband was on Wednesday, two days ago. Since May 6, a week passed like a year. Because it is recorded in the health portal that he was taken to see a doctor, I asked him what is happening. He said there is no such thing. We were only tested (for Covid-19). Since then, no one bothered to see us. They put such records in the system to make it look like they are monitoring us. They are only checking their temperature. They are not taking them to the doctor, but they put records in the system (falsely) showing that they are taking. They are in danger there. Not only their immune systems got weakened but also, they are not isolated. In fact, how to isolate them in a place where 39 people stay! This is against the law. The second thing, the food service is so problematic. He said no vegetable or fruits have been served for the last two weeks. They are only given a very small amount of food. He said we were left here to die, no one is coming to check on us. He asked to seek help from whomever/wherever I can.” [11]

May 17, 2020: Based on their visits to Van T-type prison, Van High-Security prison, and Van F-type prison this week, the observations and findings of ÖHD (the Association of Lawyers for Freedom) Van Branch, The Prison (Watch) Commission of  Van Bar, and Van Tuhay-Der (the Women Executives of the Prisoners’ Families Aid Association) are as follows[12]:

  • Measures taken in prisons for the Covid-19 outbreak are certainly not adequate. Given the excessive overcrowding rates, deprivation from hygiene and protective materials, and lacking access to health care, inmates’ rights to life are under serious threat.
  • Charging inmates for the protective materials, excessive pricing, infrequent and inadequate disinfection of cell, and body search of inmates whenever they go outside of their cells particularly aggravate the threats to their rights to life.

May 18, 2020: Another inmate was tested positive for the coronavirus in Silivri L-type prison no. 7. Accessed in the E-Nabız (the health portal), the test result for detainee Ali Kemal Ata, who is pending trial, was positive. Remaining in cell B-8 together with 29 inmates, Ata has been in prison for three years. Saying that she talks to her husband every Monday, Ata’s wife, Vecibe Tuba Ata said “I will not be able to talk to my husband today because I know he is at the hospital. I am calling every day the hospital at the campus. Only on Friday, they replied to my call. They said he is in good condition, but his situation is still worrying us. I am trying to track his condition through the E-Nabız.” [13]

May 19, 2020: An inmate in Silivri prison said no tests have been carried out for prisoners, except for the severe cases. In a phone call passed to the DW Turkish by his wife Y.S., an inmate describes the prison conditions to his wife: “The prosecutor’s office declared the number of cases in Silivri prison as 44, but there were 31 positive cases in cell B-10 and 24 in cell B-12. So, they say that no tests will be carried out unless there are chronic cases, that is only those who seem not to able to move around themselves should be tested. Other than that, the Ministry does not want any testing effort. We objected to this by saying how such a thing could be possible, and then we insisted on the doctor and he sent us to the hospital. Seven of us out of eight have tested positive. Most likely, there are now more cases in our cell, too. Everyone in the adjacent cell is sick.” In the phone call, the inmate also adds that they were taken to the quarantine before the test results came out, but later the test result for one of the inmates among them came out negative and that he would be transferred to the cell designated for negatives. The inmate describes his concerns as follows: “There is no such thing as quarantine/isolation here anyway. If you heal on your own, you will be fine. Other than that, if you die, you die, there is nothing else to do. Nobody cares about you here. Nobody at all…”

Spoken to the DW Turkish, an inmate’s relative Ş.S. indicated that her husband who is held in Silivri prison is at the quarantine and that some 39 inmates who have tested positive are held together at one place. Claiming that she was told the quarantine rooms were 7-to-8-person cells, she stated that the warden of the prison has confirmed about the situation (that the 39 inmates are quarantined in one cell) to their attorneys. According to the information from her husband, Ş.S. also added that although there were 39 inmates in the cell, they were given so little food that could be adequate for only 15 inmates, that the cleaning and hygiene were limited, that the last time their body temperature being measured was three days ago and it was conducted by the guards in a way that they were measured through the door without the guards entering the cell, and that the inmates could not make their voice heard as there were not enough guards in the prison.

S.E. indicated that in Silivri L-type prison no. 7, inmates were given masks and gloves on May 11 for the first time when they left their cells for family phone calls. Further, an inmate’s relative S.Ş. said “The only information they gave was that (they are) okay. I found out about my husband’s infection in the E-Nabız platform. And now, I can not even track (his situation) from the platform. When we asked why we are not able to track it in the E-Nabız system, they said the (patient) records will no longer be entered (there).” [14]

May 19, 2020: Indicating that his son was given a flue medication and sent back to his cell, Ekrem Solmaz, the father of Yasin Solmaz who resides in Silivri L-type prison no. 7 and has tested positive for Covid-19, said “39 inmates are staying in one cell. This is massacre!”. The officials of the Silivri L-type prison no. 7 said that they could not comment on this matter and referred us to the public prosecutor’s office. [15]

May 20, 2020: Lawyers from ÖHD (the Association of Lawyers for Freedom) Ankara Branch and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Iğdır deputy Habip Eksik have visited the Kayseri Bünyan Women’s Prison and Kayseri Bünyan T-type prison no. 7. The delegation reported about the interviews they had with inmates and the prison administration. According to the report prepared by the Ankara Branch of the ÖHD, 5 imprisoned women in the Kayseri Bunyan Women’s Prison were interviewed. The report indicates that 3 people were quarantined following their examination, but no coronavirus testing was carried out and that an inmate was having coughing and dry throat problems. [16]

May 20, 2020: “My brother held in Silivri prison was tested on the 10th day of the outbreak. His test results were positive. Stating that he was (only) given medication as treatment, my brother said that they are staying in overcrowded cells. He also added that the food service was problematic and that they were personally cleaning (their cells). We have applied to the prison administration that my brother can not remain in prison under these circumstances, but we did not receive a positive reply.“ These statements belong to Barış Kaçan, the brother of inmate Hüseyin Kaçan. Locked up in Silivri prison for 23 months, inmate Hüseyin Kaçan also has stomach pains and knee problems. According to his brother, even under normal circumstances, he was struggling in prison conditions, often experiencing pain, and getting sick. After his Covid-19 symptoms became increasingly noticeable, he was tested on the 10th day and he had found out that he was sick. In fact, from the moment the symptoms began, he and other inmates had applied to the prison administration for testing but were rejected.

Burak Çelen, who is also imprisoned in Silivri prison no. 7, has tested positive for Covid-19 a week ago. Sevda Çelen, the wife of Burak Çelen, had seen in the E-Nabız system that his husband has been infected by the coronavirus, and then their attorney has petitioned for his treatment in the hospital. Following the petition, Burak Çelen was taken to the hospital on May 7.  Sevda Çelen said that after a day of observation in the hospital, his husband was given a 5-day drug therapy and sent to the quarantine cell in the prison. In her most recent phone call (with her husband), Sevda Çelen learned that that the prison conditions were not good. According to Burak Çelen, who is in the quarantine cell for 39 people, the amount of food served to the cell was for 15 people and the prison canteen was closed. He has also stated that the fever measurements were not carried out regularly, that no testing was applied after the 5-day drug therapy and that there were fresh air, and hygiene problems.

Cevriye Aydin is the lawyer of Yasin Solmaz, a coronavirus patient. Reached by Euronews, Aydin points out that the situation is a human rights violation. Stating that his client is not in healthy conditions, Aydin also indicates that the authorities should accommodate temporary solutions for those in prison during the pandemic: “Regardless of their views and religions, everyone in prisons is under the assurance (responsibility) of the state. First, the right to life is guaranteed by the state. Otherwise, the state will be responsible. The priority here is to secure the prisoners’ rights to life. I am in a panic for those prisoners’ rights to life. People out there are dying from Covid-19, too, but when they are out, being infected (by the virus) is in their own volition. However, when in prison, this is an incident happening in a place that is entirely under the political and legal responsibility of the state, the government, and those in power.” [17]

Official Statements

The issues stated above clearly show that the Government of Turkey and the officials are not taking the necessary measures amid the global Coronavirus outbreak. They do not even provide the essential basic needs of those inmates whose well-beings and health are under their responsibility to protect. Not only that, but it is also clearly seen that they also fail to ensure physical conditions necessary to prevent the transmission of the disease, and that mass deaths can occur in prisons due to the “mass isolation” measures that are similar to the medieval practices.

Some of the official statements reported in the media about the coronavirus cases in prisons are summarized below:

April 8, 2020: It is claimed that a convict named Mehmet Yeter in Bafra prison, who reportedly had diabetes, was recently sent back to prison after his leg got amputated and three days later, he died from Covid-19. Despite the statement of the Bafra Public Prosecutor’s Office that Mehmet Yeter’s death was not related to Covid-19, a social media user called Ferhat Yeter, who declared himself as Mehmet Yeter’s son, shared some documents, that allegedly belonged to the public prosecutor, about the funeral proceedings of his father Mehmet Yeter.

April 20, 2020: Izmir Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that an inmate in Buca prison has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

April 22, 2020: After the first coronavirus case in Buca prison, Izmir Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that 64 more inmates have also tested positive.

April 28, 2020: Konya Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that 55 inmates in Konya E type prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.

May 2, 2020: After receiving complaint letters from inmates and their relatives, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, CHP Istanbul Deputy and Vice President of the Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Committee, stated that they are receiving an unprecedented number of complaints, and most of them are about “inadequate access to nutrition, hygiene, and health care service”.

May 8, 2020: Bakırköy Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that 44 prisoners in Silivri prison have tested positive for Covid-19.

May 22, 2020: Bakırköy Public Prosecutor’s Office announced the death of an inmate in Silivri prison, who was undergoing treatment for Covid-19. The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the inmate, who had a chronic lung disease (reportedly tuberculosis), died at 5.45 pm on May 21, 2020.  As of May 22, the prosecutor’s office said there were a total of 82 cases of Covid-19 in Silivri prison, including 47 in the L-type prison no. 7 and 35 in L-type prison no. 8. [18]

Findings

The significant differences between the official statements and the information received from the inmates’ relatives and their attorneys indicate that the extent of the coronavirus risk in Turkey’s prisons is far deeper than what has been announced. The Government of Turkey and officials, who are not taking the necessary precautions to protect the rights to life of those who are under their responsibility, in slightest terms, act with “severe neglect of duty and culpable negligence”.

Based on the facts presented above, our findings of the prison conditions during the coronavirus pandemic are as below:

  1. The information provided by the officials on the coronavirus cases in prison and the inmates’ health conditions is not adequate; both the relatives of inmates and the public are not informed accurately and frequently.
  2. Although some have been released after the recent execution law, the prison cells are still overcrowded. In the pandemic, some might primarily expect the measures to be undertaken against the outbreak are to reduce the number of people in prison cells; however, the opposite was experienced in some cells to which their sizes have expanded from the pre-pandemic rates.
  3. Sick people are not being tested or delayed until their conditions worsen, let alone undertaking routine testing efforts.
  4. The inmates’ access to both internal and external health care providers have been severely restricted and thus become problematic; in cases where they have accessed the health care, it has been de-facto abrupted due to the post-quarantine practices.
  5. Sick people are not treated effectively. Both the duration of treatments and the usage of drugs are very limited.
  6. In-prison hygiene conditions are inadequate. Adequate cleaning materials and proper access to water are not provided; even in cases where they are charged for a fee.
  7. After the recently passed execution bill, shortage of workforce in open prisons where meals are prepared for prisons has resulted in very problematic food service. This seemingly undermines the efforts to tackle the pandemic issue as inmates experience malnutrition. Besides food service that is inadequate, unhealthy, and of poor quality, inmates experience difficulties in accessing paid food due to the closure of canteens as part of the fight against the pandemic. This weakens the immune system of prisoners and makes them more vulnerable during the pandemic.
  8. Due to inadequate provision of the protective materials, both inmates and prison personnel are exposed to risky contact transmission of the disease from the infected.
  9. As many officials (serving prisons) have limited their physical presence during the pandemic, the inmates’ demands are not evaluated properly; rapid and effective measures are not taken in the fight against the pandemic.

