Police, Watchmen Involved in Torture, Ill-Treatment
(İstanbul) – There is credible evidence that Turkish police and community “night watchmen” have committed serious abuses against at least fourteen people in six incidents in Diyarbakır and İstanbul in the last two months, Human Rights Watch said today.
“The immediate knee-jerk denial of police wrongdoing when faced with reports of police violence, torture, and ill-treatment – specifically in recent incidents in Diyarbakır – is sadly familiar, but not acceptable,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “Turkish authorities should immediately investigate these credible allegations of serious abuse and hold those responsible accountable.”
Human Rights Watch investigated 6 cases involving 14 people, through interviews with lawyers, families of victims, and, where possible, victims themselves, and a review of medical and legal documentation and photographic evidence.
Halit Eray said in his statement that the police continued to beat him on the way to the station, shoving in the testicles with a baton. At the police station, police officers punched him in the face and stomach, broke three of his teeth, and hit him on the head with a walkie talkie. Later, the police made both brothers stand against a wall and beat them again. They rejected the brothers’ request for an ambulance. They eventually took the brothers to a state hospital, where the doctor treated the cut on Halit Eray’s head in the presence of police officers, but the doctor refused to let him have an X-ray. In his complaint, Halit Eray said a police officer took his shirt, covered in blood, and reported back to his superiors: “I dealt with the shirt,” possibly implying that the evidence would be destroyed.
Koray Tosun said that after this incident and their complaint against the police, the authorities have increased inspections of his family businesses and that police have stopped and searched his car and conducted background searches on him at least twice. Human Rights Watch is concerned that the arbitrary searches and inspections are reprisals against the Tosun brothers for their complaint.
He said they had beaten him for about five minutes before realizing that he was not Cura, leaving him with bite marks on his shoulder and waist, and scratches on his neck and belly. The family obtained a medical report listing their injuries and filed a criminal complaint against the officers. The children are traumatized, their father said.
On July 5, at about 2:30 a.m., I saw around 10 or 15 night watchmen teargas 2 men in the face and throw 1 of them who was trying to help his friend on the ground twice in a small street in İstanbul. I told the watchmen: “What you are doing is a crime, it’s ill-treatment. I am a lawyer and I know how these cases result.” As soon as I said this, they threw me on the ground with the other two and handcuffed me. While doing that, they said “We’ll show you how to be a lawyer. We’ll show you what it means to oppose a watchman.”
Police detained Serdar B., 19, and juveniles K.A. and O.I., both 17, whose full names are withheld since they are children, on July 18 in Bağcılar district of İstanbul on suspicion of shooting and killing a police officer and wounding another. Lawyers who met with K.A. and O.I. say that they alleged that the police had started beating them in the police car before taking them to Bağcılar police station then to the Children’s Branch. Serdar B. was taken to Gayrettepe Homicide Bureau.
In June 2017, images of four men being tortured in police custody in Gevas, Van province were widely circulated on social media. Despite all the evidence the police tortured the four, only one police officer has received a fine which was suspended. © 2017 Private
Turkish authorities have also failed to conduct effective investigations into cases documented by Human Rights Watch in a report published in 2017. There was an investigation in one case involving seven police officers for the torture in June 2017 of four men in police custody in Gevaş, Van province, that resulted in the prosecution of just one officer. He was initially acquitted, and later retried and in June 2020 convicted of “intentional injury through excessive use of force” and given a prison sentence of 150 days, converted to a fine of 3,000 liras (US$438) and suspended. After the suspension of the fine, the victims’ lawyers appealed against the verdict. Photos of the four victims during their torture in police custody had at the time of the incident been posted on social media.
In May 2019, Şanlıurfa Bar Association documented an incident in which police detained 55 men and women in Halfeti district of Şanlıurfa and tortured and ill-treated them through sexual abuse, electric shocks, and beating. The investigation into the police officers is ongoing and there has to date been no outcome or indication the police might face prosecution.
B.Y. alleges that in December 2019 police detained him and beat him while they were transferring him to a police station. © 2019 Private
On December 25, 2019, police detained a man, B.Y. (name withheld at the request of his lawyer), in Diyarbakır on suspicion of drug dealing. His lawyer told Human Rights Watch that witnesses had reported seeing police officers beating their client as soon as he was detained. B.Y., who has concerns for his privacy and security, has filed a complaint alleging that he was beaten in the police car and that at the police station police barred lawyers from seeing him.