UN: Culture of impunity for human rights violations marks Turkey

UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances says most of its reccomendations were ignored by Turkey where a culture of impunity prevails.

The 45th session of the Human Rights Council will take place in Geneva between 14 September and 6 October. 

Human rights in Turkey once again will be discussed at the session as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (which first issued its report in 2016) has made an addition to the old report in which it specified that "on 18 November 2019 requested the Government of Turkey to provide information on measures taken to implement the recommendations that were made in the report issued after its visit to the country in March 2016."

The Working Group "thanks the Government of Turkey for the co-operation with the process of the follow-up report", but recognises that "limited progress was made in the legislative domain, notably in abolishing statutory limitations for the crime of torture." 

Indeed, the Working Group notes "that many recommendations have only been partially addressed or have not been addressed at all." 

The Working Group says to be "equally concerned that the aforementioned practices, conducted within Turkey or abroad, epitomized a denial of justice, insofar as these individuals were reportedly deprived of liberty in the form of secret, unacknowledged or incommunicado detention and completely removed from the protection of law. It is further disconcerting that they may have been deprived of the rights to an effective remedy and fair trial whilst held incommunicado, including through forced confession of guilt, denial of the presumption of innocence, inability to challenge the lawfulness of detention, denial of access to legal representation, as well as torture and ill-treatment."

Further distressed by these patterns, the Working Group underlines that "such practices can facilitate the perpetration of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and can in itself constitute a form of such treatment."

The Working Group also notes "with concern that even after the suspension of the state of emergency, the authorities have not complied with procedural safeguards upon arrest and during the first hours of deprivation of liberty aimed at preventing possible violations, such as torture. These safeguards include immediate registration and judicial oversight of detention, notification of family members as soon as an individual is deprived of liberty, the hiring of a defence lawyer of one’s choice, and lawyer-client privilege."

The report underlines that "the entrenched culture of impunity for human rights violations perpetrated by state agents continues to be a main obstacle to holding officials accountable in Turkey. While there are various factors that foster a culture of impunity in the criminal justice system, the lack of judicial independence and impartiality are reported to have been most critical ones."