Türkiye: Enforced disappearances are used as a way to silence the opposition

At least 1,352 people have disappeared since the military coup in 1980 in Turkey. Enforced disappearances in custody, unidentified murders and abductions are routinely used as ways to silence opposition. Human rights defenders and relatives of the disappeared are fighting against impunity and for the truth to be revealed.

According to a study by the Human Rights Association (IHD), the remains of at least 4,201 disappeared individuals lie in the 348 mass graves, which have been identified to date. In order to hide its involvement in these murders, the Turkish state opens these cemeteries to construction, turns them into dumping sites or builds highways on them.

Since the failed coup of 2016, the characteristics of enforced disappearances have changed. In the 1990s, there was a higher rate of missing people who never resurfaced. The fate of most of them remains unknown until today. In more recent instances, the missing often come back. Their exact numbers are unknown, as they and their families drop complaints due to fear of reprisals. In the 2020 report of the Ankara Bar Association Human Rights Centre, enforced disappearances are identified as a structural problem in Turkey.

Additionally, in recent years there has been an alarming increase in the informal detention of university students, journalists and political activists, with the use of threats and ill-treatment to coerce them into becoming informants for the police. Based on applications filed with the IHD, at least 190 individuals were subjected to this practice.

This briefing note is the sixth in a series documenting the collapse of the rule of law in Turkey and is based on the work of the OMCT’s partners in Turkey. Read it in English and Turkish.

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