Rights watchdog urges Turkey to probe alleged torture by police

ISTANBUL: Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on the Turkish government to investigate “serious abuses” allegedly committed by police and “nightwatchmen” against more than a dozen people in the southeast and in Istanbul.

“The cases illustrate a worrying pattern of violent arrest, beatings, and other abuse that seems to be part of an increase in violent treatment in custody,” the rights group said in a report.

“They should be fully investigated.”

In June, the Turkish parliament passed a controversial bill that gives nightwatchmen greater powers, with critics accusing the government of seeking to build a loyal “militia”.

Under the law, the nightwatchmen are allowed to carry firearms and have the powers to stop and search people during neighbourhood patrols.

The alleged torture took place in Kurdish-majority Diyarbakir and in Istanbul and targeted 14 people in the last two months, according to the Human Rights Watch report.

In two incidents, police dogs were set on people in their homes, leaving them with bite marks on their limbs, the report said.

In two others, involving the detention of suspects in the fatal shooting of police officers, images of the detainees with signs of having been beaten and otherwise abused were posted on private social media accounts.

Human Rights Watch said it had reviewed photos, videos, and legal and medical documents and interviewed lawyers, families, and witnesses and, where possible, the victims.

“Turkish authorities should immediately investigate these credible allegations of serious abuse and hold those responsible accountable,” said Tom Porteous, deputy programme director at Human Rights Watch.

The Turkish government has adopted a policy of “zero tolerance” for torture. New York-based Human Rights Watch said in four of the cases, the authorities have publicly refuted or countered allegations of abuse.