Torture and Ill-Treatment on the Rise, TİHV Report Cautions / 22. Sept. 2012

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) published its annual report for the year 2011. Law enforcement officials subjected some 724 prisoners to torture and ill-treatment during the aforementioned period, the report said. That figure represents an increase in the frequency of such human rights violations. The Prison Watch Council released its “2011 Rights Violations Report” based on information compiled from press reports, the applications they received and letters sent from prisons.

The council consists of representatives from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB,) the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK,) the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK,) the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV,) the Human Rights Association (İHD,) the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD,) and the Association for Solidarity with Prisoners’ Families (TAYAD.)

“Prisoners are isolated from the outside world through solitary confinement, bans on family visits, letters, newspapers, books and phones and prohibitions on the use of shared spaces,” the report said. The report also drew attention to a recommendation made by the Committe of Ministers of the Council of Europe to all member states regarding prison regulations in Europe and which states that prisoners continue to reserve all of their rights not legally denied to them by the verdict that sentenced them to prison terms.

“Prison conditions that violate inmates’ rights cannot be defended on the basis of ‘insufficient resources.’ Life in prisons ought to be regulated so as to resemble the positive aspects of public life as closely as possible,” said the council in its report.”Cooperation with social services outside of prisons and the participation of civil society in prison life ought to be encouraged to the greatest extent possible. All prisons should be subjected to regular administrative inspections and independent watch,” the council added.

Prison conditions causing inmates to fall ill

The council identified 724 cases of torture and ill-treatment that took place last year, while another 617 prisoners were denied medical treatment and healthcare rights, according to the report.

The implementation of the new “family doctor” system has also hampered prisoners’ access to medical treatment, as family doctors visit prisons only twice a week, the report said, adding that the physical conditions in prisons also caused inmates to fall ill. “Torture constitutes another significant source of rights violations in prisons. Political prisoners are organized enough to relate the acts of torture they have been subjected to, but it is more difficult to identify cases of torture against inmates convicted of criminal offenses. A total of 316 prisoners have also been subjected to rights violations pertaining to inadequate nutrition, heating and physical conditions, according to the report.

“Fine searching”

Gendarmerie troops battered Hediye Aksoy, a visually impaired and severely ill convict, while they were taking her from the Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul to a hospital for diagnosis inside a vehicle on Aug. 25, 2011. Prison guards also attacked and battered another 22 female convicts who protested the authorities’ refusal to release her on Aug. 16, 2011, the report further noted.

Prison guards also beat up lawyers Serkan Akbaş, Mehmet Bayraktar and Mehmet Nuri Deniz, who were arrested during a raid into the Asrın Law Office as part of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) probe and subsequently sent off to the Kandıra No:2 F-Type Prison. The guards attacked them due to their objection to the prison authorities’ decision to strip them naked under a practice they called “fine searching” on Dec. 19, 2011.

Children threatened with death

A total of 44 inmates lost their lives in prisons in 2011, including five inmates who died in a fire that broke out inside a gendarmerie vehicle that was carrying them from the eastern province of Van to Istanbul on Sept. 16, 2011. Abdülsetter Ölmez (35), Sinan Aşka (18), İsmet Evin (33), Akif Karabalı (24) and Medeni Demir (47) lost their lives, as they were handcuffed and could not exit the vehicle which caught fire near the district of Pınarbaşı in the central province of Kayseri.

Latif Badur also passed away on Nov. 7, 2011 inside a hospital’s convict room, after Çukurova University’s Balcalı Hospital issued a report indicating that he would not be able to survive under prison conditions during the final stage of his illness. Terminally ill cancer patient Mehmet Aras (60) also fell prey to official indifference when he lost his life on Dec. 18, 2011. President Abdullah Gül had ordered his release while he was residing in an H-Type prison in the northeastern province of Erzurum. Aras died, however, while he was waiting for the completion of official procedures for his release. The council received a total of 417 complaints concerning the violation of the right to communication, primarily in relation to the use of the inmates’ native languages.

Prison guards beat up Hamdi Kılınç, İskan Aksaç, and Aydın Akış on Feb. 4, 2011, after the three convicts spoke with their visiting families in their native Kurdish in an F-Type prison in the eastern province of Van. Another 14 children residing in the Maltepe Juvenile Prison in Istanbul were also beaten and threatened with death by prison authorities on Feb. 21, 2011 because they were speaking in Kurdish among themselves. (AS)