Human Rights Watch Report: Renewed Torture in Police Custody, Abductions

Human Rights Watch issued a large and comprehensive report today on increased evidence of torture and disappearances in Turkey.


Police detain an individual in Diyarbakır, Turkey, October 2016. © 2016 İlyas Akengin/AFP/Getty Images

The report expands on and details earlier reports by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.  ” The findings are based on interviews with lawyers and relatives, and a review of court transcripts, including allegations that police severely beat and threatened detainees, stripped them naked, and in some cases threatened them with sexual assault or sexually assaulted them. ”

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Renewed pretrial detention for Cumhuriyet journalists

imagesAfter hearings this week, journalists from the newspaper, Cumhuriyet, remain in pretrial detention.  The case underlines the extents to which Turkish authorities have used the courts to pursue perceived political enemies and crackdown on freedom of expression.  The journalists have languished in pretrial detention now for many months.  Convicted of no crime, they will remain there.

Speaking in October, 2016, Amnesty’s John Dalhuinsen said of the case:

The detention of journalists and staff from Turkey’s only remaining mainstream opposition newspaper is part of an ongoing systematic attempt to silence all critical voices. Together with the shutting down of media houses over the weekend, this is the latest wave in a post-coup purge which has turned Turkey’s once vibrant media landscape into a wasteland.

After the hearings in July, Dalhuisen noted that “the hearing so far has made it glaringly apparent that this indictment lacks any credible evidence. Strikingly, it mentions the word ‘news’ more than 600 times. Plain and simple, this is journalism on trial.”

The case will continue, though no credible evidence of wrongdoing has yet been provided.  The next hearing is scheduled for September 25.

The hearing was held in a courtroom at Silivri Prison, where the journalists are being held.  Among the other current occupants of the prison: most of the human rights defenders detained this past July, including Amnesty International – Turkey’s director, Idil Eser.

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Interview with Milena Buyum on detained human rights defenders

Mvd6597487Amnesty International’s Milena Buyum was interviewed by FM4.  The interview is very much worth the listen and can be accessed here.  In the interview, Buyum highlighted the context of the arrests within the wider degradation of human rights in Turkey.  She also noted that Amnesty has not given up its vital work in Turkey.

Buyum reiterated Amnesty’s call for a broad international response to this direct attack on human rights defenders, highlighting the unique nature of the crisis.

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Amnesty: Re-arrest of four human rights defenders a cruel and retrograde step

Pressekonferenz zu Folter in Usbekistan

John Dalhuisen, Program Director for Europe and Central Asia

Responding to news that the Turkish authorities have issued detention orders against four human rights defenders released on bail on Tuesday, John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe said: “With this cruel and retrograde step, Turkey has underlined its growing reputation as an indiscriminate jailer of civil society activists and a stranger to the rule of law. ”

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Amnesty: International pressure mounts on Turkey as world leaders demand release of jailed activists


Source: @mena_amnesty

[Amnesty Press Statement, 20 July 2017]

Just days after six human rights defenders were remanded in pre-trial custody in Turkey, the European Commission has joined governments and world leaders, including Angela Merkel, to demand their immediate and unconditional release.

Speaking today a European Commission spokesperson called for the “immediate release of these people”. This call follows similar demands by the governments of Germany, the US, France, Belgium, Ireland and Austria.

John Dalhuisen, Europe Director for Amnesty International stated:

The jailing of these six human rights activists – including the director of Amnesty International Turkey – has spurred world leaders to break their silence on the ongoing human rights crisis in Turkey. They are now coming together with remarkable speed and speaking with uncommon unity. Momentum is growing and now is the moment for other world leaders to speak out

He continued:

The global demand on Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release these six is growing ever louder as is the wider call that Turkey end the brutal crackdown that has ravaged the country for the last year. Whilst those responsible for the bloody coup must be brought to justice, this cannot be used as a cover to eliminate all forms of peaceful dissent.

