Van High Security Prison faces allegations of rights violations

Van High Security Prison is facing allegations of arbitrary practices affecting inmates’ access to healthcare and legal consultations, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Inmates reported difficulties accessing medical services due to actions of the guard responsible for the infirmary. Allegations include manipulating the queue for medical visits, delaying urgent cases and verbally abusing inmates.

In addition, the use of plastic barriers in visitation rooms to separate inmates and visitors obstruct face-to-face interactions with lawyers. These barriers were installed during the pandemic as a health precaution.

The administration’s new regulations have also altered the dynamics of family visits. Inmates are no longer permitted to sit next to their visiting family members, affecting in particular the children of inmates, who are deprived of physical contact with their parents.

“Now, even that small consolation is denied to our children, which used to bring them a week’s happiness from just a 50-minute visit,” a family member of an inmate said.

Visitors also face stringent search procedures that have been described as invasive and distressing, particularly affecting women and contributing to a sense of violation.

Increased frequency of cell searches, going from twice a month to three times a week, has also been reported. This has disrupted inmates’ living conditions and adversely affected their morale.

Recep Gölcük, the warden of the facility, is reportedly a major contributor to the arbitrary practices causing unrest among the prisoners. Gölcük is known to have chastised some guards, remarking, “You are too soft on them [the inmates].”

Poor prison conditions, arbitrary practices and mistreatment are systemic problems in Turkey about which local rights groups, parliamentarians and state authorities receive hundreds of complaints every year.

The Human Rights Association (İHD), one of Turkey’s major advocacy groups, has released a report on prisons located in the Central Anatolian region that found a total of 7,051 rights violations in 2023.

Although victims can include people detained or imprisoned on any grounds, several documents in recent years have indicated that the abuses are more pervasive and systematic when it comes to people imprisoned on political grounds such as their alleged ties to political and civil networks are not approved of by the government.

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