Consideration of the periodic report of the Republic of Turkey Fifty-Seventh Session of the Committee against Torture
Distinguished Members of the Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and privilege for us to be here to present the periodic report of the Republic of Turkey before this eminent Committee.
Turkey has made its submission according to the simplified reporting procedure; thus, Turkey’s response to the list of issues prepared by the Committee constitutes its report under article 19 of the Convention.
I would like to take this opportunity to update the Committee on the developments which have unfolded since then, concerning the implementation of the Convention.
Before going further in depth with more specific issues, I would like to briefly introduce our delegation. Recognizing that the protection against torture is an inter-agency effort, we have formed a broad delegation with representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Family and Social Policies, National Police, Gendarmarie, Directorate General for Migration Management and from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We all look forward to a fruitful exchange of views, today and tomorrow.
Honourable Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Committee,
Let me begin by reiterating Turkey’s full commitment to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture, as defined in the Convention. The Government has adopted a “zero tolerance policy” back in 2003 and in line with this policy, relevant measures have been continuously taken.
The success of the reforms achieved in relation with the relevant legislation were acknowledged by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture as early as 2004. The President of the Committee, in a statement in October 2004, praised “the legislative and regulatory framework that has been put in place in Turkey”
and added that “it would be difficult to find a Council of Europe member State with a more advanced set of provisions”.
In this respect, allow me to briefly note the human rights policy priorities of Turkey, which also lay the ground for the effective implementation of our “zero tolerance towards torture” policy.
An ambitious reform process on human rights is being conducted in Turkey approximately for the last 15 years in full transparency.
In this vein, consecutive Governments of Turkey have been resolutely undertaking concrete steps aimed at further strengthening democracy, promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and consolidating the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. With the adoption of several reform packages, including comprehensive sets of constitutional amendments, the reform process has become ever more systematized and regularized since our previous reporting cycle.
The first pillar of this process is directed at the revision of the relevant legislation with a view to bringing them further in line with Turkey’s international human rights obligations and commitments. The second priority area is the advancement of national remedies through the establishment of new national human rights mechanisms, to contribute to the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms. Finally, training of civil servants, awareness raising programs as well as high-level dialogue with relevant stakeholders are essential elements in order to put the new legal and institutional framework into practice.
As regards the progress we have achieved in the legislative field since the last reporting cycle;
With the “Judicial reform packages” adopted over the last five years, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary has been further strengthened, access to justice facilitated and the scope of freedoms expanded. These packages include substantial legislative amendments to the Turkish Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Anti-Terror Law, and Press Law, having positive effects on the policy of “zero tolerance towards torture”.
The 4th Judicial Reform Package, which came into force in April 2013 abolished the statute of limitations with regard to the offence of torture, thus enabling more effective investigation. This is a ground-breaking development under the scope of the zero tolerance policy against torture.
In April 2013, several amendments were made to the Code of Criminal Procedure. Accordingly, courts and judges are now able to rule on requests for release made during hearings, without consulting the opinions of the public prosecutor.
Moreover, the review of the detention at the investigation stage shall be made during a hearing, where the suspect or defense lawyer shall be present.
Furthermore, new means for compensation for those who were unable to avail the legal right of objection to arrest or detention have been introduced (“Compensation on Account of Preventive Measures”) to the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In order to address the problem of overcrowding of prisons and making the alternative methods for prison sentence functional an amendment to the relevant Law (“Amending the Law on the Execution of Punishments and Security Measures and the Law on Probation, Help Centres and Protection Board”) came into force on 11 April 2012.
With the amendments to a number of laws enacted on 2 March 2014, specially authorized courts have been abolished and the maximum period of detention has been reduced to 5 years.
The Action Plan on Prevention of ECtHR Violations entered into force on 1 March 2014. The Action Plan is aimed at addressing the main reasons in relevant areas of legislation, which caused judgments of violation by the European Court of Human Rights. Among the 14 main aims of the Action Plan, the Second Aim is the “prevention of ill-treatment.”
