Strip Search in Custody and Detention  Panel Discussion

Strip Search in Custody and Detention
16 January 2021 | YouTube Panel Discussion 

On January 16, 2021, Set Them Free hosted Kiran Nazish, Founding Director of Coalition for Women in Journalism (CWJ) and Hafza Kesinci, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Movement for Unconditional Justice to discuss “Strip Search in Custody and Detention”. 

Even though it has been an unfortunate common practice of Turkish custodies, the strip search, a serious violation of human rights, came to the fore when 30 young women were unlawfully detained and strip searched while in police custody in Usak, Turkey in August 2020. Besides this degrading incident, detainees were subjected to ill-treatment in custody. 

Lately, strip search was again brought to the attention of the general public as several prominent human rights advocates, journalists and Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, HDP Member of Parliament, encouraged victims to share their personal experiences of this violation and mobilized the civil society to urge government officials to take an action to end strip search in custodies. The movement became viral in a couple of days as countless women, as well as men, shared their stories on social media. 

The UN Bangkok Rule 20 indicates “Alternative screening methods, such as scans, shall be developed to replace strip searches and invasive body searches, in order to avoid the harmful psychological and possible physical impact of invasive body searches”.

At this virtual discussion, Hafza Girdap, Co-Founder of Set Them Free and Executive Director of AST hosted Kiran Nazish, Founding Director of Coalition for Women in Journalism (CWJ) and Hafza Kesinci, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Movement for Unconditional Justice to raise awareness on the degrading treatment of strip search and discussed how to combat such violations in collaboration with global human rights organizations, and advocates. 

Kiran Nazish first discussed that an increasing number of women journalists are subjected to strip search, especially in authoritarian countries where the space of free press and media is shrinking. Ms. Nazish said “there is an inaccessibility of the human rights organizations to intervene in countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia”. She also added “even if we have lawyers and resources on the ground, once a journalist or an activist is taken to detention, there is not much you can do. You are at the hand of the authorities with the ultimate power”. Ms. Nazish underlined the role of local civil society organizations and women’s rights movements to cover strip searching more intimately and  put a pressure on the governments. 

Hafsa Kesinci presented an overview of the violation of strip search in Turkey. Ms. Kesinci said “the regulations indicate that the search of body cavity can only be performed by the presence of a prison doctor in the necessary conditions”. She said “strip search has previously been conducted during the Gezi Park protests, and most recently at the Bogazici protests”. According to Ms. Kesinci, “the discriminative search that is incompatible with human dignity violates both the constitution and international law”.