Turkey coup attempt: Amnesty, Human Rights Watch warn about abuse of detainees

Supporters stands in front of a screen displaying a portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a rally at Kizilay Square in Ankara on July 20, 2016. Adem Altan (AFP) /Getty Images

Advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are cautioning about a perilous human rights situation in Turkey as the government continues its crackdown on those it suspects of involvement in the July 15 coup attempt.

With more than 10,000 people reportedly rounded up and detained in the wake of an attempt to seize power, Turkish authorities are facing accusations of abuse of power and torture.

Human Rights Watch Turkey director Emma Sinclair-Webb said Tuesday the state of emergency President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decreed on July 23 “goes well beyond the legitimate aim of promoting accountability for the bloody July 15 coup attempt.”

Of particular concern was the government allowing arbitrary detentions lasting up to 30 days.

“[I]t increases the possibility of torture and ill-treatment of suspects,” Sinclair warned.
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Citing interviews it conducted in Istanbul and Ankara, Amnesty International also claimed authorities have subjected detainees to verbal and physical abuse, including forcing suspects to remain in “stress positions”; denial of food, water and medical treatment; and, in some cases, sexual assault.

“The grim details that we have documented are just a snapshot of the abuses that might be happening in places of detention,” Amnesty International Europe director John Dalhuisen said in a report released Sunday. “It is absolutely imperative that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held.”

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Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ called Amnesty’s claims a “misinformation campaign,” Hurriyet Daily News reported Tuesday.

“No detainee has been tortured or mistreated during or after their detainment,” Hurriyet Daily News reported Bozdağ saying on his Twitter account.

At the same time, there are also concerns about the fate of refugees and the deal the Turkish government struck with the European Union earlier this year.

“Quite honestly, I don’t see how anyone could claim that Turkey is a safe country,” Brad Blitz, a migration expert and professor of international politics at Middlesex University in London, told The Associated Press.

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“I didn’t think it was a safe country beforehand in terms of returning people, but this (purge) is so blatant with thousands of people arrested and allegations of torture … The situation there is so unstable that you might see Turkey journalists and academics coming across the Aegean with migrants.”

The agreement reached in March saw Turkey commit to accepting the return of Syrian refugees and migrants who are caught trying to make it to the Greek islands, off Turkey’s coast, and onto EU territory. In exchange, the EU agreed to acceptTurkey-based Syrian refugees, of which there are more than 2.7 million, according to the United Nations. The deal has led to a drop in the number of refugees and migrants making the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, the BBC reported.

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