NGO report on Turkey’s prisons highlights widespread mistreatment, rights violations

The Human Rights Association (İHD), one of Turkey’s leading advocacy groups, has released its 2023 report on prisons, stating that at least 23,899 rights violations occurred behind bars throughout the year.

The report was released over the weekend at a press conference.

The İHD said the rights violations were documented based on applications made by inmates, their lawyers or their family members.

The alleged violations were received from 147 facilities located in 50 provinces.

At least 17,218 alleged incidents were related to torture and ill-treatment, including beatings, threats, insults and strip-searches.

The report also noted arbitrary restrictions on outdoor activities, damage to personal belongings during ward searches and restrictions on communications with the outside world.

The İHD said the release of at least 426 prisoners eligible for parole was delayed by prison monitoring boards, a newly instituted body with discretionary powers over the decision to grant parole.

These boards have been the subject of criticism for their almost systematic denial of parole to political prisoners on such arbitrary grounds as “lack of remorse.” Rights groups have accused them of acting like courtrooms and aggravating the persecution of political prisoners.

The report also noted obstruction of access to healthcare and violations of privacy.

The İHD said there were 329,000 inmates as of May 2, highlighting the ongoing problem of overcapacity despite plans to construct new facilities and representing a dramatic increase of 78,000 over the previous eight months.

Turkey remains the leader in the number of prisoners in Europe, according to the 2022 Council of Europe (CoE) Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations report. In January 2022 Turkey accounted for over a third of all prisoners in CoE member states, having experienced a surge of 369 percent in its prison population between 2005 and 2022.

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