In line with this Action Plan, an informal Working Group has been established at the level of experts from the Ministry of Justice, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. The Working Group focuses on identifying problem areas and the corresponding solutions both in legislation and in implementation in the field of human rights.
Another important step in the implementation of Turkey’s policy against torture and ill‐treatment has been the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) which has entered into force on 12 March 2011. In accordance with the Article 90 of the Constitution of Turkey, international conventions that are duly ratified bear the force of law in our national legislation.
In order to provide assistance and guidance to victims and prevent victimization after the crime, “Victim Rights Department” has been established under the Ministry of Justice on 18 November 2013. Currently, work is underway for a “Draft Law on Victim Rights” that would provide regulations for basic principles for the victims; support services and assistance that will be given, as well as the central and provincial organization of Victim Rights Department.
Secondly, significant progress has also been made as to the advancement of the national remedies through the creation of several bodies.
- By a Constitutional amendment in 2010, the right of individual application to the Constitutional Court was introduced and the Court started receiving applications as of 23 September 2012. Anyone who thinks his/her constitutional rights have been infringed by a public authority, has a right to apply to the Constitutional Court after exhausting other domestic remedies.
- The Human Rights Institution of Turkey was established on 21 June 2012, to serve as the National Human Rights Institution. The Institution has also been designated as the “National Preventive Mechanism” on 28 January 2014, in order to perform tasks under the OPCAT. Accordingly, the Institution has been vested with the mandate to undertake regular visits to places of detention to protect persons deprived of their liberty against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Its mandate also includes taking measures to improve the conditions of places of detention and treatment towards persons deprived of their liberty at places of detention; as well as to submit recommendations to relevant authorities and to submit recommendations and comments on existing or draft legislation, in consideration of the relevant standards of the United Nations.
As a most recent development it should be noted that the founding law of the Institution has been revised and “the Law on Turkish Human Rights and Equality Institution” which establishes a new name for the Institution, entered into force a few days ago, on 20 April 2016. The Law denotes new mandates for equality and non-discrimination.
- The Ombudsman’s Institution, has started functioningas an independent and impartial institution as of 29 March 2013. It contributes to the protection and promotion of human rights in the sphere of public administration. The Ombudsman’s Institution also pays visits to the places of detention, as well as the reception, accommodation and removal centers. In 2015 and 2016, 11 such visits have been undertaken by this Institution.
-Also, legislative work is in progress for the establishment of a “Law Enforcement Oversight Commission” which shall be in charge of examining and investigating allegations of ill-treatment made in respect of law enforcement officials. This Commission shall function independently from law enforcement bodies. The draft law, which aims to establish a more efficient complaint system in this regard, is before the Parliament.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In order to put the new legal and institutional framework into practice, special attention is paid for ensuring continuous training. Detailed information on trainings for the Ministry of Justice, National Police, Gendarmerie and Ministry of Health personnel are denoted in our report.
Thus, I would like briefly point out that human rights is a compulsory course for the Police Academy as well as Gendarmerie schools. Likewise, the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior run in-service training for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials both at the headquarters and at the regional level.
Since the date we submitted our report, 142 prosecutors, 138 judges; as well as 2605 officers and 180 thousand non-commissioned officers from the Gendarmarie have received training on human rights. From the national police, 4012 law enforcement officials received training with particular focus on protecting
individual rights and freedoms while they perform their duties in preventing acts defined as terrorist crimes and ensuring public peace, public order and safety with respect to such criminal acts.
Furthermore, the personnel of prisons and detention centers are given pre-service and in-service training on human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly on prisoner’s rights. Topics in the curriculum include combating and preventing torture and ill-treatment. Five training centers with an overall capacity of 1175 persons have been in service.
