Torture; refers to the systematic and unfair behavior of a public official against a person that is incompatible with human dignity and that will cause him to suffer physically or mentally, affect his perception or willpower, and humiliate him.
The crime of torture is regulated in Article 94 of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC), titled “Torture”. The article regulates the basic and aggravated forms of crime and the amount of punishment. In addition, if acts of torture are committed systematically and in line with a plan against a part of the society with political, philosophical, racial, or religious motives, a crime against humanity as set out in Article 77 of the TPC will occur.
The prohibition of torture, included in the category of crimes against humanity, is mentioned among the fundamental rights of the individual in international law documents. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Likewise, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, titled “Prohibition of torture”, includes the provision of “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
According to the findings of the Turkish Human Rights Association Documentation Unit, at least 980 people were subjected to torture or ill-treatment in detention places from January to November (2022). In this context, 310 prisoners complained that they were tortured or ill-treated in prisons. Unfortunately, it is seen that these practices have become routine during the state of emergency.
Prevention of torture is of vital importance in terms of protecting the right to life and securing the right to freedom and security in a democratic state of law. There is no statute of limitations for the torture. Torture should be investigated without waiting for a complaint due to its serious violation of human rights.
However, Turkish judicial authorities take the torturers under protection instead of calling them to account for the torture. Especially during the state of emergency, it was implemented as a state policy. With the State of Emergency Decree, an immunity shield was brought to those who carried out the torture acts. After the state of emergency, while acts of torture continue, responsible public officials are protected by the judiciary. The latest example of this is Abdulkadir Türkyılmaz, a police officer working in the Anti-Terror Branch of the Ankara Police Department. Access to news and tweets containing allegations of torture by Abdulkadir Türkyılmaz was imposed by the court.
Türkyılmaz came to the fore with his confession that he tortured some soldiers after the July 15 coup attempt and his use of violence against MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu in front of his family. In the investigation launched after the complaints made against Türkyılmaz, he admitted that he had “ill-treated” some soldiers, including senior commanders, in the heat of the coup d’etat and that he had hung a colonel from his leg in the pot. However, Türkyılmaz said that he did not regret his acts.
Abdulkadir Türkyılmaz had applied to the court to have removed the news of torture. Ankara 6 Magistrates Court decided to remove the tweets as well as the news. In this context, with the 102-page decision of the Court; In total, access to 2071 URLs were banned.
As seen in the case of Abdulkadir Türkyılmaz, torture, a crime against humanity and having no statute of limitations, has turned into an administrative practice under state control. Instead of fighting against torture, measures are taken to prevent the disclosure and prosecution of torturers.
Arbitrary and non-compliant attitudes and behaviors adopted by the law enforcement officers with the encouragement and support of the government during the state of emergency caused those incidents to grow day by day. The main reason why state-sponsored torture has become an administrative practice is the armor of irresponsibility provided for torturer public officials by the emergency decree laws. Even though the state of emergency ended, state of irresponsibility continues with the secret support of the state. At this point, the judicial authorities have an important role in the continuation of irresponsibility and in the non-accountability of the perpetrators. While the judicial authorities should act ex officio and do what is necessary to punish the criminals in order to prevent torture, it is seen that the judicial authorities sometimes shield the perpetrators and protect them with “decisions of non-prosecution” and sometimes “decisions on the access ban to torture news”.
However, it should be kept in mind that acts of torture, which are crimes against humanity, will always be the subject of investigation since there is no lapse of time. At this point, the decision of non-prosecution of the torturers by the court of the Palace regime will never save the perpetrators. When justice comes back, the torture files will be taken off the shelves without exception. Therefore, although taking a decision of non-prosecution or a decision to block access is a refuge in the Erdogan regime, even these decisions themselves will be a guide in determining torturers.
In addition, it should not be forgotten that, since the public officials systematically committed acts of torture against certain segments of the society, especially the members of the Gülen Movement, with the State of Emergency process, their trials would be within the scope of crimes against humanity in Article 77 of the Turkish Penal Code.