Torture, Inhuman Treatment and Conditions in Turkish Prisons: 2022 in Review

Turkey has experienced a marked resurgence of torture and ill-treatment in custody over the past seven years and especially since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces.

The enormous gulf between Turkey’s constitutional provisions for the protection of human rights and the grim reality on the ground continued to grow during the year. In a landmark decision, Turkey’s Constitutional Court in November 2020 found a government decree that granted immunity to civilians who were involved in criminal activities to suppress the abortive putsch to be constitutional, hence sanctioning the country’s culture of impunity at the highest level.

Turkey is party to several international conventions that have different review and inspection mechanisms such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. According to information published on the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the country is currently party to 16 UN human rights conventions and 121 of the CoE’s 225 conventions and has signed 31 other conventions. Yet in the recent past the Turkish government has continuously disregarded the provisions of the constitution and failed to uphold its international obligations.

The CoE’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) confirmed in two reports published in August 2020 the continued existence of ill-treatment, torture, informal questioning and restricted access to a lawyer as well as a fundamentally flawed medical screening system in Turkish detention facilities.

According to the Directorate General of Prisons and Detention Houses, there are 384 prisons with a 286,737 inmates capacity. However, prisons are holding 336,315 people as of December, 49,518 people or 15.9 percent over capacity. The Turkish government has allocated 8.7 billion liras for the construction of 36 new prisons in the next four years, which will significantly increase Turkey’s already high incarceration rate.

In addition to torture and mistreatment, strip-search is an ongoing practice in Turkish prisons. In January 2021 the European Court of Human Rights found strip-searches to constitute degrading treatment when not justified by compelling security reasons and/or due to the way they were conducted. But the practice has been used frequently by Turkish security officers against people suspected or convicted of political crimes, especially since the coup attempt.

In addition, human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing seriously ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment. 73 inmates have died in Turkish prisons in 2022, 39 of whom died of serious illness and 34 by suicide, according to a report by Peoples’ Democratic Party deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

Here is some of the most important news from 2022 in the field of torture, inhuman treatment and conditions of Turkish prisons:

Man captured by MİT abroad over terrorist links claimed he was tortured in Turkey for 87 days

Savaş Çelik

Savaş Çelik who was reported to have been captured abroad due to alleged terrorist links and brought to Turkey in July claimed that he was actually transported to the country in April and tortured for 87 days before his capture was covered by state media. More..

Images of inmate who died in Silivri Prison showed signs of severe beating and mistreatment

Ferhat Yılmaz

Images of Ferhat Yılmaz, one of the inmates who was allegedly subject to mistreatment by guards in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison, emerged in April showing him badly injured in a hospital bed. In one photograph Yılmaz’s face appears bruised and his nose broken. More..

 

Strip-search is an ongoing practice in Turkish prisons, opposition deputy said

Strip-search is an ongoing practice in Turkish prisons, HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said in December. In his speech in the parliament, Gergerlioğlu read letters from female inmates and visitors who had been subjected to strip-searches in prisons. Children have also been forced to endure such embarrassing procedures, Gergerlioğlu said. More..

European rights court fined Turkey for unlawful strip-search in prison

The ECtHR has faulted Turkey for violating the private and family life of Elif Kaya, who was subjected to a strip-search in prison in 2013. More..

 

Turkish prisons at 16 percent overcapacity: report

Turkey’s Directorate General of Prisons and Detention Houses revealed that there are 384 prisons with the capacity of 286,737 inmates. Turkish prisons are holding 336,315 people as of December, 49,518 people or 15.9 percent over capacity. The ruling AKP has allocated 8.7 billion lira for the construction of 36 new prisons in the next four years, which will significantly increase Turkey’s already high incarceration rate. More..

Two inmates in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison took their own lives after allegedly being subjected to severe beating and mistreatment by prison guards

Two inmates in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison took their own lives after allegedly being subjected to severe beating and mistreatment by prison guards. Prison guards allegedly beat inmates Coşkun Ağaca, Abdülmenav Çetin, Halil Kasan, Tolga Okçu, Orhan Hacıoğlu, H. Masal, Ali, Serhan Yılmaz and another inmate whose name was not disclosed, on April 6. The guards reportedly stepped on the inmates heads with their boots and threatened to kill them. More..

Members of anti-gov’t Furkan Foundation mistreated by police

Members of the Furkan Foundation, an anti-government religious group, in May were beaten by police officers as they were trying to make a public statement in southern Turkey’s Adana province. More..

