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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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KHRP Welcomes Convictions in Case of Death in Custody
Thursday, 03 June 2010 17:06

On 1 June 2010 — in a rare verdict to be delivered by the Turkish judiciary — the Istanbul 14th High Court convicted 19 members of the police and prison services for their complicity in the torture and beating to death of a young political activist, Engin Çeber, in October 2008.  KHRP dispatched a mission to observe proceedings in the trial and wrote a subsequent report which detailed the failings across the judicial and legal apparatus that led to Mr Çeber’s death.

Engin Çeber was arrested along with three other individuals and died weeks later in police custody, after suffering from a brain haemorrhage, with his autopsy revealing that his injuries were consistent with severe torture. The trial of 60 prison guards, police officers and gendarmes accused of responsibility widely came to be seen as a test of Turkey’s willingness to adhere to the human rights standards laid down as part of its EU accession bid and to hold members of the security forces to account in cases of alleged abuse. Interestingly, at the conclusion of the day’s hearing, the judges overseeing the case announced that they would be withdrawing from the trial following accusations from lawyers representing the complainants that they had displayed a bias in favour of the defence.

Of the 19 now convicted for the killing, the life sentences meted out to the Deputy Director of Metris Prison and two guards are particularly noteworthy, given the longstanding impunity of state officials accused of committing acts of torture and ill-treatment.  Other sentences for those implicated included seven-year terms for two police officers for the torture of Çeber and two other activists whilst in police custody, and three years for the prison doctor, who was found to have falsified the medical records of inmates on their arrival at the facility.

‘Despite the Government’s self-declared ‘zero tolerance’ policy on torture, KHRP has long-fought to highlight the ongoing impunity and lack of accountability of staff working in the prison system and the role of medical personnel in covering up abuses’, said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz.  ‘KHRP hopes that the convictions establish a precedent to which future allegations and proceedings against state officials are held.  We also believe this outcome should initiate a wider review of the conditions and treatment of those held in custody and call on all concerned parties to continue to both scrutinise allegations of torture and ill-treatment within Turkey and to press for a campaign to ensure substantive change.’

Copies of KHRP’s trial observation report, The Death of Engin Çeber: Prosecuting Torture and Ill-Treatment within the Turkish Detention System, are available in print on the KHRP website shop, or for free as a download.