Recommendations

As Advocates of Silenced Turkey, we call on all national and international institutions and the general public, especially the Turkish Government, to act immediately and effectively to stop the aggravated coronavirus threats in Turkey’s prisons and prevent possible mass deaths from happening.

Given this context:

  1. The officials are urged to provide adequate information about the coronavirus cases in prison and the inmates’ health conditions. They should accurately and frequently inform both the inmates’ relatives and the public.
  2. To ease overcrowding in prisons, we urge the government to use all available alternatives to detention whenever possible. Among the inmate groups that are at higher risk for the coronavirus, persons on remand awaiting trial should immediately be released. The legal practice to suspend the execution of sentences should also immediately be adapted for the convicted prisoners.
  3. Inmates should be tested routinely and those infected should be detected, provided with effective health care, and treated under appropriate conditions. As current quarantine efforts resemble medieval practices evoked from physical contact between the infected and uninfected, they should immediately be halted. Appropriate and scientific measures should be undertaken.
  4. In-prison hygiene conditions should adequately be provided, the access to cleaning materials should be improved, and the overpricing in the prison canteens should be prevented.
  5. To strengthen the immune systems of inmates, adequate and balanced nutrition should be provided – calling for improvements in the quality and amount of the food service,  provision of adequate and proper food products in the canteens, and halting of the overpricing regime in the canteens.
  6. Both inmates and prison personnel that they are in contact with should be provided with adequate and proper protective materials.
  7. To protect the right to life, the demands of inmates should be evaluated urgently; rapid and effective measures should be undertaken in the fight against the pandemic. In this context, the protocols in the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 INFECTION) GUIDE[19], prepared and updated by the General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health, should be followed strictly in prisons.

 

 

[1]       https://covid19bilgi.saglik.gov.tr/depo/rehberler/COVID-19_Rehberi.pdf?type=file

[1]       http://www.bakirkoy.adalet.gov.tr/adl-duyuru/2020/05/220520.pdf

[1]       https://tr.euronews.com/2020/05/20/silivri-cezaevinde-covid-19-vakalar-endiseli-aileler-yetkililerden-gecici-tahliyeler-bekli

[1]       https://www.dw.com/tr/cezaevlerinde-salgına-karşı-tedbirler-yetersiz-mi/a-53502249

[2]       http://mezopotamyaajansi22.com/tum-haberler/content/view/97218

[3]       https://artigercek.com/haberler/karantinaya-alinan-3-tutukluya-test-yapilmadi

[1]       https://www.boldmedya.com/2020/05/15/silivri-karantinasindaki-3-isim-konustu-bu-son-gorusmemiz-olabilir-bize-vebali-gibi-davraniyorlar/

[2]       https://twitter.com/OhdVan/status/1261980171118301184

[3]       https://boldmedya.com/2020/05/18/silivride-bir-kisiye-daha-kovid-19-teshisi-konuldu/

[1]       http://aktifhaber.com/gundem/43-kisilik-kogusta-30-kisi-hasta-bulasik-deterjani-ve-soguk-su-ile-banyo-yapiyorlar-h145301.html

[2]       https://tihv.org.tr/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/TürkiyeCovidHakİhlalleriSON.pdf

[1]       https://www.evrensel.net/haber/404769/silivri-cezaevinde-7-kisilik-kogusta-45-kisi-kalmaya-devam-ediyor

[1]       https://artigercek.com/haberler/silivri-cezaevi-nde-korona-c-7-kogusu-aciklandi-ya-b-12

[2]       https://twitter.com/gergerliogluof

[3]       https://kronos34.news/tr/gergerlioglu-silivri-cezaevinde-koronavirus-salgini-hizla-yayiliyor/

[4]       https://kronos34.news/tr/mahkum-yakinlari-silivride-maske-ve-eldiven-ilk-kez-dun-verildi/

[5]       https://boldmedya.com/2020/05/14/korona-risk-grubundaki-tutuklu-gazeteci-cetin-ciftcinin-testi-pozitif-cikti/

[1]       https://artigercek.com/haberler/silivri-cezaevi-nde-korona-c-7-kogusu-aciklandi-ya-b-12

[2]       https://twitter.com/gergerliogluof

[3]       https://kronos34.news/tr/gergerlioglu-silivri-cezaevinde-koronavirus-salgini-hizla-yayiliyor/

[4]       https://kronos34.news/tr/mahkum-yakinlari-silivride-maske-ve-eldiven-ilk-kez-dun-verildi/

[5]       https://boldmedya.com/2020/05/14/korona-risk-grubundaki-tutuklu-gazeteci-cetin-ciftcinin-testi-pozitif-cikti/

[1]       https://www.hrw.org/tr/news/2020/04/03/340344

[2]       https://twitter.com/cezaeviihlaller/status/1258461779543416834

 

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TÜRKİYE CEZAEVLERİNDEKİ KORONAVİRÜS VAKALARINA DAİR OLAY İNCELEMESİ, TESPİTLER VE ÖNERİLER

Bu çalışmamızda, küresel salgın sürecinde, Türkiye’deki cezaevlerinde görülen teyidli koronavirüs vakaları ve bu dönemdeki resmi açıklamalar ile bunlara dayalı olarak yapılan tespit ve önerilerimiz yer almaktadır.
Gerek tarafımıza ulaşan tutuklu ve hükümlü yakınlarının beyanları, gerek açık kaynaklarda yer alan yazılı ve sözlü ifadeler, gerekse de insan hakları aktivisti kişi ve kurumların paylaşımları ile görülüyor ki, Türkiye’de cezaevleri, kapasitesinin çok üzerinde doluluk oranı ile tutuklu ve hükümlüler için önü alınamayan yaşamsal riskler barındırıyor. Son dönemde gerçekleşen infaz düzenlemesi de, T.C. Anayasası’nın 10. maddesi ve AİHS 14. maddesine aykırı olarak, eşitsiz ve ayrımcı yapısı sebebiyle bu riski ortadan kaldırmaktan çok uzak ne yazık ki.

Koronavirüs Vakaları

Birçok kişi tarafından muhtelif sosyal paylaşım uygulamalarında paylaşılan ve içeriği, kaynak kişi tarafından da teyid edilen ses kayıtları ile cezaevlerindeki koşullar dile getirilmiş, pekçok tutuklu ve hükümlü yakını tarafından da benzer mahiyette yazılı paylaşımlarda bulunulmuştur. Bu paylaşımlarda, cezaevlerindeki tutuklu ve hükümlülerin T.C. Anayasası’nın 17. maddesi ve AİHS’in 2. maddesiyle koruma altında bulunan en temel ve evrensel insan hakkı mahiyetindeki yaşam hakkının açık, ağır ve yakın tehlike altında olduğunun bizzat tutuklu ve hükümlüler tarafından dile getirildiği görülmektedir.

Cezaevlerindeki koşulların aktarıldığı tutuklu/mahkum veya yakınlarına ilişkin beyanlar aşağıda derlenmiştir:

03 Nisan 2020: “68 yaşındaki Ahmet Türkmen’in, diğer ciddi sağlık sorunlarının yanı sıra, kronik kalp rahatsızlığı öyküsü var ve ciddi bir by-pass operasyonu geçirmiş. Son üç yıldır Kayseri 1 No’lu T-tip hapishanesinde tutuluyor ve terör örgütü üyesi olmak suçundan 2018 yılında aldığı 14 yıllık mahkumiyet kararı temyiz aşamasında. … Adli Tıp Kurumu’nun Türkmen’in altı ayda bir sağlık kontrolünden geçirilmesini tavsiye etmiş olmasına karşın, Türkmen son üç yılda sadece bir kez sağlık kontrolünden geçirilmiş. Üç kişilik bir koğuşta, 10 mahpusla birlikte kalan Türkmen’in yaşamı için KOVİD-19 ciddi bir risk oluşturabilir. Türkmen’in avukatı 18 Mart günü KOVİD-19 riskini gerekçe göstererek Türkmen’in sağlık durumu sebebiyle tahliyesi için Yargıtay’a başvuruda bulundu.

 “61 yaşındaki İsmet Özçelik, Malezya’daki bir okulun eski müdürü ve 2017 Mayıs’ından bu yana Türkiye’de, Denizli T-tipi hapishanesinde tutuluyor. Özçelik, Malezya’daki BM mülteci ajansına iltica başvurusu yapmış olmasına rağmen, Malezya’da kaçırılarak, zorla Türkiye’ye gönderilmiş. 2019 Mayıs’ında BM İnsan Hakları Komitesi Türkiye’nin, Özçelik’in Uluslararası Medeni ve Siyasi Haklar Sözleşmesi tarafından teminat altına alınan insan haklarını ihlal ettiğine, tahliye edilmesi ve kendisine tazminat ödenmesi gerektiğine karar verdi. Türkiye bu kararı uygulamadı. … Özçelik’in aldığı 10 yıllık mahkumiyet kararı halen temyiz aşamasında. Kalp rahatsızlığı bulunan Özçelik, 2019 yılında bir kalp krizi geçirdiğini hissettiği noktada zamanında tıbbi müdahale yapılmamış olduğunu bildirdi. Özçelik’in avukatı, Özçelik’in acil şikayetinden haftalar sonra geçirildiği sağlık kontrolüne ilişkin ayrıntılı raporun bir nüshasının kendisine verilmediğini belirtti. Özçelik’in avukatları Mart ayı ortalarında Özçelik’in sağlık durumu sebebiyle KOVİD-19 riski bağlamında tahliye edilmesi için Yargıtay’a başvuruda bulundular.”