European Commission – “We call for the release of these people.” (20/7/17)

United States – “These politically-motivated arrests were carried out to frighten and suppress those willing to stand up for human rights in Turkey…I call on Turkish authorities to release Idil Eser and her fellow activists without delay or condition.” (18/7/17).

Angela Merkel – “This is another case where, in our view, innocent people are caught up in the wheels of the justice system and end up in detention…We declare our solidarity with [Peter Steudtner] and all the others arrested…the German government will do all it can, on all levels, to secure his release.” (18/7/17)

Germany – “Claims of terrorist links are absurd. It is appalling to accuse Amnesty and other rights organizations of terrorism.” (18/7/17)

France – “France remains concerned by the recent arrests that targeted Turkish officials of Amnesty International as well as other journalists and human rights defenders. We call for their quick release.” (18/7/17)

Belgium – “The Minister calls on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against the 11 people in question, immediately and without conditions.” (17/7/17)

Austria – “This is a transparent attempt to intimidate and silence human rights defenders. We will press for their immediate release at all levels.” (20/7/17)

Ireland – “The targeting of human rights activists is not an activity we expect to see in a country which respects basic human rights and the rule of law, and I call on the Turkish authorities to release those arrested.” (20/7/17)

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Amnesty’s John Dalhuisen pens op-ed for Politico-Europe, calls for harder line against Turkish Rights Abuses

Pressekonferenz zu Folter in Usbekistan

John Dalhuisen, Program Director for Europe and Central Asia

Politico-Europe has just published an op-ed by John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe, in which he calls for a harder line against Turkey’s rights abuses.  He writes:

For many countries, Ankara is too important a political ally for human rights to matter. They need the country to stave off waves of migrants and refugees, to be an ally in Syria, and to halt the spread of the Islamic State. Erdoğan knows this — and he uses it to his advantage. He knows it blinds foreign leaders to the human rights violations taking place in plain sight.

You can read the entire essay here.

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Idil Eser 548x331_0


LONDON – The remanding of six human rights defenders in pre-trial custody is an appalling affront to justice and a new low in Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International Turkey’s Director, Idil Eser who was among those remanded in custody, was detained alongside nine other human rights defenders on 5 July whilst attending a routine workshop. Four of them were released on bail in the early hours of this morning but are still under investigation. All ten are suspected of ‘committing crime in the name of a terrorist organization without being a member’. The six who were remanded in custody join Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kiliç, behind bars.

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Amnesty: Detained Rights Leaders Must be Released [Updated]

Idil Eser (left), Amnesty-Turkey’s Director, was detained, along with other human rights leaders on July 5. Taner Kilic (right), Amnesty-Turkey’s Chair, was detained on June 6.

From Amnesty today:

Responding to the news that Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, was detained on Wednesday along with seven other human rights defenders and two trainers during a digital security and information management workshop in Büyükada, Istanbul, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

We are profoundly disturbed and outraged that some of Turkey’s leading human rights defenders, including the Director of Amnesty International Turkey should have been detained so blatantly without cause.

Her incommunicado detention and that of the other human rights defenders attending a routine training event, is a grotesque abuse of power and highlights the precarious situation facing human rights activists in the country. Idil Eser and those detained with her, must be immediately and unconditionally released.

World leaders currently sitting in Hamburg have been remarkably tolerant of Turkey’s human rights meltdown. With President Erdoğan now in their midst, this would be a good time to speak out firmly and call for the release of all human rights defenders currently behind bars.


The whereabouts of Idil Eser and the others detained alongside her, are currently unknown. 

Idil Eser and the other detainees, are understood to have been denied access to lawyers, which police are entitled to do for 24 hours, and the right to contact a family member, which must be granted immediately.  


Police have told lawyers that they will be given information at 2.30pm today.

In addition to Idil Eser, the seven human rights defenders detained were: İlknur Üstün, Women’s Coalition, Günal Kurşun , lawyer, Human Rights Agenda Association, Nalan Erkem, Lawyer, Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan, Equal Rights Watch Association , Özlem Dalkıran, Citizens’ Assembly, Şeyhmuz Özbekli, lawyer, Veli Acu, Human Rights Agenda Association.

