Content warning: The following piece contains graphic descriptions of rape.
The global watchdog organization Amnesty International says it has received “credible evidence” that the Turkish state under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is committing mass torture — including rape — in a crackdown following an alleged coup attempt.
“Amnesty International has credible reports that Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them,” the organization reported on Sunday. “In the worst cases some have been subjected to severe beatings and torture, including rape.”
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Basing its findings on anonymous interviews with lawyers, doctors and “a person on duty in a detention facility,” Amnesty International continued: “Detainees are being arbitrarily held, including in informal places of detention. They have been denied access to lawyers and family members and have not been properly informed of the charges against them, undermining their right to a fair trial.”
The organization’s report is harrowing, including the following description of what prisoners are being forced to endure:
Two lawyers in Ankara working on behalf of detainees told Amnesty International that detainees said they witnessed senior military officers in detention being raped with a truncheon or finger by police officers.
A person on duty at the Ankara Police Headquarters sports hall saw a detainee with severe wounds consistent with having been beaten, including a large swelling on his head. The detainee could not stand up or focus his eyes and he eventually lost consciousness. While in some cases detainees were afforded limited medical assistance, police refused to allow this detainee essential medical treatment despite his severe injuries. The interviewee heard one police doctor on duty say: “Let him die. We will say he came to us dead.”
The same interviewee said 650-800 male soldiers were being held in the Ankara police headquarters sports hall. At least 300 of the detainees showed signs of having been beaten. Some detainees had visible bruises, cuts, or broken bones. Around 40 were so badly injured they could not walk. Two were unable to stand. One woman who was also detained in a separate facility there had bruising on her face and torso.
“Reports of abuse including beatings and rape in detention are extremely alarming, especially given the scale of detentions that we have seen in the past week,” said John Dalhuisen, director for Amnesty International’s Europe branch. “The grim details that we have documented are just a snapshot of the abuses that might be happening in places of detention.”
“It is absolutely imperative,” Dalhuisen continued, “that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held.”
Last week, Erdoğan announced that he is placing Turkey under a state of emergency, thereby granting himself broad latitude to take unchecked executive action. Invoking this state of emergency, the Turkish government on Saturday dramatically expanded its powers to incarcerate people without charge for up to 30 days.
According to Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director for Human Rights Watch, that decision followed the “mass detentions of soldiers, the suspension from their jobs of more than 50,000 civil servants, including 15,000 teachers, the forced resignation of more than 1,500 university deans, and a purging of the judiciary: 979 judges and prosecutors were detained, about 632 jailed and another 2,745 judges suspended.”
Meanwhile, reports are emerging that Turkish authorities have detained more than 60 school children for treason and issued arrest warrants for at least 42 journalists.