The annual report on the violation of human rights in Turkish prisons published on Thursday by the Diyarbakır Bar Association has revealed that rights violations increased in 2021 and that prison conditions had worsened.
The report said that as of November 30, 295,754 people were in prison, 1,977 of them minors. According to the report mistreatment increased in prisons, but claims of mistreatment were not investigated and the perpetrators were often not held accountable.
Lawyer Diyar Çetedir, from the bar, said Turkish prisons had become centers for torture and mistreatment, where inmates were subject to humiliating and degrading practices. She added that the only way to stop such practices was to hold perpetrators accountable and to have transparent and effective investigations into claims of mistreatment.
In some cases inmates who wanted to obtain a hospital report documenting injuries sustained during mistreatment or torture were prevented from doing so by prison authorities. Prison doctors were also reluctant to issue reports confirming mistreatment.
The report said minors were not spared as they were subjected to physical violence by both prison guards and other inmates. Administrators were found to be ineffective in preventing conflicts among their prison populations.
Those inmates who did not have money to pay were not given cleaning products or face masks. The lack of protective products was criticized especially since prisoners with COVID-19 increased over the last year.
Moreover, quarantine cells continued to be filthy, damp and poorly maintained. Sick inmates who needed to visit the hospital frequently were made to stay in quarantine cells for days and sometimes even weeks.
The situation of critically ill prisoners was alarming, said the report. Over the year, a number of sick inmates had died in prison because they were not released to seek proper treatment. “The death of sick prisoners can only be prevented with improved regulations where they receive better quality care and are released in time,” the report said.
Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized the authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said ill prisoners were not released until they were at the point of no return.
According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society.