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Turkey’s human rights bodies demand closure of notorious ‘well-type’ prisons

Leading human rights organisations in Turkey call for the closure of notorious 'well-type' prisons, infamous for their harsh conditions and violations.



By Medyanews

June 3, 2024


Credits @FFHR.CZ




Turkey’s top human rights organisations have issued a collective demand for the closure of specific types of prisons, termed “well-type” prisons, notorious for torture, mistreatment and human rights violations. These calls were made during a press release on Saturday at the Human Rights Association (İHD) headquarters, highlighting the urgent need for prison reform.


The statement emphasised that these facilities, including S Type, Y Type and High-Security Prisons, are designed to promote social isolation and dehumanisation, which severely impact inmates’ mental and physical health. The İHD, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (THIV) and the Human Rights Branch of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) pointed to numerous reports and letters from prisoners detailing the harsh conditions, such as lack of sunlight, inadequate ventilation and extreme isolation, which lead to psychological and physical health problems.


Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı of the TTB highlighted that these prisons’ conditions are conducive to developing psychiatric disorders and other health issues. Prisoners spend up to 22.5 hours a day in solitary confinement, which is akin to sensory deprivation, leading to severe mental health deterioration. She also noted that inmates often face mistreatment, including being denied access to books or outdoor activities, exacerbating their isolation and stress.


The overcrowding in Turkish prisons, with over 329,000 inmates housed in facilities designed for 295,000, further exacerbates the situation. Despite legislative changes aimed at reducing the prison population, the number of inmates has rapidly increased, reflecting the ongoing systemic issues within the Turkish penal system.


The organisations demanded that new prison constructions be halted, severely ill prisoners be released immediately and the architecture of existing prisons be reformed to uphold human dignity. They stressed that imprisonment should not be used as a tool for punishment but rather as a last resort, calling for an overhaul of the justice system to align with human rights standards.


There have been numerous reports of mistreatment in Turkish prisons in recent times. A Kurdish prisoner by the name of Ercan Çakar died in suspicious circumstances amid claims of torture and misconduct in May, in Iğdır S-Type Prison in Turkey, sparking calls for a thorough investigation.


One week prior, Senem Eriş, a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party, was subjected to repeated strip searches and forcibly dragged to a judicial ward after her arrest in İstanbul, Turkey, her lawyers reported.


Also in May, Kurdish political prisoner Reber Soydan, who was held in solitary confinement, died in suspicious circumstances at a Turkish F-Type High Security Prison in Van (Wan). The authorities claim that he committed suicide.


And most notably, there have been countless calls for more information about İmralı Island Prison, where Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan and three others are imprisoned. Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party MP for Istanbul Cengiz Çiçek had called for a parliamentary investigation into alleged absolute isolation at Turkey’s İmralı Prison, challenging the Justice Ministry’s claims that there is no such practice. Ocalan has been in absolute isolation for 38 months, unable to meet with family or lawyers.


Torture is a state policy in Turkey, systematically applied and deeply ingrained in detention and interrogation practices, particularly against political prisoners and minority groups, according to Turkey’s top human rights lawyer, Eren Keskin.


Speaking at a press conference in April where the 2022-2023 Prison Rights Violations Report was released, Keskin, co-chair of the İHD, emphasised the systemic nature of these human rights violations, asserting that the extensive use of torture, including sexual violence, serves not only as a method of repression but also as a tool to maintain control and stifle dissent within the state apparatus.



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