Vast majority of police officers suspected of excessive use of force go unpunished

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Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has stated that as few as 12 of 2,594 police officers who were suspected of excessive use of force in the past five years have faced some kind of punishment for it, local media reported on Friday.

Soylu on Friday provided data on legal proceedings faced by personnel of the Security Directorate General and the Gendarmerie Command for misconduct, excessive use of force and unlawful intervention in the past five years in a written reply to a question posed by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Süleyman Bülbül.

The minister said investigations have been launched into a total of 2,594 police officers in the past five years on charges of excessive use of force and that only 12 of them resulted in punishment for the officers, revealing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s policy of impunity in cases concerning Turkish officials involved in alleged human rights violations.

Investigations launched into 36 of the officers on charges of excessive use of force are still ongoing, Soylu added.

According to the minister, 881 police officers have received disciplinary punishment for charges related to torture and ill-treatment in the past five years, while investigations into 731 more on the same charges are still ongoing.

Regarding the Gendarmerie Command personnel, Soylu said criminal complaints have been filed for 108 officers on allegations of torture and ill-treatment in the past five years. While in 84 of the cases the allegations that led to investigations were found to be baseless, two of the officers faced punishment, and investigations launched into 22 more are still ongoing, Soylu added.

The minister further said 283 “neighborhood watchmen” (bekçi), also operating under the Security Directorate General, have faced legal proceedings on charges related to the use of violence in the past five years.

The neighborhood watchman system, which was eliminated in 1990, was reintroduced by the AKP government at the instruction of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2017.

The watchmen are allowed to carry out ID checks, take people into custody, work with the gendarmerie, which serves as local law enforcement in Turkey’s rural areas, and collect evidence.

In Turkey, the entrenched practice of impunity towards law enforcement officers and the allegations of torture and ill-treatment have reached unprecedented levels in more recent years, especially after an attempted coup on July 15, 2016. Despite increasingly persistent allegations, rare formal investigations and prosecutions continue to create a strong perception that impunity for acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including excessive use of force, has virtually become the norm in the country.

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