‘Police beating’ of 14-year-old Kurd highlights claims of impunity in Turkey 


Istanbul – Five police officers are being investigated after the kidnapping and beating of a 14-year-old Kurdish boy in Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey, during Nowruz celebrations last week, local officials said.

The incident once again raises the issue of police brutality and impunity in Turkey, especially in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

The teenager, identified only as YD, was attacked on March 21, according to a statement from the Diyarbakir governor’s office. Prosecutors launched an investigation and four days later “a commissioner and four police officers … were taken into custody.” All five were suspended from duty.

Nahit Eren, chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, said on Tuesday that two officers were “illegally released” by a court under conditions of judicial control.

According to media reports, YD was walking home after celebrating Nowruz, the Kurdish spring festival, with a 10-year-old friend in Míolta, a town 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeast of the provincial capital. when police stopped them.

The young boy was released, but YD was placed in an armored police vehicle and his hands and feet were tied. He was beaten with the chin of a long-barreled gun, throttled, threatened with death and forced to say he was Turkish and denigrate his Kurdish identity, the Mezopotamya news agency reported, citing the boy’s testimony.

YD was also made to recite the Turkish national anthem and other nationalistic areas. He was eventually dumped, tied and gagged by a stream and later found at home. He was taken to hospital and released the next day.

In their statement, the officers said they detained the boy after a group started throwing stones at them. They all denied injuring YD The officers were arrested for “intentional deprivation of liberty and injury” after YD identified at least three of them.

Nujiyan Yildirim, from the Amed Labor and Democracy Platform, condemned the attack as “an attitude that promotes violence and darkness.”

“It is understood that they want to return the country to the dark days of the 1990s,” he said, speaking in protest against the detentions against Nowruz. The decade was the peak of the conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, when villages were emptied and thousands were killed or disappeared.

YD’s attack happened shortly after the ninth anniversary of the death of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who was killed by a police tear gas gun while shopping for bread in Istanbul.

​​​​​​He died after nine months in a coma following the incident in June 2013 during the Gezi Park anti-government protests.

Although the policeman responsible was sentenced to almost 17 years in prison in June 2021, he remains free pending a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in February that Turkish authorities “failed to effectively investigate any possible role of the director and/or governor of Istanbul’s law enforcement in the death of Berkin Elvan.”

In a joint report in 2022, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation and the country’s Human Rights Association described the scale of the killings and abuses by the police.

In the first 11 months of the year, 15 people, including a child, were killed in “summary executions on the grounds that they did not obey stop warnings or [by] random fire by law enforcement,” the report said.

He added that torture and ill-treatment at police stations and in prisons, as well as “on the streets and outside,” resulted in the claim that “almost the entire country today is a torture space because of the mode of government of political power. based on repression and control.”

According to data collected by the Foundation, at least 5,148 people, including 143 children, were abused in some form while in law enforcement custody between January and November. Approximately 225 people suffered ill-treatment in outer space.

The report also described a lack of prosecutions for police violence, with charges such as “resisting a public officer” more likely. More than 28,600 people were prosecuted for this offense in 2021, and only 130 people were charged with a crime related to abuse by a public official.

“The huge gap between the number of cases brought against people under torture and charges of resistance clearly shows the elements of impunity and the ways in which impunity is maintained as a systematic policy,” the report noted.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a 2022 report that kidnappings and enforced disappearances were not properly investigated in Turkey.

“There was little evidence to suggest that prosecutors had made progress in investigating the growing allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody and in prisons reported over the past five years,” the report continued. “Such allegations lead to few prosecutions by the security forces and a pervasive culture of impunity remains.”

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