Turkey

Dr Kerem Altiparmak (University of Ankara), Dr Richard Carver and Dr Lisa Handley (Oxford Brookes University)

Turkey provides a particularly interesting case study of the interplay between political factors and torture prevention. A declining incidence of torture over the 30-year study period was clearly influenced by a series of political factors: the decline in Kemalist secularism, the ebb and flow of the Kurdish political struggle, and Turkish aspirations to membership of the European Union.

The incidence of torture in both political and non-political cases was extremely high in the 1980s and 1990s. By around the turn of the century, however, the confluence of the three political factors led to a series of procedural reforms – notably a significant improvement in the provision of safeguards in the early days in custody. Torture incidence showed a steady decline through the 2000s, although ill-treatment of protesters began to rise again towards the end of the study period, as informal public dissent became more widespread. It has risen again since the conclusion of our research, with national security justifications once more being mobilized to justify harsh measures.

Turkey also provides a clear case study of the voluntary submission of a state to a regional human rights mechanism. It has been the subject of almost annual visits from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture since the early 1990s, as well as receiving large numbers of adverse judgments from the European Court of Human Rights. Although the Turkish state has been slow to comply with ECHR judgments, these in particular seem to have played an important part in establishing the political unacceptability of continuing torture.