 Former military cadets were severely beaten by guards in Turkey’s Silivri Prison

Former military cadets who are incarcerated in İstanbul’s notorious Silivri Prison for allegedly participating in an abortive putsch in Turkey in July 2016 were severely beaten by prison guards in January.More..

Claims of mistreatment and psychological abuse arose in Afyon T-type prison

Family members of inmates in Turkey’s Afyon T-type prison claimed prison authorities subjected prisoners to mistreatment and psychological abuse. One man who wanted to remain anonymous said his father had recently been transferred to Afyon Prison and that during a recent visit had said prison authorities frequently threatened inmates and psychologically abused them. More..

Former general serving life sentence on coup charges died in prison

Kemal Mutlum, a former brigadier general who was serving an aggravated life sentence on conviction of coup charges following an abortive putsch in 2016, died in prison in November. More..

Mutlum was not released despite a medical report from Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) dated September 12 stating that he was not fit to remain in prison. More..

Wife of former officer claimed she suffered miscarriage after police beating

Hacer Karaşal, the wife of former gendarmerie 1st Lt. Recep Karaşal, said in an interview that she suffered a miscarriage after being beaten by police officers at the Ankara Courthouse on January 25, 2019. More..

Istanbul prosecutor declined to pursue case against police officers who allegedly tortured detainee

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office declined to pursue a case against police officers in Istanbul’s Fatih district who were accused of mistreatment and torture, despite a Constitutional Court ruling requesting a thorough investigation into the accusations. More..

Female inmates subjected to mistreatment and humiliating practices in Bakırköy Prison

Lawyers from the Civil Society in the Penal System said in June that female inmates in Bakırköy Prison were subject to mistreatment and humiliating practices. More..

Guards mistreated inmate in Turkish prison, video showed

A video recording of inmate Şehmuz Emen being mistreated in southern Turkey’s Adana E-Type Prison was made public in July. Emen was apparently stripped down to his underwear and dragged into a one-person cell in February by guards after asking if his petition to see a hospital doctor had been accepted. More..

Man detained for links to PKK tortured at Istanbul police headquarters

Mehdi Mıhçı, who was detained in August for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was subjected to torture at Istanbul police headquarters. According to the lawyers from the Association for the Freedom of Lawyers (ÖHD), he was repeatedly beaten, threatened and raped with a baton over the four days. More..

Turkish prosecutor declined to pursue case of inmate who was tortured and found dead in prison

A Turkish public prosecutor has declined to pursue the case of Garibe Gezer, who was reportedly beaten and sexually harassed by prison guards and found dead in her cell on December 9, 2021. The Jin News Agency released a video showing the mistreatment by the prison guards. More..

Deniz Aktaş and Ebru Yiğit

They will not discourage us,’ said women subjected to strip-searches in police custody

Two inmates, Deniz Aktaş and Ebru Yiğit, from the left-wing Socialist Women’s Assembly (SKM) said they were subjected to unlawful strip-searches in August while in custody at Istanbul Police headquarters and felt they were sexually violated. More..

Retired general serving life sentence for role in 1997 postmodern coup died in prison

Vural Avar, one of a group of retired generals who were imprisoned in 2021 due to their role in a military intervention in Turkey in 1997, known as the Feb. 28 post-modern coup, died in his sleep in prison in December. More..

Avar was issued a medical report 22 days before his demise that said he was healthy and fit to remain in prison. More…

Letters by inmate prior to his death revealed severe mistreatment

Letters written by inmate Mehmet Bozan, 45, prior to his death revealed he had been subjected to beating, death threats and psychological pressure. Bozan was found dead in Ankara’s Sincan Prison in August. Before his death he had written 12 letters to the Civil Society in the Penal System saying he was being severely mistreated and in the event of his death, the prison administration was responsible. Bozan said he did not feel safe in prison and feared being killed during the mistreatment he was receiving. More…

Silivri Prison inmates complained of ill-treatment, poor prison conditions

Inmates at Silivri Prison in İstanbul said they had been mistreated and that prison conditions were very poor, according to a report by the Turkish parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights Investigations, which visited the penal facility on June 16. More..

Ankara court blocked access to news and tweets about torture allegations against police officer

The Ankara 6th Criminal Court of Peace ordered the removal of news and tweets regarding torture allegations against police officer Abdulkadir Türkyılmaz, who works at the counterterrorism branch of the Ankara Police Department. The ruling, which included a total of 2,071 URLs in 102 pages, also removed social media posts featuring a photo of Türkyılmaz and allegations of his involvement in the torture of several individuals. More..

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