Warsaw, 17 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - Turkey and Russia were criticized today at the OSCE human rights conference in Warsaw about the use of torture in dealing with prisoners. Both countries pledged to stop those practices which are forbidden by international law.
The delegations from Turkey and Russia at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting admitted there were shortcomings and flaws in the treatment of people in prisons in their countries. They pledged to improve the law as well as the situation of prisoners.
Douglas A. Johnson, a member of the U.S. delegation, said Turkey is the chief violator as regards the treatment of prisoners.
"Despite its many commitments and promises, torture continues unabated in Turkey," he said. "Ironically, those who seek to assist the victims of torture in Turkey, rather than gaining the support and encouragement they deserve, are themselves subject to harassment and intimidation by the Turkish authorities."
Johnson also criticized Russia saying there is evidence law enforcement and correctional officials torture detainees and prisoners. He said some officials unofficially admitted that they use torture to coerce confessions from suspects, often by cutting off oxygen to a gas mask, a form of torture known as "the elephant."
"Brutality by the guards is rampant and notorious," he said.
The U.S official said detailed reports of torture can also be cited in the republic of Serbia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and the Ukraine. He said the cost of opening new treatment centers for torture victims around the world is so high that the OSCE nations should dramatically increase their contributions to the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
According to Johnson, the Voluntary Fund had only $3.2 million last year to help the victims while a minimal need is $25 million annually.
Inge Genefke, Secretary General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims said torture is still being used in one third of the UN countries. She said it was the duty of the OSCE to combat torture and increase the construction of the rehabilitation centers for the victims.
Yalin Eralp, the Turkish permanent representative in the OSCE, defended the bad image of his country, saying that the international reports are distorting the situation in Turkey.
"I get an impression (from the reports) that everybody is torturing everybody in Turkey,' he said.
Eralp said that tough measures were in many instances used only against prisoners linked with terrorist groups. He admitted, however, that Turkey has not eliminated yet the use of torture, but "the country has resolved to fight against them."
"Torture and ill treatment (of prisoners) is unacceptable," Eralp concluded.
A Russian delegate said Russia adopted a new Penal Code last June eliminating use of torture. The official said that the situation in prisons is difficult. Most prisons are overcrowded and, on an average, one prisoner is squeezed into one square meter of space as compared with an international standard of four meters. This contributes to tense relations between prisoners and the guards as well as between the prisoners themselves.