In its report concerning the visit to Turkey in June 2013, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) also welcomed the efforts made by the Turkish authorities in recent years to improve prison staff training.
In addition to regular trainings, the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior continue to issue circulars in order to prevent torture and ill-treatment during investigations and prosecution. For instance, as regards the measures to avoid disproportionate use of force by the police, circulars and written orders have also been issued by the relevant authorities and sent to all Police Departments. Moreover, another Circular (No. 158) by the Ministry of Justice calls for “follow-up and implementation of international conventions to which Turkey is a party, European Court of Human Rights judgments and all relevant legal framework” as well as “taking necessary measures so as to prevent human rights violations, acts of torture and ill-treatment.”
As regards monitoring,
Penitentiary institutions are inspected, both on a periodical and ad hoc basis by administrative, judicial, NGO, parliamentary and international inspection mechanisms.
At national level, in addition to aforementioned human rights institutions, all establishments are overseen by a total of 144 Prison and Detention Center Monitoring Boards and 145 prison enforcement judges, who perform their duties independently.
In addition to these bodies, the officials of the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers of the Ministry of Justice, as well as public prosecutors, prosecutors responsible for prisons, judicial inspectors and prison controllers are fulfilling the task of monitoring practices related to human rights violations and intervening in a legal way where necessary.
Moreover, all these establishments are monitored by the Human Rights Inquiry Commission of the Parliament.
The establishments are also overseen at international level by the relevant monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
At this point I would like to underline that Turkey has extended a standing invitation to the special procedures of the UN. Since the last reporting cycle, the
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (in 2011) and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (in 2012) have visited Turkey. Most importantly for this Committee, the Sub-committee on the prevention of torture (SPT) paid a visit to Turkey in October 2015 (6-9 October), to provide advice with regard to the National Preventive Mechanism.
Likewise, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has paid a visit last month. (14-18 March).
This year we will also host a number of special rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (10-14 October 2016).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Taking this opportunity I would like to also inform the Committee of the measures taken with a view to preventing violence against women.
Combatting violence against women and domestic violence is a priority for Turkey’s national and international human rights agenda. Being a party to CEDAW (the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) and its Optional Protocol, Turkey has also actively contributed to the elaboration of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The Convention, also known as the Istanbul Convention, was opened for signature in May 2011 during Turkey’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe. Turkey was the first country that signed and ratified this Convention, which entered into force on 1 August 2014.
We maintain close cooperation with international organizations in this realm as well. As of 21 January 2015, the Agreement concerning the Establishment of the UN Women Regional Office in Istanbul has been put into effect. The UN Women Regional Office will carry out regional activities in fields such as equal opportunity for women and men, empowerment of women in society and the promotion of women’s rights.
At the national level, among the different measures mentioned in our response to the list of issues, I would like to highlight the law on the “Protection of the Family and Elimination of Violence Against Women”, which came into effect on 20 March 2012. Being the first legislation in Turkey which addresses and tackles domestic violence, the law broadens the scope of the previous legislation to cover all women victims regardless of their marital status, as well as other members of the family.
Also, the National Action Plan on Combating Violence against Women (2012-2015) has been implemented. In line with its impact assessment, the drafting of the next National Action Plan for the period of 2016-2019 has been completed. The New Action Plan builds on the national legislation and the international conventions to which Turkey is a party.
With the global upsurge in human mobility, the number of migrants are on the rise, leaving thousands of people –every single day – in a vulnerable situation. It is also a significant challenge for state parties to devise effective protective measures on the one hand, and keep up with ever increasing financial implications on the other.
Turkey has a strong tradition of responding to affected peoples in need. In fact, Turkey’s land has historically been home to countless peoples, regardless of their religious, ethnic or linguistic backgrounds, who had to flee their original lands in dire need.
Today, the most touching consequence of the conflict in Syria has been the humanitarian tragedy it triggered. As the conflict in the country entered its sixth year, more than 11 million people have been compelled to flee their homes. Around 6.5 million people have been internally displaced and more than 4.6 million people have sought shelter in neighboring countries.
