Turkey Tribunal organizes webinar on torture in Turkey

Turkey Tribunal, an important initiative spearheaded by Belgian law firm Van Steenbrugge Advocaten in order to ascertain whether the human rights abuses in Turkey have systematic character and raise awareness about it, organized a webinar on Nov. 25 about torture and ill-treatment in Turkey, in cooperation with the London-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR)

The event involved interventions by speakers Johan Vande Lanotte, a professor of law from Ghent University and one of the founders of the initiative, Ezat Mosallanejad from the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT), Mushegh Yekmalyan from the Geneva-based World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) as well as a testimony by Erhan Doğan, a torture victim from Turkey who was held in detention after the failed coup of July 2016.

Professor Vande Lanotte said that while torture is a reality everywhere in the world, Turkey has a significant problem of impunity as only around 1 percent complaints get duly prosecuted. He also underlined that the organized nature of impunity gives license to torture.

Ezat Mosallanejat made a presentation about the work of CCVT which has been providing assistance to torture victims in Turkey since the military coup of 1980. He pointed out that in Turkey torture is directly proportional to political instability as incidents seem to increase in frequency whenever there is a coup, an attempted coup or a massive political crackdown.

Mosallanejad said anyone suspected of activities against the government can be the target of torture in Turkey. He also made a detailed presentation of the types of physical, psychological and sexual abuse involved in the methods of torture in Turkey. He said that his organization has extended assistance to 52 victims from Turkey.

Mosallanejad explained that the resulting trauma of torture does not go away and it often remains for life, becoming part of the psychology for the survivors.

Mushegh Yekmalyan said the Turkey Tribunal is much needed and timely as he believes beyond any doubt that torture is systematic in Turkey.

Yekmalyan said that after the 1980 military coup, Kurds, political activists and human rights defenders were the main target of torture. While Turkey's relative progress in European Union integration in early 2000s brought some reforms in the field, the crackdown that followed July 2016 coup attempt triggered a counter reaction as the protection system was dismantled by the mass purge of judges.

Yekmalyan also said the ongoing armed conflict in the country's southeast was characterized by extrajudicial killings, abductions and torture.

Yekmalyan said the Turkish government often denies torture allegations, dismissing them as anti-propaganda. However, the government's narrative is sharply conflicted by the realities on the ground, according to him.

The initiative plans to continue its awareness-raising events on other major issues in the coming months.