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Turkey’s top human rights lawyer exposes systematic torture in Turkey’s prisons as state policy

At a press conference, Eren Keskin revealed Turkey's alarming state policy of torture, particularly against political prisoners and minorities, as detailed in the 2022-2023 Prison Rights Violations Report. She underscored the need for systemic reforms and adherence to international human rights standards.

By Medyanews April 29, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Torture is a state policy in Turkey, systematically applied and deeply ingrained in detention and interrogation practices, particularly against political prisoners and minority groups, according to Turkey’s top human rights lawyer, Eren Keskin.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday where the 2022-2023 Prison Rights Violations Report was released, Keskin, co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), emphasised the systemic nature of these human rights violations, asserting that the extensive use of torture, including sexual violence, serves not only as a method of repression but also as a tool to maintain control and stifle dissent within the state apparatus.

Keskin also highlighted that the isolation practiced in İmralı Prison on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan reflects broader state policies of oppression. Keskin articulated that the inhumane conditions described in the report, gathered from complaints across 91 prisons, are a direct extension of the political repression evident in the isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan and others detained in İmralı.

Culture of impunity: One conviction out of a thousand cases involving state officials

The event underscored severe discrepancies in legal and human rights standards applied to prisoners, particularly those identified as political prisoners. Keskin pointed out that despite following over a thousand cases involving uniformed officials since 1997, only one has resulted in a conviction, underscoring the impunity often granted to state officials.

Moreover, Keskin discussed specific challenges faced by female prisoners, indicating a disturbing normalisation of sexual violence as a tool of war and repression, facilitated by systemic failures to document and address torture adequately. The reliance on medical reports from state-run institutions, often withheld or incomplete, has hindered proper legal redress and accountability.

Keskin drew attention to the dire need for reforms and adherence to international human rights standards, as illustrated by discussions around the Istanbul Convention, which she noted was significantly influenced by the struggles of Kurdish and Turkish women’s movements for recognition and justice. She suggested that without addressing these fundamental issues of state-sanctioned violence and the silencing of critical voices, genuine democratisation and respect for human rights remain elusive in Turkey.


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