 Eski bir polis memuru olan 48 yaşındaki Hüseyin Soykan 44 aydır Karaman M-tipi cezaevinde tutuluyor. … Soykan’ın kronik bir akciğer rahatsızlığı bulunduğunu ve geçmişte akciğerlerinden birinin sönmüş (pnömotoraks) olduğunu gösteren tıbbi raporlar var. Cezaevindeyken iki kez acilen hastaneye kaldırılmış. Soykan 8 kişilik bir koğuşta 28 mahpusla birlikte kalıyor. Aynı koğuştaki başka bir mahpus, Amir Gülaçtı, avukatının kötü hapishane koşullarının mahpusların sağlığını olumsuz etkilediği yönünde bir şikayette bulunmasından kısa bir süre sonra 20 Ekim 2019 tarihinde yaşamınıyitirmiş. Gülaçtı’nın ölüm sebebinin kalp yetmezliği olduğu düşünülüyor. Gülaçtı’nın ölümü ile ilgili Adli Tıp Kurumu’nun otopsi raporunun çıkması bekleniyor. Soykan’nın sağlık durumu KOVİD-19 karşısında ölümcül risk altında olduğu anlamına geliyor. Avukatı Soykan’ın sağlık durumu sebebiyle tahliye edilmesi için 19 Mart günü Yargıtay’a başvurdu.”[1]

08 Mayıs 2020: Silivri C.İ.K.7 nolu B12 koğuşunda Hüseyin Kaçan defalarca “Biz kötüyüz, bize test yapın” denmesine rağmen olumsuz cevap aldı. B 12 koğuşunda 39 kişi bulunmaktadır. 25 Nisanda corona belirtileri görülmesine rağmen cezaevi yönetimi hiç bir şekilde koğuşta bulunanlarla ilgilenmediği, koğuşta bulunan 48 yaşındaki birisi iftar saatinde bayıldıktan sonra işin ciddiyetini anlaşıldığı, Buna rağmen test yaptırılması için herhangi bir girişimde bulunmadığı iddia ediliyor.  Koğuşta kalanların ailesi Alo 184 ü araması sonucu Sağlık Bakanlığı cezaevine test için görevlileri göndermiştir. Testler 06.05.2020 tarihinde yapılmış 07.05.2020’de sonuçlanmış e nabızdan alınan raporlara göre koğuşta bulunan herkesin testi pozitif çıkmıştır. Buna rağmen cezaevi yönetimi hiç bir şekilde koğuşta bulunanlarla ilgilenmemektedir. Tedavileri için herhangi bir şey yapmamaktadırlar.[2]

08 Mayıs 2020:i Silivri 7 No’lu Cezaevi B-12 koğuşunda bulunan D, eşinin kalp hastası olan anne ve babasının durumdan haberi olmadığı için isimlerinin açıklanmasını istemiyor. 39 yaşındaki eşinin Covid-19 testinin pozitif çıktığını dün öğrenen D, Artı Gerçek’e yaptığı açıklamada yaşananları şöyle anlatıyor: “C-7’de vaka olduğunu öğrenince endişeliyim, sizin durumunuz ne diye sordum. ‘Pazartesi iki arkadaşı koğuştan aldılar ve bir daha getirmediler, bence pozitif çıktı. Zaten hepimiz hastalandık, grip gibi geçirdik, kusanlar oldu’ dedi. Test yapıldı mı, diye sordum. ‘Bırak test yapmayı sahur ve iftarı iki kaşık çorba ile geçiriyoruz. Durum çok vahim. İlk kez telefona çıkarken maske verdiler’ dedi.” C-7 koğuşunda kalan Yasin Solmaz’ın babası Ekrem Solmaz da oğlunun Covid-19 testinin pozitif çıktığını dün akşam öğrenmiş.[3]

 11 Mayıs 2020: HDP Kocaeli Milletvekili Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, Silivri Cezaevi’nde Covid-19 vakalarında ciddi artışlar olduğuna dikkat çekti. Daha önce Silivri 7 no’lu cezaevinde Covid-19 vakalarının olduğunu ve B-10, B-12, C-7 koğuşlarında Covid-19 vakalarına rastlandığını duyuran Gergerlioğlu, şimdi de Silivri 8 nolu cezaevindeki C-6 koğuşunda pozitif vakaların olduğunu ve vakaların 5 no’lu koğuşa da yayıldığını açıkladı.[4]

11 Mayıs 2020: Eşi C-6 koğuşunda tutuklu olan ve ismini vermek istemeyen tutuklu yakını, koğuşta 30 kişinin test sonucunun pozitif olduğunu, 4 kişinin test sonucunun ise negatif çıktığını, diğer 2-3 kişi hakkında bilgi alamadıklarını söyledi. Test sonuçları negatif çıkan tutuklular başka koğuşa alınırken, sonucu pozitif çıkan tutuklular ise bir arada kalmaya devam ediyor ancak hiçbir tedavi uygulanmıyor dedi. Durumu ciddi olan tutukluların bulunduğunu dile getiren tutuklu yakını, “aslında olay yeni değil, iki hafta önce koğuşta yüksek ateş şikayeti olanlar vardı fakat durum ciddiye alınmadı.Böylece herkese yayıldı” dedi.[5]

14 Mayıs 2020: Silivri’de 7 numaralı cezaevinde kalan Ali Rıza Karaboğa’nın telefon görüşmesi sırasında eşine aktardığı bilgiye göre, kaldıkları koğuşa komşu olan B-8 numaralı koğuştan iki kişiye koronavirüs testi yapıldığı ve testi pozitif çıkan mahkumların tekrardan kaldıkları koğuşa geri gönderildikleri öğrenildi.

Eşimle iki hafta önce yapmış olduğumuz telefon görüşünde süreç başladığından bu yana ilk defa ateşlerinin ölçüldüğünü bu hafta aradığında da aynı şekilde bir kez daha ateş ölçümleri yapıldığını, ve telefon görüşüne çıktıklarında maske verildiğini bize aktardı.[6] 

14 Mayıs 2020: 6 yıl 3 ay hapis cezası verilen ve 8 aydır Sincan Cezaevi’nde bulunan ve Korona risk grubundaki gazeteci Çetin Çiftçi’ye, Covid 19 tanısı konuldu. Böbrek ve kalp rahatsızlıkları olan Çiftçi’nin tedavi altında olduğu öğrenildi. Gazeteci Çetin Çiftçi’nin kronik rahatsızlıkları bulunması nedeniyle eşi Selda Çiftçi’nin kendi çabalarıyla yaptığı araştırmada, cezaevinde defalarca rahatsızlanarak hastaneye götürüldüğü ortaya çıktı.[7]

14 Mayıs 2020: Silivri Cezaevi’nde koronavirüs vakalarında büyük artış yaşandığını söyleyen HDP Milletvekili Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, 7 kişilik bazı koğuşlarda 45 kişi kaldığını ifade etti. Gergerlioğlu kendisine ailelerden ve mahpuslardan iletilen bazı mektupları da paylaştı. O mektuplardan birkaçı şöyle:

  •             “Z. A. Silivri 5 No’lu Kapalı Cezaevinde kalmaktadır. Annesi ile yaptığı telefon görüşmesinde; ateşinin olduğunu bu nedenle 2 defa revire götürüldüğünü daha sonra çağırılan ambulansta mahpustan ambulansın içinde bir örnek
  • alındığını ancak niçin örnek alındığına dair mahpusa bilgi verilmediğini ve hastaneye götürülmeden koğuşuna geri gönderildiğini aktarmıştır.”
  • Abim Silivri 2 No’lu Kapalı Cezaevinde kalmaktadır. Geçen hafta yaptığımız telefon görüşmesinde yemeklerin az verildiğini söylemişti. Abimin koronavirüs nedeniyle hayatından endişe etmekteyiz. 15 kişilik koğuşta 45 kişi kalıyorlar ve açık cezaevindeki tahliyeler nedeniyle yemekler çok sıkıntılıymış.
  • Silivri 7 No’lu Kapalı Cezaevinde mahpusların 43 kişi kaldıkları, içeride salgın olduğu, ishal, kusma gibi şikayetlerle 30 kişinin aynı sıkıntıyı yaşadığı, haftalardır kantin sorunu olduğu, sabun, şampuan ve peçete verilmediği, bulaşık deterjanıyla banyo yapıldığı, mahpusların soğuk suda yıkandığı.”
  • Silivri 7 No’lu Cezaevinde C-7 koğuşunda bir kişide Kovid-19 testi maalesef pozitif çıkmıştır. Koğuşta bulunan 45 kişi büyük risk altındadır. Koğuştaki diğer mahpuslara da bulaşmasından korkuyoruz.”
  • E; Silivri L Tipi 5 No’lu Kapalı Cezaevinde kalmaktadır. Ailesinin aktarımlarına göre; mahpusun hastalık belirtilerinden kuru öksürük şikayetleri olduğunu, kaldığı koğuşta kronik hastaların bulunduğunu, kişisel temizlik malzemelerin verilmediğini, düzenli olarak soğuk ve sıcak suyun akmadığını, koronavirüs salgınıyla ilgili yeterli bilgi verilmediğini, yemekhanelerde temizlik, hijyen ve sosyal mesafe kuralına uyulmadığını, yemeklerin sağlıksız ve kötü çıktığını, karantina odalarının bulunmadığını iletmiştir.”
  • Abim H. O. Silivri 8 No’lu Kapalı Cezaevinde kalmaktadır. Abimle konuştuğumuzda Covid-19 testi pozitif çıkan hastalar olduğu ve onlarla temas halinde olduklarını, cezaevi yönetiminden test yapılmasını talep ettiklerini ve olumsuz cevap geldiğini sö Abim koğuşlarda çok kalabalık kaldıklarını söylüyor. Abimin hayatından endişe ediyoruz. Abimin isteği üzerine test yapılmasını istiyoruz.”[8]

14 Mayıs 2020: “Eşim R.K. Silivri 8 No’lu L Tipi Cezaevi C-6 koğuşunda kalmaktaydı. Eşimin ilk Covid-19 test sonucu negatif. Bugün sabah ise E-Nabız’da 2. Bir test sonucu vardı ve sonuç pozitif çıkmış ama cezaevini aradığımda 2. bir test yapılmadığını, daha sonra yapılacağını söylediler. E-Nabız’da pozitif görünen bir test var ama cezaevi 2. test yapılmadığını söylüyor. Dün aradığımda test sonucu negatif olduğu için C-1 koğuşuna alındığını ve salı sabah yani bugün telefon görüşü olacağını söylediler fakat bugün cezaevini aradığımda pazar telefon görüşü olduğunu söylediler. Eşimden haber alamıyorum ve çok endişeliyim.”[9]

 14 Mayıs 2020: TİHV Dokümantasyon Merkezi tarafından hazırlanan, 11 Mart – 10 Mayıs 2020 tarifleri arasında Covid-19 salgını ile ilişkili hak ihlallerine yönelik rapor yayınlanmıştır. Rapora göre, uluslararası standart ve normlara gönderme yapan tüm ilke ve çağrılara karşın mahpusların aileleriyle görüşme hakkı tamamen ortadan kaldırılmış, avukat görüşmeleri kısıtlanmıştır. Ayrıca, cezaevlerinden kısıtlı olarak edinilen bilgi ve şikayetlerden de anlaşılacağı üzere BM İnsan Hakları Komiseri Michelle Bachelet’nin yaptığı uyarının aksine salgın koşullarında mahpusların, sağlığa, yiyecek ve suya, hijyen malzemelerine erişimde yaşadıkları ihlaller kötü muamele niteliğindedir.[10]

15 Mayıs 2020: Müebbet hapis cezasına çarptırılan askeri öğrenci Yasin Solmaz’ın eşi Şakire Solmaz, öğretmen M.T’nin eşi M.T ve polis memuru Ali Çiçek’in eşi B. Çiçek ile avukatlığını da yapan amcası Fatih Çiçek, bir hafta içinde yaşadıklarını anlattı. Üç isim, yakınlarının e-Nabız’dan elde ettikleri Kovid-19 teşhis raporlarını ve tahliye için mahkemelere sundukları dilekçeleri Bold Medya ile paylaştı. Yasin Solmaz’ın eşi Şakire Solmaz, “Bize vebalı gibi davranıyorlar, buraya kimse gelmiyor” dedi. 42 aydır Silivri Cezaevinde tutuklu olan Ali Çiçek de 7 Nolu Cezaevi B10 koğuşunda kalıyor. Eşi B. Çiçek, “İki gün ateşli yattı ama şu an iyiyim dedi ama koğuşun şartları çok kötü. Zaten normalde orada kalmak çok zor. Yemek sıkıntılı. Bu kadar azını hiç görmedik dedi. Kahvaltılık ürünlerini kantinden alıyorlardı, kapalı şimdi.Tuvalette sürekli sıra var. Buzdolabında bile sıra var, şartlar daha da ağırlaştı. Kalabalık ortam, biri iyi olsa, kötü olan onu etkiliyor.” dedi. 7 Nolu Cezaevi B12 koğuşunda kalanlardan biri de öğretmen M.T. 19 aydır tutuklu olan M.T’ye de 6 Mayıs’ta Kovid-19 teşhisi konuldu. Eşini 65 gündür göremediğini söyleyen M.T., 6 Mayıs’tan bugüne bir haftanın bir yıl gibi geldiğini söyleyip eşiyle yaptığı son telefon konuşmasını anlattı, “Eşimle en son iki gün önce çarşamba günü görüştük. 6 Mayıs’tan sonra bir hafta bir yıl gibi geçti. Gece 1.30’da doktora gitmiş gözüküyorsun, hayırdır dedim. Öyle bir şey yoktur dedi. Bize sadece test yapıldı. Daha gelen giden yok dedi. Her gün kontrolleri yaptıklarını göstermek için sisteme öyle işleniyor. Ateşlerini ölçülüyor sadece. Doktora götürmüyorlar ama sistemde doktora gitmiş gibi görünüyor. Orada tehlike altındalar. Hem bağışıklık sistemleri zayıfladı hem de izolasyon yok. 39 kişinin olduğu yerde nasıl izolasyon yapılacak. Kurala aykırı. İkincisi yemekleri çok sıkıntılı. İki haftadır meyve sebze hiçbir şey gelmiyor, dedi. Birkaç kaşık yemek yiyebiliyorlar. Biz burada ölüme terk edildik, gelip giden kimse yok. Başvurabildiğin yere başvur dedi.” dedi. [11]

17 Mayıs 2020: Öhd Van Şubesi ve Van Barosu Cezaevi Komisyonu ve Van Tuhay-Der olarak Van T Tipi, Van Yüksek güvenlikli, Van F Tipi Cezaevlerini bu haftaki ziyaretlerindeki gözlem ve tespitleri şu şekildedir[12]:

  • Cezaevlerinde Covid-19 salgını ile ilgili alınan önlemler kesinlikle yeterli değildir. Doluluk oranlarının fazlalığı, hijyen imkanlarından, koruyucu malzemelerden yoksunluk, sağlık ve tedavi imkanlarına erişememe sebebiyle mahpusların yaşam hakları büyük bir risk altındadır.
  • Özellikle koruyucu malzemelerin mahpuslara para ile satılması, fiyatların fahiş olması, koğuşlarda dezenfekte işlemlerinin kapsamlı ve sık sık gerçekleştirilmemesi, koğuştan çıkan mahpuslara üst araması yapılması yaşam haklarındaki riski kat be kat artırmaktadır.

 18 Mayıs 2020: Silivri 7 Nolu L Tipi Cezaevinde kalan bir kişiye de korona teşhisi konuldu. Hükümlü olarak cezaevinde bulunan Ali Kemal Ata’nın 16 Mayıs 2020’da e-Nabız’a düşen test sonucu pozitif. 29 kişiyle birlikte B8 koğuşunda kalan Ali Kemal Ata, üç yıldır tutukluydu. Eşiyle her pazartesi günü görüştüğünü söyleyen Vecide Tuba Ata, “Bugün eşimle görüşemeyeceğiz. Çünkü hastanede olduğunu biliyorum. Her gün kampüs içindeki hastaneyi arıyorum. Sadece cuma günü açtılar. Genel durumu iyi dediler ama endişeliyiz, merak içindeyiz. Durumunu e-nabızdan takip etmeye çalışıyorum.” dedi.[13]

 19 Mayıs 2020: Silivri Cezaevi’nde bulunan bir mahkum, ağır vakalar dışında tutuklu ve hükümlere test yapılmadığını öne sürüyor. Mahkum, eşi Y.S.’nin DW Türkçe’ye ilettiği telefon konuşması kaydında, eşine cezaevi koşullarını şöyle anlatıyor: “Savcılık Silivri Cezaevi’ndeki vaka sayısını 44 olarak açıkladı ama B10 koğuşunda 31, B12 koğuşunda 24 tane pozitif vaka varmış. Böyle olunca diyorlar ki bunlar, test yapılmasın, böyle kronik vaka olan olursa yani yerinden kalkamayacak gibi olan olursa ancak onlara test yapılsın. Onun haricinde test yapılmasını Bakanlık istemiyor. Yasak. Olur mu böyle şey dedik doktora ısrar edince bizi hastaneye gönderdi. 8 kişiden yedimiz pozitif çıktık. Şu an muhtemelen bizim koğuşta da hastalananlar var. Yani koğuşun tamamı hasta şu anda.” Mahkum, telefon görüşmesinde, test sonuçları belli olmadan karantina koğuşuna alındıklarını ancak içlerinden birinin testinin negatif çıktığını, bu mahkumun da muhtemelen negatif koğuşuna gönderileceğini öne sürüyor. Aynı mahkum endişesini şu sözlerle anlatıyor: “Burada zaten karantina marantina diye bir durum yok. Kendi kendine iyileşirsen iyileşirsin. Onun haricinde ölürsen öleceksin yapacak başka bir şey yok. Kimsenin umarında değilsin zaten burada. Kimsenin umrunda değilsin hem de.” 

DW Türkçe’ye konuşan tutuklu yakını Ş.S., Silivri Cezaevi’nde tutuklu olan eşinin karantina koğuşunda olduğunu ve bu koğuşta testi pozitif çıkan 39 mahpusun bir arada tutulduğunu söylüyor. Kendilerine daha önce karantina koğuşlarının 7-8 kişilik koğuşlar olduğu bilgisinin verildiğini belirten Ş.S., cezaevi müdürünün 39 kişilik rakamı avukatlarına teyit ettiğini öne sürdü. Ş.S., eşinin aktardığına göre, koğuşta 39 kişi olmasına rağmen yemeklerinin 15 kişilik verildiğini, temizlik ve hijyenin kısıtlı olduğunu, en son 3 gün önce ateşlerinin ölçüldüğünü, bunun da gardiyanlar tarafından içeriye girilmeden kapının mazgalına yaklaşılarak yapıldığını, cezaevinde yeterli gardiyan olmadığı için mahpusların seslerini duyuramadıklarını iddia etti. 

S.E., Silivri 7 no’lu cezaevinde aile telefon görüşmesi için koğuşlarından çıkan mahkumlara ilk kez 11 Mayıs’ta maske ve eldiven verildiğini iddia etti. Tutuklu yakını S.Ş. ise “Verdikleri bilgi sadece iyi. Ben eşimin hastalığını E-Nabız uygulamasından öğrendim. Şimdi ise uygulama üzerinden takip edemiyorum. Neden E-Nabız sisteminden takip edemiyoruz sorusu karşısında da artık E-Nabız sistemine kayıtların girilemeyeceğini söylediler” dedi. [14]

19 Mayıs 2020: Silivri 7 Nolu L Tipi Cezaevi’nde Kovid-19 testi pozitif çıkan tutuklu Yasin Solmaz’ın babası Ekrem Solmaz, oğluna grip ilacı verilerek koğuşa gönderildiğini paylaşarak, “39 kişi aynı koğuşta kalıyor. Bu katliamdır” dedi. Konuya ilişkin aradığımız Silivri 7 No’lu L Tipi Kapalı Cezaevi yetkilileri, bilgi veremeyeceklerini belirterek, Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı’nın aranması gerektiğini ifade etti.[15]

20 Mayıs 2020: Özgürlük İçin Hukukçular Derneği (ÖHD) Ankara Şubesi avukatları ve Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP) Iğdır Milletvekili Habip Eksik, Kayseri Bünyan Kadın Cezaevi ile Kayseri Bünyan 2 Nolu T Tipi Kapalı Cezaevi’ni ziyaret etti. Heyet, tutuklular ve cezaevi idaresiyle yaptığı görüşmeleri raporlaştırdı.ÖHD Ankara Şubesi tarafından hazırlanan raporda, Kayseri Bünyan Kadın Kapalı Cezaevi’nde, 5 kadın tutuklu ile görüşme gerçekleştirildiği bilgisi verildi. Raporda, 3 kişinin muayene ardından karantinaya alındığı ancak koronavirüs testi yapılmadığı aktarıldı, bir tutuklunun öksürük ve boğaz kuruluğu şikayetlerinin devam ettiği bilgisi de yer aldı.[16]

20 Mayıs 2020: “Silivri cezaevindeki kardeşime salgın belirtilerinin 10. gününde test yapıldı. Testi pozitif çıktı. İlaç tedavisinin uygulandığını söyleyen kardeşim, kalabalık koğuşlarda kaldıklarını ifade etti. Yemeklerin sorunlu olduğunu ve kendi temizliklerini de kendilerinin yaptıklarını aktardı. Bu şartlarda kardeşimin cezaevinde kalamayacağına dair cezaevi yönetimine başvuruda bulunduk ancak olumlu bir dönüş yok.” Silivri cezaevinde koronavirüs testi pozitif çıkan tutuklu Hüseyin Kaçan’ın ağabeyi Barış Kaçan’a ait bu ifadeler. 23 aydır Silivri cezaevinde olan Hüseyin Kaçan aynı zamanda mide ağrıları ve dizlerinde sorunlar yaşayan bir tutuklu. Ağabeyinin aktarımına göre normal şartlarda bile cezaevi koşulları kendisini zorluyor, sık sık ağrılar yaşıyor ve hastalanıyor. Covid-19 semptomlarının giderek daha çok kendisini hissettirmesiyle 10. günde yapılan test sonucu hasta olduğunu öğrenmiş. Aslında belirtiler başladığı andan itibaren o ve diğer tutuklular test talepleri için cezaevi yönetimine başvurular yapmış ama reddedilmiş.

 Yine Silivri 7 No’lu cezaevinde tutuklu olan Burak Çelen’in de bir hafta önce yapılan Covid-19 testi pozitif çıktı. E-Nabız sisteminden eşi Burak Çelen’in koronavirüse yakalandığını öğrenen Sevda Çelen, avukatı aracılığıyla eşinin hastanede tedavi altına alınmasını talep edince eşi 7 Mayıs’ta hastaneye kaldırıldı. Sevda Çelen, eşinin hastanede bir günlük müşahade altına alınmasının ardından beş günlük ilaç tedavisi verilerek, cezaevinin karantina koğuşuna gönderildiğini söyledi. Sevda Çelen, en son yaptığı telefon görüşmesinde ise eşinden cezaevi koşullarının iyi olmadığını öğrendi. 39 kişilik karantina koğuşunda bulunan Burak Çelen’in aktardıklarına göre koğuşlara verilen yemek miktarı 15 kişilik ve kantin kapalı. Ateş ölçümlerinin düzenli yapılmadığı, beş günlük ilaç tedavisinden sonra test yapılmadığı ve temiz havanın olmadığı ve hijyen sorunları da Covid-19 hastası tutuklu Burak Çelen’in aktardıkları arasında.

