Police Subject Romani Boy to Electric Shock in Turkey
29 October 2003
At the end of February 2003, Turkish police tortured N.L., a 14-year-old Romani boy, in the northeastern city of Edirne, on the border to Bulgaria, according to his testimony taken during an ERRC field mission to Turkey on March 24, 2003. N.L. told the ERRC that, on the day in question, he was working as a shoe polisher in front of a McDonalds in the city centre when some Romani children surrounded a non-Romani woman and stole her wallet while begging. N.L. said that he left the area and went to a nearby park after the wallet had been stolen, because he was afraid that the police would think that he had done it. According to N.L., the police, whom the woman had called, soon entered the park and accused him of having stolen the wallet. N.L. was then taken to a nearby police station. At the police station, the police again accused N.L. of stealing the wallet and asked him where the money from the wallet was. N.L. informed the ERRC that he told the police that he did not steal the wallet and one of the officers began to viciously beat him all over his body with a truncheon. While beating N.L., the officer reportedly stated that it would be better for him if he confessed. N.L. denied stealing the wallet again, at which point the officer took him to another room in the police station. According to N.L., there was a tank full of water in the room. The officer ordered N.L. to take off his shoes and socks and step into the tank. N.L. reported that, as he stood in the tank, the officer placed electric cables in the water and shocked him until he lost consciousness. "It was a terrible feeling. I cannot remember how long the officer treated me to electric shock," stated N.L..
N.L. told the ERRC that, when he regained consciousness, he saw his younger brother in the station and the officers released them. N.L.'s brother reportedly told him that he had also been arrested by the police and brought to the police station. N.L. stated that the police also brutally beat his brother while in custody, until he confessed that N.L. had stolen the wallet and given it to his father, although this was not true. When N.L. and his brother arrived at home after leaving the police station, police officers were at their house and took their father, Mr P.L., to the police station for questioning. According to N.L., his father was not beaten while in custody because the person who had actually stolen the wallet had been caught in the meantime.
Other abusive police actions reported to the ERRC included repeated destructive raids on Romani homes and businesses. A Romani man, who wished to remain anonymous, in the Beyazit Romani settlement in the northeastern city of Bursa informed the ERRC that police often raid Romani homes and the coffee shop in the settlement. During such raids, the police reportedly enter Romani homes under the pretext of searching for something, without ever stating what exactly they are looking for. The Romani man stated that the police have never shown a search warrant before entering the homes and throw the personal belongings of the Romani owners all over the place. The man testified that the day before the ERRC visit on March 22, 2003, for no apparent reason, police had entered the coffee shop in the settlement. The police reportedly forced all of the Roma to leave, overturning all of the furniture in the place and throwing everything else on the ground. During the ERRC visit, the ERRC witnessed the police enter the coffee shop and force everyone inside to leave.
On August 8, 1988, Turkey ratified the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), committing to prevent and punish acts of torture. Article 1(1) of the CAT states, "For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions." On August 15, 2000, Turkey signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states at Article 7, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. [?]." Information on past abuses of Roma rights in Turkey can be found on the ERRC's Internet website at: www.errc.org.