Turkey, maintains an “open door” policy for Syrians without any form of discrimination since 2011. As a result,
Turkey hosts more than 2.7 million Syrians (2.749.733 registered) seeking protection and assistance, not to mention around 300 thousand Iraqis and other nationals hosted in Turkey too. This makes Turkey the biggest refugee-hosting nation in the world.
Currently around 270 thousand Syrians (As of 21 April: 267.837) are sheltered under temporary protection in 26 camps. Syrians who live outside these centers are also under our protection regime and they benefit from free medical services and schooling.
From the very beginning of the humanitarian crisis, we have developed a multi-fold strategy, in order to help these people, in the absence of a meaningful international effort and assistance to this end so far.
Following a transparent and participatory process together with all national and international stakeholders, the new Law on Foreigners and International Protection was enacted on 11 April 2013. The law has greatly contributed to filling the gap left by the absence of an asylum law in Turkey and to the harmonization of the legislation with the EU Acquis on the basis of the UN 1951 Refugee Convention.
As a result of the new Law, the principle of non-refoulement
which was already respected by Turkey has gained legal basis with respect to those who have the risk of facing torture or similar inhuman treatment. The procedures relating to humanitarian residence permit and subsidiary protection mechanisms have been defined and “temporary protection” to be provided in cases of massive influx has been codified for the first time.
The Law also set the basis for the establishment of the Directorate General for Migration Management under the Ministry of Interior, a representative of which is among us today. The Directorate is in charge of implementing policies and strategies concerning migration issues, maintaining coordination among various institutions, and carrying out actions and proceedings pertaining to foreigners’ entry and residence in Turkey, their exit and deportation, international protection, temporary protection and protection of victims of human trafficking.
Turkey continues to draw attention to the need for developing global responses in addressing the massive challenges deriving from this crisis. With this understanding, Turkey has led several international initiatives to raise awareness on the issue; such as taking over the Chairmanship of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in 2014 and 2015 and hosting the 8th GFMD Summit in Istanbul last October under the theme of “Strengthening Partnerships: Human Mobility for Sustainable Development”.
We have also strived for the consideration of the situation of the Syrians during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a special session last November, under the title “Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin with a specific emphasis on Syrian asylum-seekers”. This meeting marked the starting point for the series of activities foreseen in the UN Roadmap on Migration for 2016.
Last but not least, Turkey will host the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in İstanbul next month, on 23-24 May 2016. As an initiative of the UN Secretary-General, this unique event will play a key role in strengthening the multi-stakeholder approach in addressing numerous critical humanitarian challenges throughout the globe.
Distinguished members of the Committee,
Almost three decades have passed since the entry into force of the Convention. Along with the progress achieved in preventing acts of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, challenges and threats have also multiplied. The global upsurge in violent extremism and xenophobia is coupled with terrorist threats at alarming levels. We have once again seen the magnitude of terrorism with the latest attacks in Paris, Istanbul, Ankara and Brussels. The number of migrants are on the rise, leaving thousands of people in a vulnerable situation every single day.
In the face of these challenges, Turkey believes that the framework depicted by the Convention is an indispensable tool in the service of mankind, to be duly taken into consideration by all states. We also commend the continuous efforts of the Committee in this regard.
With this understanding, Turkey has recently joined the “Group of Friends of the Convention against Torture Initiative
” which has been launched by Denmark, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco. As you know very well, this laudable initiative aims to provide technical advice, support and cooperation among State-parties as well as non-State parties to the Convention, meanwhile promoting the universal adoption of the Convention.
In conclusion, I would like to stress Turkey’s resolution to continue its transparent and close cooperation with international human rights mechanisms. Turkey has extensively benefited from its cooperation with the Committee against Torture and will consider its recommendations as useful guidelines.
I thank you for your attention.
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