 Euronews’in ulaştığı koronavirüs hastası Yasin Solmaz’ın avukatı Cevriye Aydın ise bu durumun insan hakları ihlali olduğuna dikkat çekiyor. Müvekkilinin sağlıklı koşullarda olmadığını söyleyen avukat Aydın, yetkililerin pandemi sürecinde cezaevindekiler için geçici çözümler sunmaları gerektiğine dikkat çekiyor: ”Hangi görüşten, inançtan olursa olsun cezaevinde yaşayan herkes devletin güvencesi altındadır. Öncelikle yaşam hakkının devlet tarafından güvence altına alınması söz konusudur. Aksi takdirde devlet sorumlu olur. Öncelik burada tutukluların yaşam hakkının güvence altına alınmasıdır. Ben o tutukluların yaşam hakkı için panik halindeyim. Dışarıda da Covid-19’dan insanlar ölüyor, ama dışarıda olunca kendi iradesi ile bulaşı alması söz konusu. Ancak bu cezaevinde olunca bu tamamen devletin, hükümetin, iktidarın siyasi ve hukuki her türlü sorumluluğu altında gerçekleşen bir olaydır.”[17]

Resmi Açıklamalar

Bahsi geçen beyanlarda yer alan hususlar, Türkiye Hükümeti ve kamu görevlilerinin, küresel Koronavirüs salgını sürecinde gerekli tedbirleri almak bir yana, sorumluluğu altındaki kişilerin yaşamlarını ve sağlıklarını korumaları için zorunlu temel ihtiyaçlarının ve hastalığın bulaşmasını önlemek için gerekli fiziksel koşulların dahi karşılanmadığını, ortaçağ karanlığındaki uygulamaların benzeri “toplu tecrit” sebebiyle cezaevlerinde toplu ölümlere sebep olunabileceğini açıkça ortaya koymaktadır.

Cezaevlerinde tespit edilen koronavirus vakalarına dair basına yansıyan resmi açıklamalara ilişkin özet içerikler aşağıda yer almaktadır:

08 Nisan 2020: Bafra Cezaevi’nde şeker hastası olduğu öğrenilen Mehmet Yeter adlı bir hükümlünün geçtiğimiz günlerde bacağı kesilerek yeniden cezaevine gönderildiği ve üç gün sonra Covid-19 hastalığı nedeniyle yaşamını yitirdiği iddia edildi. Bafra Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı’nın,  Mehmet Yeter’in Covid-19 hastalığı nedeniyle yaşamını yitirmediğine ilişkin açıklamasına rağmen, Mehmet Yeter’in oğlu olduğunu söyleyen Ferhat Yeter adlı kullanıcı, sosyal medya hesabından cumhuriyet savcılığına ait olduğu ileri sürülen yazı ile babası Mehmet Yeter’in cenaze işlemlerinin yazıldığı belgeleri paylaştı.

20 Nisan 2020: İzmir Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı, Buca Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu’ndaki tutuklu H.A.’ya yapılan yeni tip koronavirüs testinin pozitif çıktığını açıkladı.

 22 Nisan 2020: İzmir Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı, Buca Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumunda korona virüsü testi pozitif çıkan ilk vakanın ardından 64 tutuklu ve hükümlünün daha testinin pozitif çıktığı bildirdi.

 

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[1]    https://tr.euronews.com/2020/05/20/silivri-cezaevinde-covid-19-vakalar-endiseli-aileler-yetkililerden-gecici-tahliyeler-bekli

[2]    https://twitter.com/OhdVan/status/1261980171118301184

[3]    https://boldmedya.com/2020/05/18/silivride-bir-kisiye-daha-kovid-19-teshisi-konuldu/

[4]    https://www.dw.com/tr/cezaevlerinde-salgına-karşı-tedbirler-yetersiz-mi/a-53502249

[5]    http://mezopotamyaajansi22.com/tum-haberler/content/view/97218

[6]    https://artigercek.com/haberler/karantinaya-alinan-3-tutukluya-test-yapilmadi

[7]    http://aktifhaber.com/gundem/43-kisilik-kogusta-30-kisi-hasta-bulasik-deterjani-ve-soguk-su-ile-banyo-yapiyorlar-h145301.html

[8]    https://tihv.org.tr/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/TürkiyeCovidHakİhlalleriSON.pdf

[9]    https://www.boldmedya.com/2020/05/15/silivri-karantinasindaki-3-isim-konustu-bu-son-gorusmemiz-olabilir-bize-vebali-gibi-davraniyorlar/

 [10]    https://www.evrensel.net/haber/404769/silivri-cezaevinde-7-kisilik-kogusta-45-kisi-kalmaya-devam-ediyor

[11]    https://artigercek.com/haberler/silivri-cezaevi-nde-korona-c-7-kogusu-aciklandi-ya-b-12

[12]    https://twitter.com/gergerliogluof

[13]    https://kronos34.news/tr/gergerlioglu-silivri-cezaevinde-koronavirus-salgini-hizla-yayiliyor/

[14]    https://kronos34.news/tr/mahkum-yakinlari-silivride-maske-ve-eldiven-ilk-kez-dun-verildi/

[15]    https://boldmedya.com/2020/05/14/korona-risk-grubundaki-tutuklu-gazeteci-cetin-ciftcinin-testi-pozitif-cikti/

[16]    https://www.hrw.org/tr/news/2020/04/03/340344

[17]    https://twitter.com/cezaeviihlaller/status/1258461779543416834

 

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BORN AND RAISED IN PRISON: TURKEY’S CAPTIVE CHILDREN

International human rights standards are increasingly understood to require special and improved care for women prisoners with children. Pregnant women, women in the post-partum phase of childbirth, and crucially, newborns, require access to intensive and routine medical services and highest attainable prison standards. Imprisoned women with children face distinct challenges that other prisoners may not experience while they serve their sentences. In international human rights terms, rights of women with children fall under three categories and are protected by instruments of international law which enumerate the rights of prisoners, women, and mothers. In the Turkish Republic, governed by President Recep T. Erdogan and Justice and Development Party (AKP), the treatment of women prisoners and their children has deteriorated since 2016, the year during which Turkey experienced a general shift towards authoritarianism. At the time of this publication, the first quarter of 2020, the Turkish government’s treatment of women prisoners and their children falls radically short of standards detailed by landmark instruments put forth by the United Nations and adopted by the international community. Developments pertaining to the rights of women and children signal the continued deterioration of these rights under the current government without legitimate efforts to improve conditions by Turkish authorities.

This report is based on desk research and interviews with former prisoners conducted mainly via telephone and skype in January to March 2020. It was not possible to interview prisoners who remain behind bars and others who continue to live in Turkey as they fear government retribution for sharing their stories. The report proceeds by analyzing the current condition of prisons in Turkey as they pertain to pregnant women and women with dependent children. The analysis provides a succinct overview of the ongoing violations in Turkish prisons by comparing and contrasting current practices of the Turkish government with the universally recognized and widely ratified United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules). The analysis is composed of part commentary and part interview data. The details of each violation are interwoven directly into the comments to provide a vivid and relatable description of victims’ experiences. Volunteer interviewers for Advocates of Silenced Turkey conducted telephonic interviews with victims whose identities have been anonymized for this report. While some of these women have agreed for AST to publicize their identity, we have currently chosen to keep all data anonymous in order to protect the families of victims who continue to live in Turkey and may face persecution as a direct result of this publication. All interviews have been audio recorded with permission, transcribed, and translated with special attention paid to preserving the authenticity of the information shared by interviewees. Volunteers who conducted interviews utilized an organic conversational tone throughout each meeting, however, they were appropriately trained to effectively extract certain data from each woman. All questions used by interviewers were distilled from relevant international human rights instruments. The Tokyo Rules and Bangkok Rules in particular have played a critical role in shaping and directing the language and content of the questionnaire.

In the second and final part of the report, AST has created a catalog of all victims whose information has been made available through open-source research platforms. The desk research conducted by our associates has mainly relied on social media platforms, especially Twitter, which remain as final standing sources of real news in the Republic of Turkey. In a strictly controlled media environment, news regarding victims of the presiding government receives little to no attention. Thus, our cataloging efforts rely on publicly available information often volunteered by victims or close friends and relatives of victims on social media platforms. The information contained in the catalog section of this report will continue to be updated with increasingly more reliable data and sources as they become available over time.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Advocates of Silenced Turkey urges conscientious objectors, relevant human rights organizations, and UN special rapporteurs to encourage the government of Turkey to implement four major recommendations related to improving the living conditions of captive mothers and babies, by:

 Urging the Turkish government to effective immediately revise its policy of imprisonment towards pregnant women and women with dependent children. Non-custodial sentences shall be preferred where possible and appropriate, especially when prison conditions pose a threat to the lives of mothers and children.

 Urging the Turkish Ministry of Justice to eliminate excessive overcrowding in prison dormitories, dedicate increased resources to the physical and mental wellbeing of women and children, provide maternity support before and after birth, and ensure access to adequately nutritional food.

 Encouraging independent organizations to organize and promote transparent research on the number of children affected by their mothers’ confrontation with the criminal justice system in order to contribute to policy formulation and program development, taking into account the best interests of the children.

 Urging Turkish authorities to liaise with international criminal justice experts to develop better institutional safeguards & provide training to prison administrators and staff in order to prepare them to respond correctly to the day-to-day needs of imprisoned mothers and children.

 

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KEY HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TURKEY SINCE THE SO-CALLED COUP ATTEMPT

Following the so-called coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, the Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a wave of oppressive actions against not only the alleged coup plotters but also those that are perceived as critics of the regime. Currently, as part of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, more than 130,000 people including judges, academics, teachers, journalists, police and military officers, and other public servants have been dismissed from their jobs. In correlation, more than 217,000 have been detained and 160,000 have been arrested. Amnesty International reports that detainees were “being held arbitrarily” with “no evidence establishing reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior” and that “only a tiny minority of them were accused of taking part in the actual events of the attempted coup”.

Amid the massive crackdown of hundreds of thousands of dissidents, human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Council have noted that human rights are violated on a large scale by the Turkish government. Arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of people in custody, forced disappearances, tortures, ill-treatments, injustice, and threats – mostly against the followers of the Gulen Movement, Kurds, and the Leftists – have been reported widespread during this large-scale witch-hunt.

As people continue to be arrested and many more tortured and abducted, the present brief of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) highlights some of the key human rights concerns that have taken place in Turkey during this on-going period.

●  UNPRECEDENTED SCALE OF DISMISSALS: 

More than 130,000 public servants, with their names attached in lists to emergency orders, were dismissed by emergency decrees. These public servants included over 4,463 judges and prosecutors, 6,021 academics, 6,000 health-care professionals, 33,500 teachers, and 44,500 police and military officers. Not only were people dismissed arbitrarily but also banned permanently from working in the public sector – many were even banned to practice their profession.

  • COLLAPSE OF JUDICIARY SYSTEM:

With approximately 4,463 judges and prosecutors (including two judges from the Turkey’s highest court) dismissed permanently, over one-fifth of Turkey’s judiciary has been removed. Of those dismissed, at least 2,200 were jailed with their assets frozen due to their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Consequently, the climate of fear paralyzed the judges and prosecutors who still have their positions. The fear combined with the heavy government influence in the court system led to the collapse of the judiciary system and the deterioration of human rights in the country. As a result, Turkey ranked 109 out of 126 countries in 2019 on the rule of law index of the World Justice Project.

