Turkish Rights Foundation receives 731 reports of torture in 2023

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) received 731 reports of torture that occurred under police custody in 2023, according to its Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers Report. 

Ceren Bayar / Gazete Duvar

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) released its 2023 Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers Report, detailing the applications it received from people seeking help for themselves or their relatives due to torture and ill-treatment.

For over 30 years, the foundation has been working to prevent torture and to treat and rehabilitate those who have been subjected to it.  

According to the report, 739 people sought help for themselves, and 42 others did so on behalf of a relative in 2023. Over the past decade, the number of applications to TİHV for torture-related reasons reached 7,548, and since the foundation's establishment in 1990, the total number has reached 21,894. The youngest torture victim recorded was seven years old.

In 2023, 731 of those who applied to TİHV experienced torture and ill-treatment within Turkey, while eight cases occurred outside the country. The report highlighted that seven out of every ten applicants had experienced torture or ill-treatment in the past year, and nine out of ten had suffered within the last six years. 

The deaths of six individuals during detention processes in 2023 were underscored as significant indicators of the prevalence and severity of torture practices.

Of those subjected to torture, 240 identified as female (32.8%), 428 as male (58.5%), and 63 as non-binary/queer. Applications to the Istanbul, İzmir, and Ankara offices showed a notable increase in June and July, attributed to the suppression of Pride Week events and related incidents of torture.

The youngest applicant was seven years old, and the oldest was 77. Nearly half (49.2%) of the applicants were aged 19-35. The report noted that 598 applications (81.8%) involved formal detention procedures, while 133 applicants (18.8%) reported their last detention experience as informal, without official documentation.

The high rate of informal detentions was linked to police interventions during public demonstrations and press statements where torture was used but official detentions were not recorded. This trend was described in the report as the "changing face of torture in recent years."

The report stated, “The disproportionate use of force, arbitrary violence, and coercion have been normalized to legitimize punishment and intimidation. Streets and open spaces have become torture sites, where practices are openly conducted, and the denial of legal protections, along with unjust arrests and probation decisions, has reinforced this situation.”

In 2023, the highest number of torture-related applications were made to the HRFT's Istanbul center, with 251 applications, followed by 172 in the western province of İzmir. Kurdish-majority eastern Van and southeastern Diyarbakir followed, with 161 and 125 reports, despite a nearly four-month service disruption due to the Feb. 2023 earthquakes. 

The southeastern Cizre district and the capital Ankara province received 40 and 32 applications, respectively.

The Istanbul Police Department was the top location where detainees reported being subjected to torture, followed by the Diyarbakir, Ankara, and Van police departments. The regional distribution of applicants showed a significant concentration in the Southeast and Eastern Anatolia regions, where the Kurdish population is dense. Kurdish individuals accounted for 62.2% of the total applications.

The report concluded that “analyzing the birthplaces and native languages of applicants revealed that Kurdish ethnic identity is associated with a higher incidence of torture compared to other ethnic identities, a trend that continued in 2023.”

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)