Two foreign trainers – a German and a Swedish national – as well as the hotel owner, were also detained.

These detentions come less than a month after Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, Taner Kiliç, was remanded in prison custody on baseless charges.


UPDATE July 6, 2017

Amnesty issued an urgent action today.  You can participate online, here.

UPDATE July 11, 2017

On July 11, Turkish authorities renewed the police detention of the human rights defenders for an additional seven days.  Amnesty condemned the decision, with Amnesty International’s Europe Director, John Dalhuisen, stating, “With this news, we renew our emphatic call for the immediate and unconditional release of our Turkey director and the other nine human rights defenders detained alongside her.”  He further noted,

It is truly absurd that they are under investigation for membership of an armed terrorist organization. They should not have spent a moment behind bars. For them to be entering a second week in police cells is a shocking indictment of the ruthless treatment of those who attempt to stand up for human rights in Turkey.




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Amnesty Issues Urgent Action: Hundreds at Imminent Risk of Forced Eviction

Amnesty International today issued an Urgent Action calling on Turkey to halt forced evictions in the Sur District of Diyarbakir.


A resident of Sur walks past a ‘no to demolition’ graffiti.  Used by permission ©Refik Tekin

Hundreds of residents in the Alipaşa and Lalebey neighbourhoods of the Sur district in Diyarbakır province, southeastern Turkey, are at imminent risk of forced eviction. Since 23 May, during the fasting month of Ramadan, water and electricity supplies to residents’ homes were cut off in an apparent attempt to force them out.

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Amnesty: Blocking of Istanbul Pride March latest blow to right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Turkey

Amnesty International has issued a statement in response to the ban of Istanbul’s Pride March and the excessive use of force against those who attempted to march peacefully.

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For a third year running, authorities in Istanbul banned, on spurious grounds, the Istanbul Pride March, historically the biggest event held by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) people and supporters in Turkey. Yesterday police used excessive and unnecessary force against people attempting to march peacefully despite the ban.

The event, which had been successfully held annually for over a decade and which attracted tens of thousands of participants, was once held up by the authorities as an example of their respect for rights. The repeated blocking of the Pride March in recent years is yet another example of the authorities’ intolerance of dissent and difference, the deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey in general, and the authorities’ failure to uphold LGBTI rights.

The Istanbul Governor’s office issued a statement on 24 June, one day ahead of the planned march, citing the need to protect the security of participants and tourists in the area, uphold public order and the lack of appropriate notification for the march. The ban came despite the organizing committee notifying the authorities, and engaging with them in dialogue weeks ahead of the planned march. While there are legitimate grounds for limiting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the authorities’ ban and the grounds cited are in direct contradiction with their obligations under the right to freedom of peaceful assembly as protected by international standards including the European Convention on Human Rights and Turkey’s Constitution. Amnesty International views the ban as a flagrant attempt by the authorities to prevent LGBTI individuals’ and their supporters’ voices from being heard, violating their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.


Yesterday, a huge police operation including hundreds of plain clothes and riot police officers, water cannon trucks and a helicopter, effectively sealed off the area where the march was due to take place. Police officers also blocked side streets and refused entry to persons they viewed as potential marchers. While the policing operation prevented people wishing to march from assembling as a single group, police used unnecessary and abusive force, including dogs, tear gas and pellet projectiles against small groups of people attempting to celebrate the Pride. Amnesty International observers also witnessed police arbitrarily detaining people, apparently at random, from the assembled groups. Lawyers told Amnesty International that 26 people, including two children and at least one journalist covering the Pride were detained before being released. According to reports, around 15 counter protestors were also briefly detained by the police.

Amnesty International calls on the authorities not to prosecute Istanbul Pride participants who were detained and ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of everyone including participants in Pride marches is upheld and respected.

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