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Forced Confession as a Ritual of Sovereignty

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The Case of Diyarbakır Military Prison in Turkey

image of Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law

Torture and confession are like ‘the dark twins’ as Foucault argued. Definitions of torture from the 3rd century to the 21st century indicate confession as its primary motive. Systematic use of torture and confession has also characterised the Turkish state’s policy in Diyarbakır Military Prison against the Kurdish prisoners in the early 1980s. The detainees and the prisoners were routinely forced to repent and confess regardless of their organisational links or the crimes attributed to them. Wide, systematic and routine use of forced confessions in the prison showed that the significance of confession policy in Diyarbakır prison does not arise from their truth status or their effectiveness in intelligence gathering, but from their truth-effects. Although intelligence gathering was one of the objectives of the regime, the policy of confession was used primarily to establish dominance over the accused and to discipline and control the prisoners and the Kurdish population. Drawing upon Foucault, I will further argue that forced production of confession functioned as a ritual of truth-production and subjectification binding the prisoner to the dominant regime of power and truth and transforming him into a docile and obedient subject.

Affiliations: 1: PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge,


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