The Prisons Commission of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD) in a press statement last Thursday said the number of sick inmates in Turkish prisons is considerably higher than revealed by the Ministry of Justice.
According to the statement there were 1,564 ailing inmates as of March, 591 of whom were in critical condition. The İHD findings suggest the number is higher today, but the official figures are unknown as the Justice Ministry does not share information regarding sick inmates.
The İHD lists several obstacles standing in the way of proper treatment of sick inmates, including overcrowded wards, delay in referrals to the infirmary or hospital, medical exams under physical restrictions such as handcuffs, lack of proper ventilation, poor hygiene, malnutrition, solitary confinement for inmates who can’t take care of themselves and a lack of adequate health professionals.
The İHD’s Prisons Commission drew attention to rights violations in prisons and demanded better conditions for the inmates, especially with the difficulties arising from the pandemic.
The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation, which excludes political prisoners such as politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws, prompted calls from the UN and the EU for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.
Amnesty International and 26 other rights groups and civil society organizations from Turkey and around the world released a joint statement in March calling for the release of Turkey’s political prisoners, particularly those with a high risk of complications due to COVID-19.
Since April four seriously ill prisoners over the age of 70 have died in penal institutions; five inmates suffering from cancer died shortly after they were released; and 16 died of chronic illnesses while imprisoned.