‘Torture, arbitrary detention won’t be tolerated’: Amnesty to RT on Turkey’s post-coup crackdown

Surrendered Turkish soldiers who were involved in the coup are surrounded by people on Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. © Stringer
Amnesty has urged Ankara to put an end to numerous human rights abuses that have been taking place in Turkey since the failed coup attempt. The NGO told RT the current situation must not be used as a pretext for torture and the ill-treatment of citizens.

“Since the attempted coup took place in Turkey last week we have seen a series of human rights violations. The latest report by Amnesty International reveals that not only are detainees being arbitrarily held and denied their trial rights, but in some cases detainees are also being mistreated and tortured in detention,” human right activist and Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International Lama Fakih told RT.

Amnesty’s probe also showed that in most cases the detentions come as arbitrary as there is frequently no firm evidence that those arrested can actually be held to blame for any wrongdoing.

“The scale of the detention operations does, indeed, indicate that the detentions are arbitrary. What we have learned by speaking with lawyers and relatives is that in many cases there’s no evidence of wrongdoing against those that are being held,” Fakih told RT.

Amnesty based its report on interviews it conducted with lawyers, medical staff and relatives who “have described seeing detainees who have been badly beaten, denied medical assistance, in some cases, denied food and water, and in extreme cases being tortured.”

The organization said there was a clear indication of human rights violations by the Turkish government, which after the failed coup attempt, almost immediately issued a decree allowing authorities to lengthen the time detainees could be held prior to being charged.

“We have seen the Turkish authorities have taken steps which actually undermine the rights of detainees. In the first decree that was issued by the government since the announcement of the state of emergency we have seen that the government has extended the length of time they can hold individuals before they have been charged,” Fakih said.

She found it “incredibly troubling” that the decree authorized the government to block citizens’ access to a lawyer – an obvious violation of the rights for a fair trial.

Warning Ankara that “torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention will not be tolerated,” Amnesty International urged the government and monitor groups to investigate the mentioned offenses and make sure they do not repeat.

“We are calling on the Turkish government to condemn these abuses in detention, to investigate the allegations and ensure that those responsible are held accountable. We are also urging international monitors to visit places of detention in Turkey so that they, too, can ensure that the detainees are not being mistreated,” Fakih stressed.

She condemned the Turkish government for taking advantage of the current situation in the country and using the failed-coup attempt to justify the massive crackdown on Turkish citizens.

“The Turkish government has an obligation to maintain peace and security in the country. They should not, however, use the current environment as a pretext to be going after political informants. We are urging the Turkish government to continue to gear to its obligations under international and domestic law and to protect human rights,” Fakih said.

The declared state of emergency in Turkey does not make it eligible for abusing citizen’s rights as “there are some rights that can never be suspended, including the rights regarding fair trials and, of course, the prohibition against torture.”

READ MORE: #TurkeyPurge: Post-coup crackdown 

While she said it was Turkey’s responsibility to find those who are responsible for the failed coup attempt, Fakih stressed the government “cannot do so in a way that undermines the rights of other members of the population”. Ankara “should not infringe upon detainee rights in an attempt to go after those that are responsible for the coup,” she reiterated.

Fakih went on to say that the international community should absolutely encourage Turkey to abide by its obligations and by international law, saying Turkey is “fundamentally responsible” for addressing the issue.

Following a failed coup attempt on July 15, Turkey launched a massive crackdown on the alleged coup supporters. It also introduced a state of emergency on Wednesday, which, according to the deputy prime minister, means temporary suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights. Some 13,165 people have been detained for alleged involvement in the foiled coup attempt, Turkey’s president said.