UN sends torture expert to Turkey

UN sends torture expert to Turkey
For the first time in nearly 20 years, a UN expert on torture will investigate possible cases of abuse in Turkish prisons, following mass arrests since July's coup attempt.
2 min read
28 November, 2016
Turkey has jailed thousands of suspected Gulenists and Kurdish nationalists [AFP]

The UN is looking into cases of suspected torture in Turkey for the first time in 18 years, with the international body's expert starting a week-long visit to the country.

It follows reports of ill-treatment and possible torture of prisoners who have been rounded up by security forces since July's failed coup.

Nils Melzer, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, arrived in Turkey on Sunday and will investigate the claims, speaking to detainees and visiting prisons.

"I look forward to engaging with the Turkish government on how to meet the challenges of upholding the rule of law, promoting accountability and fulfilling the right of reparations for victims, in particular in the aftermath of the attempted coup," Melzer said on Friday.

It comes after the US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch accused Turkish police of torturing detainees.

The human rights group noted 13 cases of alleged abuse, including torture, sleep deprivation, severe beatings, sexual abuse and rape threats among detainees.

Amnesty International also said it had "credible evidence" of the abuse and torture by Turkish security forces.

Videos have emerged supporting these claims, allegedly showing guards and troops beating and humiliating suspects.

Since July's attempted coup in Turkey, security services have launched a clampdown on suspected sympathisers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who have been accused by Ankara of orchestrating the coup.

Around 78,000 have been detained and 37,000 arrested, many held in overcrowded jails without trial.

The purge led to a wave of international criticism with the EU threatening to cancel talks on Turkey's membership bid.

Erdogan responded by saying he could extend Turkey's emergency laws by another term and bring back the death penalty.

The UN expert will visit police stations, pre-trial facilities, and prisons to investigate cases of torture, and will file a report to the Human Rights Council.

Turkey put off a visit by his predecessor Juan Mendez last month which he said "sends the wrong message".

But the UN said the visit would be a chance to "identify and assess... challenges related to torture and ill-treatment".

Melzer will present his preliminary findings in Ankara on Friday.

Agencies contributed to this story.