LONDON (Reuters)–Torture remains common practice in Turkey–with political detainees and ordinary criminal suspects both subject to brutality–Amnesty International said on Monday.
"Amnesty International is concerned that torture is still widespread in Turkey," the rights group said in an open letter to European Union heads of government ahead of their summit in the southern French city of Nice.
The letter came as European Union foreign ministers in Brussels settled a row with Turkey over plans for its accession to the bloc–which had threatened to cloud the Nice meeting. Amnesty said Turkey should take measures to prevent torture immediately rather than in 2002 or 2003 as anticipated in an European Union report on the country’s accession efforts.
"Incommunicado detention should be abolished completely and immediately–and clear guidelines should be introduced to ensure that all detainees have immediate access to a lawyer,” the letter said.
Amnesty also called for better protection of rights activists in Turkey–highlighted the need for independent judicial appointmen’s and pressed for the removal of the requirement that superior officials give their permission before the prosecution of security services personnel accused of committing abuses.
Foreign ministers agreed a political and economic plan for Turkey to follow if it is to join. The European Union is locked in membership negotiations with a dozen countries from ex-communist central and eastern Europe and the two Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta.
Turkey is also a candidate but has yet to begin detailed discussions because of concern over its human rights record–the Cyprus issue and territorial rows with European Union member Greece.