instituDE Press Statement on the Second Anniversary of the Torture Suffered by Former Turkish Diplomats

by instituDE, published on May 26, 2021

Today is the second anniversary of the torture suffered by former Turkish diplomats at the Ankara Police Headquarters in Turkey. Two years ago today, on May 26, 2019, we were appalled by the news that our former colleagues and friends were being tortured whilst under custody. The torture incident was first announced to the public by HDP Member of Parliament and human rights advocate Mr. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

On the next day, Ankara Bar Association interviewed some of the torture victims and prepared a report documenting that at least five individuals were subjected to torture. In the Bar's report, it was mentioned that our former colleagues were severely beaten, in one case until passed out, threatened and insulted, stripped naked, handcuffed behind the back, forced to sit in fetal position, batons moved around their anal openings, and threatened with rape. We are saddened to state that, according to credible information we received, at least in one case, rape with baton indeed occurred.

When the Turkish public learned about the incident and the story got widely covered in the international press; upon the public pressure the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation. Due to personal accounts revealing that the torture was perpetrated upon instructions from above and also that certain Foreign Ministry officials played a role in determining which individuals were to be tortured, we expected that the case would be covered up.

Unfortunately, just as we thought, in spite of the existence of concrete findings and the Ankara Bar Association’s report, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office made a non-prosecution decision on August 6, 2020.

With this decision, the perpetrators and instigators of this grave incident might have been led to believe that their actions will be forgotten and that they will go unpunished. However, torture is a crime against humanity under both the domestic and international law; and is not subject to statute of limitations. Torture is prohibited in absolute terms. It cannot be justified under any circumstances; including armed conflict, the fight against terrorism, political instability or any other conditions meriting a state of emergency. In particular, systematic and widespread practice of torture triggers universal jurisdiction without any statutory limits at all, for anyone involved as inciter, instigator or accomplice.

As instituDE, we will not allow for this barbaric and heinous incident to be forgotten. We will continue to follow this case until the day the perpetrators are brought to justice.

In this regard, as the instituDE team, we convened today in Strasbourg. Here, we would like to draw attention to not only the torture our colleagues were subjected to, but also the grave human rights violations suffered by people from all walks of life in Turkey. We also deem it a duty to remember Mr. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who played a major role in bringing to the public attention the rights violations suffered by tens of thousands of victims, including the torture of our colleagues. Merely for this reason, he has been stripped of his parliamentary seat and imprisoned.

Two years have passed since the torture episode suffered by our colleagues. However, torture incidents still continue to occur in Turkey today. As one of the recent examples, torture yet again in the Ankara Police Department was reported by the press in April.

In this context, we call on the Turkish Government to abide by its obligations arising from the Constitution and international treaties, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Convention against Torture. We also call on law enforcement agencies to avoid torture and ill-treatment and on judicial authorities to prevent torture and carry out effective investigations. On the other hand, free press also has a big role to play in combating unlawful acts in general and torture in particular.

In addition, we reiterate our call to international organizations such as the UN Committee against Torture and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, as well as international human rights organizations, to be vigilant about and closely monitor cases of torture and ill-treatment in Turkey.