TECHNIQUES OF ABUSE
A variety of torture methods are used in Turkey, though five main techniques seem to predominate among the anti-terror police: electric shock; hanging by the arms in a variety of positions; spraying with high-pressure water; sexual harassment such as squeezing breasts or testicles; and beating with fists, night sticks, or sandbags. Often, these techniques are used in concert. 14 Blindfolding, poor food, stripping the suspect naked, extremely cold or hot conditions, lack of medical care, and cramped, decrepit cell conditions are also common. In March 1995, then State Minister for Human Rights Azimet KöylüoTMlu revealed that there were eighteen different torture methods used in Turkey.15 Virtually all detainees who report being tortured are beaten, and the majority who are systematically tortured are blindfolded, often for long periods of time.
Such abuse seems to be carried out in specialized areas, where, according to one policeman who himself was later arrested and tortured, only the anti-terror police have access. He reported that,
I was taken to the eighth floor of the security directorate, where I was tortured. It's like a torture center, where the anti-terror branch members can go but not regular police. They can't go above the sixth floor. It was first time I had been there, but all police knew about the eighth floor. 16
According to Doctor Önder Özk2l2c2 of the HRFT treatment center in Izmir, the most severe torture takes place during the first five days of detention, after which a recovery period of up to ten days-in which there is rudimentary treatment mixed with some psychological pressure-is allowed.17 Doctor Özk2l2c2 added that the most intense torture occurs during the first two or three days of detention, mostly to break the detainee's personality and also to get information if the police operation in which the suspect was detained is still continuing. In its December 1992 public statement, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture commented that,
"In reality, the long periods of incommunicado custody allow time for physical marks caused by torture and ill-treatment to heal and fade; countless prisoners have described to CPT delegations the treatment techniques applied by police officers. It should also be noted that certain methods of torture commonly used do not leave physical markers, or will not if carried out expertly."18
In its December 1996 "Public Statement on Turkey," the CPT stated that, "At present such persons [held for alleged crimes under the jurisdiction of State Security Courts] are routinely denied all contact with the outside world whilst in police custody-a propitious state of affairs for the infliction of ill-treatment..."19 Because torturers do not operate with complete impunity-cases are brought against them at times and an active human rights community and often outspoken press document and report on torture-abusive methods are consistently improved in an effort to leave as few marks as possible.20
Electric shock was reportedly first introduced in Turkey after the March 1971 military intervention and became widespread after the September 1980 military seizure of power.21 Usually used in conjunction with hanging or suspending by the arms, electric current is applied from a magnetic field telephone to various sensitive parts of the body, including sexual organs and the tongue, to the fingers, and to the small toe. Electricity is also applied to parts of the body distant from each other so as to cause as many spasms in different muscle groups as possible at the same time: the current uses the muscles as a conductor, thus causing pain, the inability to breath, heart spasms, and sometimes the involuntary loss of bodily functions. According to the HRFT treatment center in Izmir, torturers are using more sophisticated methods in applying electric shock, such as wetting with salt water in order to distribute the current more evenly or using expensive gels such as those utilized during an EKG to prevent burning at the point of contact in order not to leave marks that could be documented.22 In its December 1996 "Public Statement on Turkey, the CPT stated that, "...As had been the case in October 1994 and during earlier CPT visits, the delegation once again found material evidence of resort to ill-treatment, in particular, an instrument adapted in a way which would facilitate the infliction of electric shock and equipment which could be used to suspend a person by the arms."23
Hanging or suspending by the arms is another widely employed method of torture and is usually used together with high pressure water, electric shock, beating, or sexual harassment such as squeezing the testicles or breast or placing a nightstick against or in the vagina or anus. Victims are hanged with the arms straight out or with the arms behind the back (the so-called reverse or "Palestinian" hanging). Hanging causes extreme pain in the muscles and joints and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, thus causing unconsciousness.24 According to Doctor Ôákran Ak2n, "During hanging, the whole weight is on the arms, the muscles stop functioning. When they hang you from behind, your arms or shoulders can become dislocated. But they have a new technique where they bandage the arms with foam to leave fewer marks."25 One doctor from the HRFT treatment center in Izmir told us that, "The incidents of hanging have either gone down or have been practiced more discreetly since the foundation has been able to discover Brachial Plexus, the damage in the nerve center in the shoulder and arm pit that comes from hanging. When they wrap your arms properly, there is less chance of leaving marks."26
In its December 1996 "Public Statement on Turkey," the CPT also found evidence of the use of suspending or hanging detainees, noting that,
The case of seven persons (four women and three men) medically examined at Sakarya Prison, where they had recently arrived after a period of custody in the Anti-Terror Department at Istanbul Police Headquarters, must rank among the most flagrant examples of torture encountered by CPT delegates in Turkey. To focus on their prolonged suspension by the arms, motor function and/orsensation in the upper limbs of all seven persons was found to be impaired-for most of them severely-and several of them bore ecchymoses or tumefactions in the axillary region which were also clearly indicative of a recent suspension by the arms. Two of the persons examined had lost the use of both arms; these sequelae could prove irreversible.27
Two additional methods are employed extensively. High-pressure water is often used, especially during and after hanging or electric shock, to reawaken circulation, to help spread the electric current, and to send the detainee back to his cell wet. The detainee is usually stripped naked before water is applied, which helps to "shame" and disorient the individual and also leads to heat loss from the body.28 Sexual harassment-both physical and verbal-is also widely employed to both men and women and ranges from comments to anal and vaginal rape with truncheons. One doctor who treats torture victims told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that, "Even before the torture starts they touch your balls, put a nightstick by your buttocks. You are not a man. With women, they touch their breasts, hit hips, threaten rape, and verbally harass."29
The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey's Treatment and Rehabilitation Center issued the following statistics based on the 545 individuals who applied to them for treatment in 1995 after reporting torture in police detention or in prison:30
Days in Detention (last detention period)
1-3 days: 43.9%
4-7 days: 12.2%
8-15 days: 26.6%
16-30 days: 12.8%
More than 31 days: 4.4%
Percentage of Torture Victims Suffering Various Methods of Torture
Electric Shock: 38.7%
Sexual Harassment: 38.7%
Hanging/Suspension by the arms: 33.4%
High-Pressure Water: 31.4%
Restriction of Food and Water: 23.9%
Cell Isolation: 22.6%
Preventing Urination/Defecation: 20.9%
Being held in a cold place: 17.2%
Pulling Hair: 13.4 %
Mock Execution 4.6%
Number of Torture Techniques each Victim Suffered
One torture method: 4.4%
Two torture methods: 12.2%
Three torture methods: 13.7%
Four torture methods: 10.2%
Five or more torture methods: 63.6%
Places of Detention
Security Directorate (Anti-Terror): 58.1%
Police Station: 12.1%
Other: 5.5%14 See also, Dr. Bálent Tarakç2oTMlu, ¤Õkence Olay2 (Istanbul: Belge Uluslararas2 Yay2nc2l2k), 1990,pp. 67-70.