  • VICTIMIZATION OF LAWYERS:

Lawyers are among the many groups affected by the post-coup crackdown in Turkey. They were unlawfully associated with their clients’ alleged crimes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that many lawyers were targeted with criminal investigations with little or no evidence. According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, over 1,500 lawyers were persecuted over the past three years including 14 lawyers who were presidents of provincial bar associations – of those persecuted lawyers, one third remained imprisoned before and during their trials, and 274 were convicted of membership of armed terrorist organizations and sentenced to long prison sentences. Furthermore, approximately 34 bar associations were shut down by presidential decree with alleged affiliations to terrorist organizations.

  • PERSECUTION OF ACADEMICS:

Following the coup attempt, 3,003 private schools and 15 universities linked to the Gülen movement were closed by a presidential decree. Eventually resulting in the displacement of over 60,000 students across the country. Over 8,500 academics reportedly lost their jobs either due to direct dismissals or university closures since September 2016 – and many of them were imprisoned. Large-scale dismissals of academics and teachers significantly damaged the education sector thus diminished the right to education.

  • BOOKS DESTROYED:

Turkey’s education minister Ziya Selçuk announced last week that 301,878 books had been destroyed as the government cracks down on anything linked to Fethullah Gülen. Turkish newspaper BirGün reported that 1.8m textbooks had been destroyed and reprinted for containing the “objectionable” word Pennsylvania, which is where Gülen lives.

  • THE MEDIA PURGE FOLLOWING THE ATTEMPTED COUP: 

In the aftermath of the failed coup, the government closed down 200 media outlets – including 53 newspapers, 37 radio stations, 34 TV channels, 29 publishing houses, 20 magazines, and six news agencies – with accused links to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, or Leftists groups. Consequently, a total of 2,308 media workers and journalists have lost their jobs. The government canceled hundreds of press accreditations and revoked passports of an unknown number of journalists and their family members to ban them from traveling abroad. In addition, the government imprisoned a record-breaking number of journalists in the wake of the coup attempt – with that, Turkey became the world’s largest prison for journalists. The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) reported that at least 126 journalists and media workers were in prison in Turkey as of October 2019 – among them, many were put in long solitary confinement. 

The absence of freedom of expression is not only a recurring problem for journalists but for citizens as well. In 2018, the Ministry of Interior reported that more than 7,000 individuals were detained for their social media posts after investigating 631,233 digital materials. In relation to the censorships and content restrictions in the country, Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since April of 2017. Currently, out of the 180 countries, Turkey ranks 157th on the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders and is listed among ‘not free’ countries by the Freedom House.

  • CRACKDOWN ON HEALTH CARE SECTOR:

Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers after the coup attempt on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Therefore, an estimated 21,000 health care professionals were laid off – including doctors, academics, nurses, midwives, and other hospital staff. Of those, 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences. The figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison are estimated in the thousands. Given the longstanding issue of hospital and staff shortages in the country, the dismissals of health care professionals and the closure of hospitals left many patients in despair of medical care.

  • PRISON CONDITIONS:

With the persecution of tens of thousands of critics, the current population in Turkish prisons is 4-5 times higher than the normal capacity – it has increased from 171,267 inmates in 2015 to 260,144 in 2018. Given the capacity of 211,766, inmates are forced to remain in overcrowded cells. In order to free up space for more political prisoners, the government released nearly 34,000 convicts from prisons. The inadequate provision of health care to prisoners also remains a serious problem. Officially reported by the Ministry of Justice Prison and Correctional Facilities, there were 271 doctors serving nearly a quarter-million of the prison population – of whom, only eight were full-time. Insufficient access to freshwater, proper heating, ventilation, and lighting are other concerns for prison conditions. There are 62,669 political prisoners, 4,000 of them being women and 780 of them being children.

  • TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT:

Despite the government’s zero-tolerance claim for torture policy, human rights groups have reported widespread and systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in police custody following the coup-attempt – including severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, long solitary confinement, and depriving of food and water. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated acts of torture and ill-treatment aimed “at extracting confessions or forcing detainees to denounce other Individuals” in its report on Turkey in 2017. The Human Rights Association (HRA) reported that the number of incidents where prisoners were subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention centers and prisons was 2,178 in 2016, 2,415 in 2017, and 1,505 in 2018. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported a total of 126 suspicious deaths and suicides since the coup attempt – most of those occurred in detention centers and prisons, seemingly a direct result of torture and ill-treatment.

  • ABDUCTIONS AND ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES:

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, forced disappearances made a comeback in Turkey. Opposing politicians and respected human rights groups claimed at least 128 abductions or possible enforced disappearances of individuals. Most of the victims were identified as dismissed public servants with alleged ties to the Gulen movement or critics of the government. Allegedly, victims were abducted outside detention facilities and illegally questioned and tortured by Turkey’s intelligence agency. Moreover, Turkey’s intelligence agency reportedly abducted over more than 100 alleged Gulen affiliates from 18 countries – individuals often deported illegally – against the universal conventions – by cooperative governments without due process.

  • WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN PRISON:

The prison conditions for women and children are exceedingly alarming. According to the Justice Ministry, as of 2017, nearly 10,000 women and 3,000 children under 18 are in Turkey’s prisons. The inhumane prison conditions also hold weight in women prisons. They face additional issues of the male security staff frequently obstructing their privacy during hospital visits, oftentimes leading to an incomplete examination.  Among the prisoners, there are more than 30 pregnant women or women who just gave birth and 780 children under 6 years old imprisoned along with their mothers – including 149 infants under 1-year-old. Pregnant women are forced to stay with other inmates in overcrowded cells, also denied access to proper prenatal care – posing serious risks to their well-being. Likewise, mothers with children are also forced to share a cell with inmates.

Even when prison authorities are willing to let the child see a doctor, they do not allow mothers to accompany them. Children have to sleep in the same bed with their mothers and are not assigned a cradle or a separate bed.

The state pays $2 a day per prisoner for food. Since children are not technically incarcerated, they are not allotted any daily food rations and share their mother’s meals.

More than %80 of children in jail with their mothers do not receive any education.

Only %18 receive kindergarten or nursery services, but even then, there is a shortage of educational materials.

  • RESTRICTIONS ON RIGHT TO TRAVEL:

Another unlawful activity being pursued during this period is revoking the passports of government critics with perceived affiliations to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, Leftists groups and their family members. On this ground, the Turkish government put restrictions on approximately 155,000 passports, reported by the SCF. Since their passports are restricted, many people, with the fear of persecution, use smuggler routes to flee from the country. Unfortunately, many died in the Evros River and the Aegean Sea. Turkey revoking its citizens’ passports also causes travel struggles for those across the world.

  • SEIZURE OF DISSIDENTS’ ASSETS:

The Turkish government abuses laws to seize assets of its critics. As of March 2018, the government had seized the assets of approximately 1,124 businesses and 127 individuals. According to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey, the net worth of the seized assets is an estimated $32.24 billion since the 2016 coup attempt. Moreover, in most cases, the government freezes the assets of those on trial, financially crippling them and their families.

SOURCES

  1. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/07/turkey-independent-monitors-must-be-allowed-to-access-detainees-amid-torture-allegations/ https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/
  2. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/

          https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/TR/2018-03-19_Second_OHCHR_Turkey_Report.pdf

  1. https://turkeypurge.com/turkey-jails-2431-judges-prosecutors-dismisses-4424-to-date-top-court
  2. https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/ROLI-2019-Reduced.pdf
  3. https://silencedturkey.org/lawyers-on-trial-abusive-prosecutions-and-erosion-of-fair-trial-rights-in-turkey-2

         https://arrestedlawyers.org/2019/09/01/new-report-mass-prosecution-of-lawyers-in-turkey/

  1. http://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/AcademicsAtRisk.pdf
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/aug/06/turkish-government-destroys-more-than-300000-books
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/11/brothers-critical-turkish-regime-arrested-after-tv-programme

         https://tr.euronews.com/2019/07/12/verilerle-15-temmuz-sonras-ve-ohal-sureci

  1. https://expressioninterrupted.com/freedom-of-expression-and-the-press-in-turkey-211/
  2. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/
  3. http://www.tuik.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=27610

          https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-coup-attempt-latest-releases-almost-34000-prisoners-in-amnesty-amid-international-alarm-over-a7221451.html

  1. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/
  2. https://www.ihd.org.tr/sample-page-2/
  1. https://stockholmcf.org/suspicious-deaths-and-suicides-in-turkey-updated-list/
  2. https://correctiv.org/en/top-stories-en/2018/12/06/black-sites/
  3. http://www.tuik.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=27610

         https://7dnews.com/news/inmates-facing-poor-living-conditions-and-death-in-turkish-prisons

  1. https://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-dismissed-academics-want-their-passports-back-after-state-of-emergency-lifted/
  2. https://twitter.com/platformpj/status/1234421262052732928/photo/1

         http://www.platformpj.org/report-the-erosion-of-property-rights-in-turkey/

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WOMEN IMPRISONMENT IN TURKEY INCREASED %470

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Since 2005, women imprisonment in Turkey increased by 470%.
As of 2019, there are more than 10,000 women in prisons, with more than 3000 children.
There are more than 780 babies imprisoned with their moms, and there are more than 500 babies who are separated from their moms due to imprisonment. Not only women who had just given birth, but also pregnant women are imprisoned.

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TURKEY’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD IN NUMBERS

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ABDUCTIONS
Turkish dissidents kidnapped from Europe and other countries by Erdogan’s long arm. Turkey has snatched over 100 alleged members of the Gülen movement from other countries in recent years. 28 innocent individuals were abducted in Turkey and some were tortured.

JOURNALISTS
An estimated 175 journalists and media workers are in pretrial detention or serving sentences for terrorism offenses at the time of writing. Hundreds more are on trial but released under supervision.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN
There are 780 babies imprisoned along with their mothers who have not committed a crime, been proven guilty of any offense, or officially indicted for any offense.

TORTURE & ILL-TREATMENT
Prisoners and detainees have been under systematic torture and ill-treatment, more severely during the state of emergency. 93 prisoners have lost their lives due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence. Another group of 11 individuals lost their lives under arrest and during interrogation due to torture. Tragedies include Gokhan Acikkollu who died after 13 days of sustained torture in police custody and Ayse Ozturk, a 44-year old woman, who was subjected to electric shocks, physical assault, and threats of rape while in custody.

