Turkey, torture and a £100m deal
UK trade, Issue 1437
WHILE watching TV images of Theresa May cosying up to President Erdogan made painful viewing, the real torture was continuing as usual behind closed doors elsewhere in Turkey.
In May last year the UN Committee Against Torture expressed serious concern about torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial killings in the country; and on 2 December the UN Special Rapporteur said torture had become widespread since last July’s failed coup. Others, however, have been less principled.
What a coincidence!
The Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, was set up “to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law”. It regularly reviews human rights violations among members, and was due to debate Turkey last month. Alas, its assembly – composed of parliamentary MPs from its 47 countries – voted on 23 January not to bother. Most “no” voters were Turkey’s near neighbours, but they included the five voting UK Conservative MPs. What a coincidence that five days later Mrs May signed a £100m fighter jet deal with her new pal.
Turkey claims to be a beacon of democracy. When deputy PM Numan Kurtulmu? addressed Chatham House on 25 November (by which time his boss had shut down more than 160 radio and TV stations, newspapers and publishers, and announced his wish to reinstate the death penalty), he insisted Turkey doesn’t compromise on civil liberties. Asked about torture, his response remains on the Chatham House website: “You cannot identify any torture in the prisons and detained facilities of Turkey.”
Human rights organisations disagree. Freedom from Torture (FFT) received 75 new referrals from Turkey in 2015; the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) saw 597 torture survivors in 2015, and 312 in 2016. They say torture has increased since July and continues with impunity. Meanwhile HRFT’s president, torture expert Dr Sebnem Financi, is herself awaiting trial under the anti-terror act for supporting press freedom; and Human Rights Watch reports that torture even extends to children.
Turkish former detainees relate chillingly similar experiences. Usually Kurds, they describe being arrested, beaten, kicked and punched, electrocuted, burned, suffocated, sexually assaulted, humiliated, subjected to mock execution, then forced to agree to inform or die. Prior to the July coup attempt, they were usually released on the third day. More recent detainees are less fortunate: Erdogan has extended the maximum period of detention without charge from four days to a terrifying 30. Thousands more are in pre-trial detention, including more than 140 journalists and both leaders of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party.
Human rights organisations, the EU and the UN take a dim view of Mr Erdogan’s version of democracy, yet it seems he is now Mrs May’s other new best friend. If this is the reward for buying our aeroplanes, who might she hold hands with next? It really is a new world order, all right.
More top stories in the latest issue:
Why the ‘deferred’ prosecution agreement in the Rolls-Royce fraud case, rather than an actual prosecution, makes life easier for Theresa May.
David Beckham was in fact unlucky not to get a gong given the knighthoods doled out to others involved in tax avoidance.
Thanks to an agreement signed by the UK and US after World War II, Donald Trump has access to more data on British citizens than he has on his own!
George Osborne cashes in again addressing another bunch of wealth managers who did very nicely thank you from his time as chancellor.
The ‘fallout’ from the failed launch of a Trident missile last year continues to undermine the myth that the UK has an independent nuclear deterrent.
How Jeremy Corbyn prefers to do a four-day week – and takes time off in lieu when he has to undertake party work at weekends.