Human Rights

Lice Court demands police officers to be tried for torturing minor

Deniz Tekin

A Court of First Instance in Diyarbakır’s Lice district has said that the case of five police officers accused of gorturing a 14-year-old is out of its jurisdiction, arguing that they should be tried by a criminal court in keeping with Turkey’s international commitments on the prevention of torture. 

The court has recommended the officers — three of whom are in prison — be tried in a criminal court. In its reasoned decision for ruling the case to be outside of its jurisdiciton, the court highlighted  the international agreeements Turkey is party to and noted that in accordance with these covenants, Turkey has promised to take necessary measures against torture, emphasizing the systematic actions of the police were degrading, painful and hulimiating for the victim.

On March 21, the Lice Public Prosecutor’s Office prepared an indictment against the five police officers, who allegedly unlawfully detained the 14-year-old Y.D. illegally for attending Newroz celebrations, forcibly put him into an armored vehicle, and mistreated him, on charges of “deprivation of liberty” and “property damage”.

The Diyarbakır  Bar Association submitted a request for the indictment to be rejected, arguing that the crime was insufficiently defined and the defendants should also be tried for torture.

Indictment claims victim statements are ‘abstract’

Evaluating the indictment and objections, the Lice District Court ruled that the defendants should be tried for “torture against a minor or a person who cannot defend himself physically or mentally” and “aggravated plunder”, and relayed the case file to a Criminal Court. The court also ruled that the three detained police officers remain in custody. 

The court dismissed the claim that was in the indictment brought to it that the minor’s statement was “abstract”.

The court noted that Y.D’s claim that he was tied up by the police who unlawfully detained him was confirmed by the statements of the defendant police officers. 

The Decision stated that the victim clearly appears to be a child in terms of physical appearance and height, and there was no dispute or conflict of interest to warrant him making false accusations against the defendant police officers. It drew attention to the fact that witness statements and the medical report supported the fact that the victim was battered by the officers.

Torture banned under international agreements

The decision underlined that the defendants acted in concert and it also referred to international agreements banning torture. It underlined that Turkey has committed to taking necessary measures to prevent acts constituting torture and other cruel treatment as part of international agreements to which it is a party.

The decision pointed to the 5th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, which states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” It also reminded that the “United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” and the “Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, to both of which Turkey is a party, impose obligations on the states to fight against torture, and ban other actions that constitute torture and ill-treatment.

Commenting on the verdict, Mehdi Özdemir, Vice President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, said that in Turkey, law enforcement officers accused or tried for violating human rights are usually left unpunished due to privileged trials, opening the door to gross violations of human rights. 

He pointed out that the Lice Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ignored the crime of torture in the indictment it had prepared, even though violent acts of the police officers were detected within the scope of the investigation. 

Özdemir said that as a result of the Bar Associaiton’s objections to the indictment, the court ruled that the defendants should be tried within the scope of the crime of torture, which is hopeful for an effective trial, contrary to the impunity policy applied in cases and investigations involving law enforcement officers.

Previously, Y.D, a 14-year-old resident of the Lice district of Diyarbakir, was forcibly taken and put into an armored vehicle by police on the grounds that he participated in Newroz celebrations on March 21. 

The boy was left near a stream seven kilometers outside the city. A local farmer took Y.D., who wasn’t officially detained, to Lice State Hospital.