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Human Rights Violations in Turkey December, 2019

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TURKEY: MONTHLY HUMAN RIGHTS DIGEST

A TEACHER’S FINAL WORDS: THEY ARE KILLING PEOPLE

On December 20, 2019, Engin Erol (41) passed away from cancer after three years of inhumane imprisonment in Artvin and Erzurum prisons. Erol, a teacher, husband, and father of three, began experiencing severe health problems within three months of imprisonment and requested proper medical care from the Turkish courts. The prosecutor on the case ignored more than 20 appeals from Erol, delaying his diagnosis for months, and denying him access to medicine as his condition rapidly progressed to its end-stage. He was kept in Erzurum, one of the coldest cities in Turkey, during winter months while “the new warden turned the heat off” for months despite the below-freezing temperature. Erol pleaded for help in his final words: “They are killing people in there. There are two people suffering from my condition. Pray for them.”¹

MOTHER & 7-YEAR OLD CHILD WITH DOWN SYNDROME SENTENCED FOR HIZMET MOVEMENT AFFILIATION

Nuran Dilber and her daughter Nalan (7) have been sent to a İstanbul prison over their alleged links to the Hizmet Movement. Nalan, a child with down syndrome, requires special medical and educational attention. Prior to her arrest, Nalan had just begun to learn how to read and write, bathroom etiquette, and social interaction. Left with no one else to take care of her, Nalan continues to be imprisoned along with her mother.
Nalan continues to be imprisoned along with her mother. Their story came to fore thanks to HDP Parliamentarian Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, who voiced his opposition to the arbitrary arrests and emphasized the gravity of the trauma that Nalan has been through. Gergerlioglu criticized the detention of the Dilber family with strong words: “Where is your conscience?” ²

A BABY IN PRISON: MUAZ’S FIRST BIRTHDAY

On December 7th, 2018, only 60 days after giving birth to her baby, Nurhan Erdal Bahadir (38) was arrested as part of Turkey’s routine imprisonment of all dissidents and put in Tarsus Women’s Prison. Bahadir’s baby, Muaz, suffers from a genetic heart condition and a vision problem that caused permanent damage to the alignment of his eyes. The young mother’s request for a pair of glasses as well as an instant pot for her child’s health was denied for months while Muaz received neither medical care nor supplemental baby food during the first year of his life. Forced to sleep in a ward with 15 other women, Bahadir was only given a bunk bed to sleep with Muaz. When Muaz fell off the bed, the mother’s plea for help was met with a recommendation from prison guards to “tie the baby’s foot to the bed.” During her postpartum period, Mrs. Bahadir and Baby Muaz faced harsh winter conditions without proper heating and rationed food portions, compounding the cruelty of the prison conditions. In December 2019, Muaz celebrated his first birthday behind bars.³

MEMBERS OF FLORYA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SENTENCED: 26 BUSINESSMEN BEHIND BARS

On December 27, 2019, the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court tried 26 business people for their official membership to Florya Chamber of Commerce, a local organization in Istanbul. The court sentenced nine defendants to 7 years and six months, and 14 defendants to 6 years and three months of prison time for “their affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. While the court refused to provide an explanation for their reasoning, the defendants’ appeals made no difference in the court’s sentencing decision⁵.

ANOTHER VICTIM OF THE HYSTERIA: CHP MAYOR IN PRISON FOR FORMER ROLE

On December 12th, 2019, Ibrahim Burak Oguz, a member of the main opposition party in Turkey, was found guilty for his alleged association with the Hizmet Movement because of his former role on the executive board of the Izmir Young Entrepreneurs Association (IGID). Oguz’s arrest came only six months after his electoral victory on March 21st, where he beat the leading party’s candidate and became the Mayor of Urla. While no specific charges have been leveled against Oguz, he has been sent to prison in Izmir for his alleged links⁴.

References:

1- https://magduriyetler2.blogspot.com/2019/12/kanserden-olen-tutukluerolun-son.html
2- https://magduriyetler2.blogspot.com/2019/12/tutsak-bebek-muaznannesinden-mektup.html
3- https://turkeypurge.com/mother-7-year-old-daughter-with-downsyndrome-sent-to-prison-on-terror-charges-report
4- https://www.cnnturk.com/turkiye/chpli-belediye-baskani-fetouyeliginden-tutuklandi
5- aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/fetonun-is-dunyasi-yapilanmasi-davasindakarar/1685891#


 

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SYSTEMATIC TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT IN TURKEY

Aftermath of the Coup Attempt of 15 July 2016

In Turkey, especially after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, there have been mass arrests and detentions. Suleyman Soylu, Minister for Internal Affairs, has stated that 511,000 individuals have been taken into custody as of March 2019, on the grounds of their relationship with the Gulen Movement. Up until today, more than 100,000 individuals have been jailed. It has been confirmed that prisoners and detainees have been under systematic torture and ill-treatment, more severely during the state of emergency. Some of the cases are documented and reported by local and national human rights organizations, related videos and photos of some cases have received wide media coverage; and some cases have come to light by means of the statements of victims during the ongoing trials, which are consistent with their medical reports.

According to the research conducted by the AST, 93 prisoners have lost their lives due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence. Moreover, another 11 individuals have lost their lives during the arrest procedure and interrogation under torture. AST has recorded all these cases in this report and put 10 cases under the scope by including the evidence of torture.

GOKHAN ACIKKOLLU DIED AFTER 13 DAYS OF TORTURE IN POLICE CUSTODY

Gokhan Acikkollu, a teacher, after he was taken into custody with the accusation of attempting a coup and due to his relationship with the Gulen Movement, died in İstanbul Police Headquarters on August 5, 2016, after 13 days of torture. During the routine health controls, teacher Gokhan Acikkollu managed to record what he has lived through, day by day. He made sure that the photos of the torture marks were taken. Reports of the forensic medicine experts confirmed that his death was due to torture. During doctor visits, Acikkollu had stated that he was afraid of dying, that his head was smashed against walls, kicked while down on the floor, slapped and punched hundreds of times, and that he was feeling a never-ending pain in ribs. The autopsy made after his death detected a fracture in his rib and beating marks.

This report has the torture testimonies of the teacher’s prison mates and the forensic medicine expert. Public prosecution office, before conducting any investigation,  declared that police were not negligent in his death. After the reports of the human rights organizations and upon the appeal of his family, the prosecution office had initiated an investigation. However, the statements of the witnesses were not taken; the entire video footage in the İstanbul Police Headquarters Counter-Terrorism Branch, the place of death, were not examined, and finally, the case was closed, noting that there was no need to file a lawsuit. The court found the raised objection justified and ordered an investigation to be opened; however, the prosecution office has not taken any action yet.

Other than the ones detected in the official detention centers and prisons, more severe and long-dated crimes of torture have been identified, which are committed in the illegal interrogation centers by the public officials of the government. In our report, four torture victims, who were abducted by MIT, narrate the months-long inhuman treatment in the secret and illegal detention centers.

A.G. (whose name is being withheld by the reporter for security reasons) who was abducted to the MIT Yenimahalle campus, putting sack over his head and beating him, has explained how he was strapped to a strappado while being subjected to electric shock, and beaten with whips, sticks, and batons; he further told about the rape attempts. A.G., who has stayed in a dark cell of 4.5 m2 for several weeks, indicated that, especially during the first 20 days, he was actively exposed to similar physical torture methods every single day. A.G., who was accused of being a member of the Gulen Movement, has explained that he was kept hungry and thirsty, and he was inflicted on psychological torture methods such as swearing, insulting, and threatening with his family members.

“A CASE OF INTESTINAL TEAR DUE  PLACING A BATON INSIDE THE RECTUM”

A.G. has stated that several individuals in the torture center had intestinal tear due placing baton inside the victim’s rectum, forcing to sit on an artificial penis; he has further stated that they had attempted to rape him several times. A.G. told that in his cell, he was constantly hearing the screams of the other torture victims and the laughter of the torturers; according to A.G., a typical torture session continued an average of 4-5 hours. He had further stated that in every cell, security, cameras were installed, and they were deprived of sleep by being exposed continuously to directives.

He claimed that an official from the Office of the Presidency came to the interrogation center and was briefed by the torturers. A.G. further stated that he was asked to be an informant inside the Gulen Movement, to sign the previously prepared statements, and to work for MIT.

Ayten Ozturk is a 44-year old woman who was abducted by MIT. During the court hearing of the lawsuit in which she was accused of being a member of the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front Turkish: Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi-Cephesi), she has stated that she was tortured for six months long. She told that she was taken into custody by the Lebanese Police in the airport and turned over to the MIT, then brought to Turkey in a private plane, blindfolded, her mouth taped, handcuffed behind her back. Ozturk stated that she was continuously tortured from March 13, 2018, until August 28, 2018. She stated that she was brought to the interrogation center, which was only around 15 steps away from where the plane landed, that she was taken off all clothes, was dragged on the floor, and put in a padded cell.

ELECTRIC SHOCK, BEATING, ATTEMPTED RAPE

Ozturk stated that during the interrogation, she was exposed to following torture methods: Forced to stand naked in front of the torturers, sexually violated with batons, waterboarding, force-feeding, burning her fingers, keeping her in a coffin-like box, strappado torture, and many more. According to her statements in the court trial, she was especially exposed to different methods of torture during her menstrual periods. She was kept in a cell for 25 days, being handcuffed behind her back, blindfolded, and a sack being put over her head. She was exposed to force-feeding and was forced to drink large quantities of water while she was brought to the restroom. After 25 days, she got worse and was brought to the infirmary; since her eyes were kept closed during that period, her eyelids could hardly be opened using a liquid. She could only see the eyes of the individuals who were treating her because they were wearing snow masks. After treatment, the torture went on. She states that her entire body was full of wounds, that they had covered her body with a type of gel, that she was constantly exposed to profanity and harassment.

She stated that she was hung from her arms to the wall and force-fed, her hands and fingers were subjected to electric shock, and a hard-plastic tube passed through her mouth in order to force-feed liquid nutritional supplement. Some of the statements of Ozturk in the court trial are as follows: “It was impossible to move around inside the coffin-like box. And while in the cell, now and then, they were opening the door, beating me up, threatening, and cursing. My mouth and nose were drenched in blood; my entire face was swollen and bloodied, having black eyes. My little fingers and big toes were subjected to electric shock. They were attaching a metal ring on my fingers and using a remote controller to give an electric shock. I had lost consciousness a few times and could not get up.

 When they had a break from giving an electric shock, they were keeping me on strappado and abusing my body with their fingers, sticks, and batons. They were trying to insert the baton into my genitalia and performing every other perverseness. They were threatening to rape me with a thick baton. My feet were swollen from standing for a long time, and they were yet hitting my feet with sticks and batons. They put a sharp object under the nails of my three fingers and burned my little finger. The wound in my finger and the infection under my nails did not recover for months. Sometimes they were hanging me upside down and hitting my feet. When I was collapsing and feeling nauseated, they were lowering me down and using different methods of torture. They were letting me sit inside a tire and attempting to rape me with a baton. They were increasing the intensity of the torture, especially during my menstrual periods, and they were depriving me from sleep”.

“TORTURE CONTINUED AFTER-TREATMENT”

Ozturk stated that she has figured out that all of the 7-8 individuals in the adjacent cells were men just because she heard their screams and crying during torture. She stated that her body collapsed several times, she was treated by a special team, and then the torture has continued. According to her statement, the torturers told her: “We’ll treat you and then continue with torture sessions. This will go on just like that. There is no end. This is hell. You have no way out. We know everything about human anatomy. We are professionals. You won’t die, but you will beg to die. If ever you get out, you will be mentally ill”.

She stated that after six months, she was delivered to the police, and she was then officially arrested by police as if she was just caught ordinarily.

Ozturk is still in prison, and she is saying that she has serious health problems due to the torture she was exposed to, and she maintains her life only with the help of her cellmates. She states that her cellmates found 898 wounds and scars of torture all over her body.

İ.S., who is accused of being a member of the Gulen Movement and whose case is discussed in detail in this report, stated that he was exposed to torture in the same place for 7.5 months. Another individual, Zabit Kisi, states that he was tortured in the same place for 108 days. İ.S was exposed to similar torture methods described above and lost 30 kilograms; when he was released, even his wife couldn’t recognize him. İ.S states that the torturers told him that they were receiving money from the government in order to kill and torture. While İ.S was talking about the torture sessions, his voice was trembling, and he was occasionally crying; he had not fully recovered from the trauma. Zabit Kisi talked in detail about the inhuman treatment of rotating teams. He stated that his penis was bleeding for days due to beating, his fingers were smashed, his ribs were fractured and cracked, he was harassed, exposed to electric shock, and that they had injected a drug into his body. They had told him that they would kill him by injecting drugs and then tell the authorities that he died due to heart attack.