For an excellent account of the psychological aftermath of torture, see, Murat Paker, et. al., " Psychological Effects of Torture: An Empirical Study Of Tortured and Non-Tortured Non-Political Prisoners" in Torture and its consequences: Current Treatment Approaches (London, England: Cambridge University Press), 1992 , pp. 72-82 and Metin BaÕo-lu et. al., "Psychological Effects of Torture: A Comparison of Tortured and Nontortured Political Activists in Turkey," American Journal of Psychiatry 151:1, January 1994.15 "¤Õte ¤Õkence ÇeÕitlerimiz", Milliyet, Istanbul, March 23, 1995, p. 1. Some of the methods KöylüoTMlu listed were the following: "Palestinian" hanging; "crucifixion;" magnetic telephone; cold water; salt water; night stick; abuse of sexual organs; being stripped naked in front of family members and acquaintances; electric shock; hitting with a sand bag; dripping water; sleep deprivation; standing on one leg; forcing someone to clean the toilet; putting someone in cold water up to the chest; blindfolding. 16 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Turkey, October 1995. A more detailed account of this is given in the section, "Interview with Detainees." 17 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Doctor Önder Özk2l2c2, HRFT Treatment Center, Izmir, October 16, 1995. The doctor told us that falaka, the beating of the feet with a night stick or other hard instrument, had generally not been inflicted on security detainees in Izmir over the past year or two because of the use of a process, bone scintigraphy, that is able to document falaka months after it is applied. Bone scintigraphy falls under the category of nuclear medicine. An element that has an affinity for cells in the bone that produce bone matter is injected. When there is damage to the bone, such as that caused by falaka, this activity increases. Bone scintigraphy identifies this .
See also "Bone scintigraphy as clue to previous torture,"The Lancet (London), Vol. 332: April 6, 1991, pp. 846-847.18 European Committee for the Prevention of Torture "Public Statement on Turkey," December 15, 1992, p.9. 19 European Committee for the Prevention of Torture "Public Statement on Turkey,"
December 5, 1996, p. 4.20 This only applies to security detainees, who are more willing to document their torture and open cases against police. Criminal prisoners usually do not take such actions. Dr. Ak2n at the HRFT treatment center in Istanbul told us that, "The torturers in political cases use a certain method so as not to leave marks; in a regular police station, with common criminals, they just beat and don't care about leaving marks."
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Istanbul, October 6, 1995.21 TarakçioTMlu, p. 68. 22 Human Rights Watch interview, Izmir, October 16, 1995. A doctor in Istanbul who treats torture patients said that those who suffer falaka are often told to walk on salt so as to reduce the swelling and marks. Walking on salt also causes pain as the skin on foot is broken from the beating. 23 European Committee for the Prevention of Torture "Public Statement on Turkey,"
December 6, 1996, p. 2. The observation was made during a September 1996 CPT visit.24 Tarakç2oTMlu, p.70. 25 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Istanbul, October 6, 1995. 26 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Izmir, October 17, 1995. An EMG is used to measure electrical activity in nerves and muscles, which changes as a result of damaged caused by hanging. 27 European Committee for the Prevention of Torture "Public Statement on Turkey,"
December 1996, p. 1.28 Tarakç2oTMlu, p.70. 29 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Istanbul, October 1995. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has no information pertaining to the incidence of vaginal and anal rapes of women and men in detention, though such incidents, if and when they occur, are believed to be under reported due to social stigma. The Women's Rights Project of Human Rights Watch documented one rape in detention in a 1994 report, "State Control of Women's Virginity in Turkey," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 6, no. 7, June 1994, p. 14. The case was later brought to the European Commission of Human Rights, which declared it admissible. See Ayd2n Ôákran v. Turkey (Application No. 23178/94). 30 Türkiye ¤nsan Haklar2 Vakf2 Tedavi ve Rehabilitasyon Merkezleri Raporu 1995, pp 21-34. In 1995, a total of 713 individuals applied to the centers for treatment. 100 had been tortured without officially being arrested and sixty-eight were not included in the study because of a shortage of data for them, thus leaving a figure of 545.
Of the 545, 382 were men and 163 were women. 94.1 percent were security detainees. 317 were tortured in security directorates (anti-terror police), fifty-one under custody of the gendarmerie, eighty-one in prisons, sixty-one in regular police stations, and thirty in other places.