Helmut Helmut Oberdiek * 18.9.1947 — † 27.4.2016
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AI Index: EUR/44/65/88 (November 1988)

Human rights denied

Cover picture (click on it to enlarge)

Students being arrested in Istanbul in April 1988. A number of students have recently been arrested and interrogated under torture.

Over a quarter of a million people have been arrested in Turkey since 1980 on political grounds and almost all of them have been tortured.
Thousands are now in jail. Some were convicted for no more than expressing their opinions, many others because they confessed to crimes of which they were innocent to escape the agony of torture.
Most of these prisoners did not receive a fair trial. Some were sentenced to death. Today almost 200 people await a decision on whether they will go to the gallows.
Turkey was under martial law for over three years. Military rule began to be phased out at the end of 1983 and it has now been lifted entirely. But human rights violations remain widespread.
The military have seized power repeatedly in Turkey during the last three decades, most recently in September 1980.
Unprecedented political violence had erupted throughout Turkey in the late 1970s. Over 5,000 people were killed. Most were members of left-wing or right-wing political organizations, then engaged in bitter fighting. The most militant right-wing organization, known as "Grey Wolves", claimed they were supporting the state security forces.
In December 1978 martial law was imposed in 13 provinces in response to violent riots in the south-eastern city of Kahrarnanmaras, during which over 100 people were killed. During the nine months after the Kahramanmaras riots the govemment extended martial law to cover 20 provinces. However, political violence and killings increased in those areas under military rule.

Inside Mamak Military Prison in Ankara. Thousands of people have been jailed for political offences since 1980, many of them solely because they exercised their right to freedom of expression and most after unfair trials.

On 12 September 1980, Turkey's military leaders seized power under General Kenan Evren. Martial law was extended throughout the country. The generals abolished parliament, suspended the Constitution and banned all political parties and trade unions, and most other organizations. For the next three years the Turkish armed forces ruled the country through the National Security Council.
Immediately after the coup, the number of political killings decreased substantially. However, the level of human rights abuses increased dramatically.
Tens of thousands of men and women were taken into custody. More than 30,000 were jailed in the first four months after the coup.
During the following years, Amnesty International received thousands of allegations of torture including reports of over 100 deaths as a result of torture.
Trade unionists were arrested en masse. Fifty-two leading members of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK)

Tanks patrol lstanbul 's deserted streets after the 1980 military coup.@ Camera Pre

were seized immediately after the coup. By the time the military court delivered its verdict in 1986, the DISK trial had 1,477 defendants.
The DISK trial was one of many mass trials that progressed ponderously through the military courts, presided over by high-ranking officers of the Turkish armed forces. Most took years to reach a verdict, and many of the defendants stayed in prison from the day of their arrest. Some of these trials are still in progress.
People from most sectors of Turkish society were put on trial, teachers for their lessons, writers for their books, journalists for articles they had written, trade unionists for organizing workers, Kurds for separatist activities, religious leaders for their sermons, and students for attending seminars. Even lawyers have been arrested and imprisoned for defending their clients.
In 1983 martial law restrictions were eased. From May 1983 the military authorities allowed limited political activity and this was followed by general elections in  November. Three parties were allowed to field candidates.
The conservative Motherland Party (ANAP), led by Turgut Özal, won a majority of seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM), the parliament. Turgut Özal was appointed Prime Minister. From December 1983 military rule was gradually withdrawn. It was finally lifted throughout Turkey in July 1987.
Although Turkey returned to civilian rule some five years ago, the government has failed to ensure that human rights are protected. Political prisoners are still tried by military courts. State security courts, intended to replace military justice, have failed to give defendants a fair trial. Some have been sentenced to death after unfair trials.
Torture continues, despite Turkey having signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,  Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Although in recent years fewer people have been detained than in the years immediately after the coup, Amnesty International believes that any person who is detained on political grounds is in great danger of being tortured.
Mustafa Dilmen, the president of the Mersin branch of the glass-workers' trade union, Kristal-ls, was detained at the beginning of June 1988. He was interrogated at Ankara Police Headquarters and held incommunicado for more than a week. After his release he  made the following statement:
"When I was taken to the capital, Ankara, I felt quite relaxed. I knew that the anti-torture convention had become law. Parliament had ratified it.
"However I could not perceive any significant change."
The trade union president said he had been subjected to various forms of torture. He concluded:
"I believe that there are certain things one human being should not do to another. Torture is first among these. It is my wish that torture, the disgrace of humanity, will be prevented and that those who carry it out do not get away with it."

Mustafa Dilmen, tortured in June 1988.

The Turkish security forces

Most allegations of torture cite two branches of the Turkish police: the political police and the department for capital offences and violent crimes.
The political police include special teams trained to deal with particular political organizations. These teams have extended powers which, for example, allow them to follow suspects beyond the borders of the province in which they are based. There have been frequent allegations that some members of these special teams are trained as torturers.
In rural areas, police duties are carried out by the gendarmerie, which is part of the military structure: members of the gendarmerie serve as professionals or conscripts, as in the army. They have also been accused of torture.
Allegations of torture are not restricted to the official police force: the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has also been named in torture allegations. MIT's operations are shrouded in secrecy.
The police force in Turkey increased significantly between 1984 and 1987 - by 50 per cent according to the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet- far outstripping the growth of the population as a whole. This is also reflected in the large increase in the number of police premises: an 89 per cent increase in the number of police headquarters and a 60 per cent increase in the number of police stations.
Many new prisons have also been built. Since 1982 the total number of prisons has been increased to 644 and their capacity from 55,000 to over 80,000 prisoners.

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