DECLARING AS TERRORISTS WITHOUT ANY TRIAL

According to hearings recorded on the TBMM books, reports of the human rights associations and statements of the families, 28 individuals were abducted and exposed to similar torture. It is unknown whether 6 of these individuals are still alive and, if so, where they are. Almost all of the individuals who were abducted were asked to work as informants and to sign the prepared statements when they were delivered to the police.

Recently some government officials who were working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara and arrested on allegations of their links to the Gulen Movement were exposed to systematic torture in the official interrogation centers. Ankara Bar Association found evidence of torture and included them in its report, which is compiled as a result of the investigations based on the statements of the victims. While those government officials were arrested and before even they gave their statements, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu declared these officials as “FETO” terrorists, completely ignoring the presumption of innocence. Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, one of the HDP members of the Parliament, stated that 100 individuals were exposed to different torture methods, including rape with a baton. After the report of the Ankara Bar Association about the torture, it has been asked for the officials who are responsible for the torture to be put on trial and to be suspended from their jobs, however until today; no action has been taken about it.

NO INVESTIGATION ABOUT TORTURING KURDISH PEOPLE

After July 15, it has been observed that the intensity of torture and ill-treatment has increased in the areas densely populated by Kurds. Three teenagers aged 14, 16, and 17 who were detained by police on suspicion that they were to protest on behalf of PKK, have obtained a health report from Van Training and Research Hospital and provided evidence that they were tortured in the police station. The teenagers explained to the president of the Van Bar Association Zulkuf Ucar how they were severely beaten and their heads put inside the toilet. Zulkuf Ucar then filed a criminal complaint against the police officers; however, no action has been taken.

Again in the city of Van, after an assault against police, three villagers were detained in a rural area, and they were severely tortured. The photo images of beatings were released to the public via social media accounts by the police officers themselves. The Office of the Governor in Van, which is the highest-ranked administrative office in the city, has released a note to the public stating that “3 terrorists were captured alive” before the statements of those individuals were taken and while the investigation about them was still going on. Moreover, the Office of the Governor also stated that those three individuals had confessed their crimes. Later it has been understood that those villagers, ages 35, 50, and 53 were walking in that rural area just with the purpose of picking wild mushrooms; hence they were released. Despite the pictures showing their bodies drenched in blood, no legal action has been taken against officials who tortured them.

The Government of the Republic of Turkey is responsible for the arrested or convicted individuals’ mind and body health and life safety. There are so many seriously ill, disabled, old, and pregnant individuals in prisons, arrested or convicted. The prisoners whose punishment should be postponed due to their conditions, according to the law, are being kept in jail despite their health reports. In many prisons, deaths, injuries, and disabilities occurred due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence. This report records that 93 individuals have lost their lives due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence.

SYSTEMATIC TORTURE GOES ON

During the state of emergency, the maximum period of detention without charge was increased to 30 days; during that period especially the military personnel was exposed to severe torture; their photo images were released to the public by the state official media outlets, such as TRT and Anadolu Agency, and some other pro-AKP government media outlets without any hesitation. Many deaths and injuries have been reported during the detention period. Although the state of emergency has ended, systematic torture of the detainees still goes on in the detention centers. UN and European Union commissions keep criticizing and warning Turkey and recommending to improve democracy and human rights at once. Local and national human rights organizations continue to document and report the cases of torture and the stories of the victims. The new cases of torture victims that AST has recently discovered and reported show that systematic torture and ill-treatment continue without slowing down.

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Key Human Rights Concerns in Turkey since the So-called Coup Attempt

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Following the coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, the Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a wave of oppressive actions against not only the alleged coup plotters but also those that are perceived as critics of the regime. Currently, as part of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, more than 170,000 people including judges, academics, teachers, journalists, police and military officers, and other public servants were dismissed from their jobs. In correlation, more than 217,000 were detained and 80,000 were arrested. Amnesty International reports that detainees were “being held arbitrarily” with “no evidence establishing reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior” and that “only a tiny minority of them were accused of taking part in the actual events of the attempted coup”.
Amid the massive crackdown of hundreds of thousands of dissidents, human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Council have noted that human rights are violated on a large scale by the Turkish government. Arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of people in custody, forced disappearances, tortures, ill-treatments, injustice, and threats – mostly against the followers of the Gulen movement, Kurds, and the Leftists – were reported widespread during this large-scale witch-hunt.
As people continue to be arrested and many more tortured and abducted, the present brief of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) highlights some of the key human rights concerns that took place in Turkey during this on-going period.

Unprecedented scale of dismissals: More than 130,000 civil servants, with their names attached in lists to emergency orders, were dismissed by emergency decrees. These civil servants included over 4,200 judges and prosecutors, 7,000 academics, 6,000 health-care professionals, 33,500 teachers, and 44,500 police and military officers. Not only were people dismissed arbitrarily but also banned permanently from working in the public sector – many were even banned to practice their profession.

Collapse of judiciary system: With approximately 4,200 judges and prosecutors (including two judges from the Turkey’s highest court) dismissed permanently, over one-fifth of Turkey’s judiciary has been removed. Of those dismissed, at least 2,200 were jailed with their assets frozen due to their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Consequently, the climate of fear paralyzed the judges and prosecutors who still have their positions. The fear combined with the heavy government influence in the court system led to the collapse of the judiciary system and the deterioration of human rights in the country. As a result, Turkey ranked 109 out of 126 countries in 2019 on the rule of law index of World Justice Project.

Victimization of lawyers: Lawyers are among the many groups affected by the post-coup crackdown in Turkey. They were unlawfully associated with their clients’ alleged crimes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that many lawyers were targeted with criminal investigations with little or no evidence. According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, over 1,500 lawyers were persecuted over the past three years including 14 lawyers who were presidents of provincial bar associations – of those persecuted lawyers, one third remained imprisoned before and during their trials, and 274 were convicted of membership of armed terrorist organizations and sentenced to long prison sentences. Furthermore, approximately 34 bar associations were shut down by presidential decree with alleged affiliations to terrorist organizations.

The media purge following the attempted coup: In the aftermath of the failed coup, the government closed down 179 media outlets – including 53 newspapers, 37 radio stations, 34 TV channels, 29 publishing houses, 20 magazines, and six news agencies – with accused links to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, or Leftists groups. Consequently, a total of 2,308 media workers and journalists have lost their jobs. The government cancelled hundreds of press accreditations and revoked passports of an unknown number of journalists and their family members to ban them from traveling abroad. In addition, the government imprisoned a record-breaking number of journalists in the wake of the coup attempt – with that, Turkey became the world’s largest prison for journalists. The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) reported that at least 126 journalists and media workers were in prison in Turkey as of October 2019 – among them, many were put in long solitary confinement.
The absence of freedom of expression is not only a recurring problem for journalists but for citizens as well. In 2018, the Ministry of Interior reported that more than 7,000 individuals were detained for their social media posts after investigating 631,233 digital materials. In relation to the censorships and content restrictions in the country, Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since April of 2017. Currently, out of the 180 countries, Turkey ranks 157 th on the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders and are listed among ‘not free’ countries by the Freedom House.

Persecuting academics: Following the coup attempt, 1,043 private schools and 15 universities linked to the Gülen movement were closed by a presidential decree. Eventually resulting in the displacement of over 60,000 students across the country. Over 8,500 academics reportedly lost their jobs either due to direct dismissals or university closures since September 2016 – and many of them were imprisoned. Large-scale dismissals of academics and teachers significantly damaged the education sector thus diminished the right to education.

Crackdown on health care sector: Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers after the coup attempt on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Therefore, an estimated 21,000 health care professionals were laid off – including doctors, academics, nurses, mid-wives, and other hospital staff. Of those, 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences. The figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison are estimated in the thousands. Given the longstanding issue of hospital and staff shortages in the country, the dismissal of health care professionals and closure of hospitals left many patients in despair of medical care.

Prison conditions: With persecution of tens of thousands of critics, Turkey’s prisons have never been fuller – the prison population has increased from 171,267 inmates in 2015 to 260,144 in 2018. Given the capacity of 211,766, inmates are forced to remain in overcrowding cells. In order to free up space for more political prisoners, the government released nearly 34,000 convicts from prisons. The inadequate provision of heath care to prisoners also remains a serious problem. Officially reported by the Ministry of Justice Prison and Correctional Facilities, there were 271 doctors serving nearly a quarter million of the prison population – of whom, only eight were full-time. Insufficient access to fresh water, proper heating, ventilation, and lighting are other concerns for prison conditions.

Torture and ill-treatment: Despite the government’s stated zero tolerance for torture policy, human rights groups reported widespread and systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in police custody following the coup-attempt-including severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks, water boarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, long solitary confinement, and depriving of food and water. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated acts of torture and ill-treatment aimed “at extracting confessions or forcing detainees to denounce other Individuals” in its report on Turkey in 2017. The Human Rights Association (HRA) reported that the number of incidents where prisoners were subjected to torture and ill-treatment in
detention centers and prisons was 2,178 in 2016, 2,415 in 2017, and 1,505 in 2018. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported a total of 126 suspicious deaths and suicides since the coup attempt – most of those occurred in detention centers and prisons, seemingly a direct result of torture and ill-treatment.

Abduction and enforced disappearance: In the aftermath of the coup attempt, forced disappearances made a comeback in Turkey. Opposing politicians and respected human rights groups claimed at least 28 abductions or possible enforced disappearances of individuals. Most of the victims were identified as dismissed public servants with alleged ties to the Gulen movement or critics of the government. Allegedly, victims were abducted outside detention facilities and illegally questioned and tortured by Turkey’s intelligence agency. Moreover, Turkey’s intelligence agency reportedly snatched over more than 100 alleged Gulen affiliates from 18 countries – individuals often deported by cooperative governments without due process.

Women and children in prisons: The prison conditions for women and children are exceedingly alarming. According to the Justice Ministry, as of 2017, nearly 10,000 women and 3,000 children under 18 are in Turkey’s prisons. The inhumane prison conditions also hold weight in women prisons. They face additional issues of the male security staff frequently obstructing their privacy during hospital visits, often times leading to incomplete examination. Among the prisoners, there are pregnant women or women who just gave birth and 677 children under 6 years old imprisoned along with their mothers – including 149 infants under 1 year old. Pregnant women were forced to stay with other inmates in overcrowded cells, also denied access to proper prenatal care – posing serious risks to their well-beings.
Likewise, mothers with children were also forced to share a cell with inmates.

Restrictions on right to travel: Another unlawful activity being pursued during this period is revoking the passports of government critics with perceived affiliations to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, Leftists groups and their family members. On this ground, the Turkish government put restrictions on approximately 155,000 passports, reported by the SCF. Since their passports are restricted, many people, with the fear of persecution, use smuggler routes to flee from the country.
Unfortunately, many died in the Evros River and the Aeagean Sea. Turkey revoking its citizens’ passports also causes travel struggles for those across the world.

Seized the critics’ assets: The Turkish government abuses laws to seize assets of its critics. As of March 2018, the government had seized the assets of approximately 1,124 businesses and 127 individuals. According to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey, the net worth of the seized assets is an estimated 49.4 billion liras ($9.4 billion) since the 2016 coup attempt. Moreover, in most cases, the government freezes the assets of those on trial, financially crippling them and their families.


 

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