ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Turkish law granting security forces immunity from prosecution for acts committed during operations rendered investigations into allegations of torture on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inmates “more difficult, if not impossible,” said a UN official on Friday.
“I received numerous troubling testimonies of torture and other forms of ill-treatment of both male and female inmates suspected to be members or sympathizers of the PKK,” wrote the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer.
Melzer, at the invitation of the government, was on a mission to Turkey between Nov. 27 to Dec. 2, visiting several detention centers and prisons in Ankara, Istanbul, and the Kurdish cities of Diyarbakir and Sanliurfa.
In his preliminary findings released on the UN Human Rights Office website, Melzer drew particular attention to the Law 6722 that granted immunity from prosecution to the security forces operating in the Kurdish Southeast.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved the law in July 2016 after the Parliament passed it, viewed a step back from the former “zero tolerance” policy on torture.
“Most instances of ill-treatment were reported to have been inflicted by the police or gendarmerie in connection with the arrest itself, as well as during interrogation,” stated Melzer.
The PKK and Turkish Army have been locked in a decades-long warfare over the government’s repression of Kurdish political demands and cultural rights.
Melzer said although he collected “no evidence with regard to [current] ongoing torture” as he received some allegations of male guards and soldiers manhandling or sexually harassing or conducting naked searches on female detainees.
The UN official noted a majority of prisoners subjected to torture refrained from filing complaints because of a fear of retaliation by authorities.
However, reports of torture saw a surge in the immediate aftermath of the unsuccessful July 15 coup attempt.
“There is an environment of intimidation in Turkey that is conducive to torture and ill-treatment and the authorities — although they have a policy of zero tolerance for torture — they are not following up to investigate these allegations,” Melzer told the Associated Press.
Although reports appeared “to have ceased” after an initial phase, Melzer warned against further limiting rights of detainees and prisoners.
The extended period of custody without judicial review to 30 days, the period without access to a lawyer for five days, and systematic monitoring of exchanges between inmates and their attorneys were “of particular concern” to Melzer.
The UN Rapporteur appealed to the Turkish Government to publicly reinforce its “zero tolerance” policy on torture.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany