Watchdog investigation contradicts defense of prison administration accused of mistreatment

An investigation conducted by the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TIHEK) in an Ankara prison has found factual inaccuracies in the prison administration’s defense statement against accusations of mistreatment, the BirGün newspaper reported on Thursday.

Based on security camera footage, the investigation established that inmates were being held in a body search room for more than 10 minutes, as opposed to the prison administration’s claim that they were there for only two or three minutes. TIHEK’s report also said batons and belts were discovered in the room, the inside of which is not under security camera surveillance.

The report documented a number of other issues, such as overcrowding. It said more than 2,000 inmates were currently held in the facility, which is designed to safely hold 1,724. Some inmates were forced to sleep on the floor due to the overcrowding.

TIHEK also reported that the prison infirmary did not comply with hygiene requirements and that a total of 344 disciplinary sanctions were imposed on inmates in the last year.

The agency also visited a juvenile detention facility located in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır where it noted a lack of employee training about human rights and the prohibition of torture.

Torture in custody and prisons is a systematic problem in Turkey where local rights groups, parliamentarians and state authorities receive hundreds of complaints every year.

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

Another abuse that has made the headlines in recent years was the systematic and arbitrary strip-searches of detainees and prisoners.

In June of this year the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights adopted a resolution condemning “the systematic or widespread use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment” in countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

TIHEK was established in 2016 by the Turkish government to monitor human rights violations, prevent torture and mistreatment and ensure the right to equality of all members of society. However, it has been harshly criticized for failing to fulfill its mandate of investigating allegations made by prisoners.

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