Slight Improvement Seen in Turkish Torture Record

STRASBOURG (Reuters)–The Council of Europe announced on Thursday Decmeber 7 that some forms of torture were still common in Turkey’s notorious prison system–but added that the worst abuses were on the decline in at least one jail.

In two separate reports–the Council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture noticed an improvement in the treatment of prisoners in an anti-terrorist police holding center in Istanbul over the past two years.

"This is clearly a step in the right direction," the report stated–but stressed that the situation was still far from perfect.

"The recourse to methods like sleep deprivation for several days–prolonged standing and threats aimed at detainees and their families is still widespread," it said–reporting on visits to the center in July.

When the Council’s committee visited the same jail in early 1999 it reported that some prisoners had complained of appalling treatment–adding that a few men "were visibly terrified."

"Allegations concerned–in particular–prolonged standing–blows to the body–twisting of genitals and hanging by the arms," it said–adding that medical experts had confirmed some of the accusations. Several allegations concerned electric shock treatment.

The 41-nation Council of Europe–which monitors human rights and democracy in the region–has repeatedly denounced Turkey’s treatment of prisoners in recent years.

Although the Council is independent of the European Union–the EU has openly endorsed its work and has made it clear to Turkey that it needs to reassess its commitment to human rights if it wished to join the 15-country bloc.

Earlier this week Amnesty International savaged Turkey in a report–saying that torture was "widespread" in the country’s prisons–with both political prisoners and ordinary criminal suspects subject to brutality.

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