Turkish rights NGO says conditions for prisoners in poor health alarming

Prominent pro-Kurdish NGO the Human Rights Association (İHD) has stated that in Turkey there are 1,025 prisoners in poor health, 357 of whom are seriously ill, subjected to deplorable conditions, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Friday.

Speaking at a press conference held by the İHD Diyarbakır branch and Diyarbakır Chamber of Medical Doctors, İHD Diyarbakır branch Prison Commission member Muhterem Süren emphasized the high number of prisoners in poor health.

During the briefing Süren voiced a controversial demand regarding the role of Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK), saying: “Given its current institutional structure and the fact that it is unable to act impartially due to its links to political power-holders [the government] and hence doesn’t produce reports based on evaluations compatible with scientific and objective criteria, the ATK should be deprived of its monopoly of evaluating the condition of prisoners in poor health.”

Underlining the poor physical conditions in Turkish prisons, Süren stated that these conditions affect both the physical and psychological health of prisoners and that those who were already in poor health get even worse. “When those many prisoners who had been waiting for a long time to be taken to a hospital were at last given that opportunity, they have faced maltreatment including being accompanied by guards or being treated with their handcuffs on. And if they [prisoners in poor health] object to this insulting treatment, they are sent back to prison without receiving medical treatment.”

A comprehensive report released last week by the Platform for Peace & Justice (PPJ) on prison conditions in Turkey under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 has exposed widespread human rights violations and inadequate facilities in 72 out of 80 prisons in the country, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported.

According to the findings of the report the number of toilets and shower facilities were built for the ideal capacity of prisons, but because the number of detainees staying in one ward under emergency rule is well over that capacity, every 25 to 30 detainees have to share one toilet and one shower, causing long queues. “Taking into consideration, the limited availability of hot water as well, the opportunity for taking a shower is very limited. For instance, in some prisons, such as the Bandırma Type T Prison, each detainee can only take a shower once a week, and for only 5 minutes,” said the report.

The report also covers many other practices in the prisons such as the right to healthcare, accommodation provided for the children of detainees, sending and receiving letters, fax and telegraph messages, nutrition and clothing.

With a significant number of claims of human rights violation, the prisons of Turkey are places that are closed to inspection by both national and international civil rights organizations and cannot be efficiently scrutinized by the UN or the EU.

The report said that ill-treatment such as torture, beating, nudity, people being left in physically uncomfortable positions for long periods of time and threats of rape occur during the custody period, which has been increased from one day to 30 days by an emergency decree. Also, allegations of threats to lawyers and interference in medical examinations in order to cover up the abuses have been reported. According to the PPJ report, more than 50 people have lost their lives by committing suicide due to torture and ill treatment. “Some claim that many of those deaths were extrajudicial killings but the authorities declared that they had committed suicide,” said the report.

The PPJ called on the EU, the UN and the international nongovernmental organizations to play active roles in pinpointing the violations committed in Turkey’s prisons and to raise a decisive and strong voice asking the regime to put an end to these assaults against the most fundamental rights and freedoms.

Turkey survived an attempted coup on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (turkishminute.com)

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