ICCPR Case Digest




Submission: 2020.01.29

View Adopted: 2022.10.25

Mümüne Açikkollu v. Türkiye

Detention, torture and death of a teacher in police custody due to alleged terrorist links

Substantive Issues
  • Arbitrary arrest
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Fair trial
  • Right to life
  • Torture / ill-treatment
Relevant Articles
  • Article 14
  • Article 2 - OP1
  • Article 3 - OP1
  • Article 5.2 (b) - OP1
  • Article 6
  • Article 7
  • Article 9
Full Text


The author is a national of Türkiye and submitted the claim on her own behalf and on behalf of her deceased husband. The author’s husband worked as a teacher in a private educational institution that was affiliated with the Gülen movement, a faith-based, non-political, cultural and educational movement based on the views of Turkish-Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen who is seen as the rival of the State party’s President and thus considered a terrorist organization by the State party. In July 2016, the husband was informed of his dismissal from the school and the next day officials raided the author’s home, handcuffed and beat him, seized his personal items and arrested him. During the period of arrest, medical check-ups indicated he was tortured and beaten, along with his worsening health conditions. A month later, on 5 August 2016, the author’s husband had convulsions as seen in video surveillance footage from his cell, was taken to a hospital and was then declared dead. After the death, the author received a letter stating he had been found innocent. The author claims the State party violated  articles 6 (right to life), 7 (torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment), 9 (liberty and security of person) and 14 (equality before courts) of the Covenant.


The author had an application pending to the Constitutional Court, but the Committee noted her arguments that this did not offer reasonable prospects of success, since due to non-enforcement by lower courts and bias towards the government, applications of torture have never succeeded in the past. As the burden of proof was on the government to prove effectiveness of the individual complaint and as the State party did not show the same, the Committee held that it was not precluded by non-exhaustion of domestic remedies. It considered the State party’s arguments intimately linked to the merits and proceeded to consider the claims admissible.


The State party argued that it had declared a nationwide state of emergency and applied for derogation from the Covenant under article 4, however, the Committee recalled that the guarantee against arbitrary detention was non-derogable. Loss of life in custody created a presumption of arbitrary deprivation of life by State authorities which could only be rebutted through a thorough, prompt, impartial investigation establishing the State party’s compliance with article 6. The State party’s inability to effectively explain the signs of mistreatment of the husband led to the Committee to conclude that the State party failed to observe due diligence in protecting him from torture and ill-treatment and protecting his life in detention, thereby violating articles 6 and 7. Its failure to conduct a proper investigation caused mental suffering to the author, violating their rights under article 7.

Further, regarding the arbitrariness of arrest, the State party’s basis of arrest indicated it had not substantiated its detention based on necessity and reasonableness. Recalling that an article 4 derogation could not deprive a person of liberty unreasonably, it found the State party’s actions violative of article 9 as well and further decided to not examine the claims under article 14.


The State Party, in furtherance of its obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy, is obligated, inter alia:

  • (a) To take appropriate steps to conduct a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the circumstances of the author’s husband’s arbitrary arrest, torture and death;
  • (b) To prosecute those responsible;
  • (c) To provide adequate compensation to the author and her children; and
  • (d) To take all necessary steps to prevent the occurrence of similar violations in the future.


Deadline: 25 April 2023

More information on the case:

Turkish Minute – UN Committee faults Turkey in case of teacher who died in custody after arrest over Gulen links

By: Smrithi Ramakrishnan

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