Med Federation of Prisoner’ Families Legal and Solidarity Associations (MED TUHAD-FED) issued a report on rights violations in prisons in 2020. The report noted that there were not enough precautions taken to protect prisoners from the coronavirus pandemic and that this posed serious risks to the health of the inmates. The report also underlined that the pandemic was used as an excuse to apply total isolation and punishment.
Referring to the statement made by the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses on 8 November, the report said: “It has been stated that 117 of 368 Penal Institutions registered coronavirus cases and that 12 prisoners lost their lives because of the virus. If we evaluate these figures and the reports issued throughout the year by civil society and NGOs we see that the pandemic has been actually seen as an opportunity by the prison authorities. Isolation has been used massively and so has a punishment policy, both disguised as ‘preventive measures’.
It is in this context that prisoners have gone on hunger strike on 27 November, to protest the systematic violation of their rights and in particular the isolation policy developed in the person of Abdullah Öcalan in Imrali Island.”
Some of the violations exposed in the report are as follows:
“* Prisoners already had limited access to health facilities and their right to health in prison has been constantly violated. However, with the pandemic, this situation has become intolerable and put seriously in danger the right to life. Many ill prisoners whose health condition is too serious to stay in prisons, died in prisons without even being treated.
- Prisoners in many jails have proved positive to Covid-19. There were deficiencies in both the prevention of the disease and treatment. On October 2, prisoner Muhammet Emir died due to respiratory failure caused by Covid-19.
- In Diyarbakır Women’s Closed Penitentiary Institution, pandemic measures continue to be disregarded.
- Strip searches in Diyarbakır High Security Penal Institution No.1 and Diyarbakır Women’s Closed Penitentiary have been on the agenda for a long time.
- The main violation experienced in all prisons is the lack of social activities in common areas. Preventing the social activities is both a violation of the law and basic humanity rules.
- Many magazines and newspapers, especially Yeni Yaşam, cannot be delivered to many prisons without a court order. Kurdish newspapers and magazines are often not delivered because there is no interpreter.
- During the pandemic, one of the main demand of the prisoners was the transfer to jails near their families given the difficulties in traveling. Although this demand has not been met, many prisoners have been transferred to other prisons for security reasons, often even further from their families.”
The following are the recommendations issued by MED TUHAD-FED:
*Ill prisoners should have their sentence suspended or treatment should be provided immediately;
- The practices of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and convicts in prisons should be abandoned immediately; Effective investigation mechanisms should be adopted against public officials who commit illegal acts;
- The right to privacy of detainees and convicts should be respected; Cameras showing intimate areas should be removed immediately;
- The necessary facilities should be provided for the detainees and convicts to carry out social and cultural activities;
- It is recommended to share with the press the problems experienced in the jails in order to create awareness;
- Ensuring that detainees and convicts have an adequate, balanced and healthy diet until they are released, vitamin supplements should be provided;
- We invite the Ministry of Justice and the Human Rights Investigation Commission to investigate the violations of rights in the Penal Execution Institutions.
- In line with the measures announced by the Scientific Committee and the Ministry of Justice, measures regarding the coronavirus pandemic should be increased in the Penal Institutions. In this context, the cleaning and disinfection of the Penitentiary Institutions and the compliance of the prison guards with the rules of social contact are priority recommendations.
- A delegation should be sent in all the prisons in Turkey, including Imrali, to verify whether the necessary measures against the pandemic are taken, as well as the violations ongoing.”