End Isolation for Reconciliation
Stop Rights Violations in Prisons
1 December 2023
Violations of rights in prisons in Turkey are almost as old as the history of the Republic, and the fact that no government has developed permanent policies to eliminate these violations has led to the deterioration of the problem. The Human Rights Association was founded by prisoners’ relatives, intellectuals, rights defenders and lawyers who came together to end torture and ill-treatment and violations of the right to life in prisons after the military coup of September 12. With 37 years of experience, we can say that the most important reason for the violations in prisons is the unwillingness of the state to ensure peace. Particularly, the fact that the Kurdish issue has been left unresolved for many years, the state’s insistence on extreme pro-security policies, and the illegalization of people and institutions struggling for rights and freedoms cause the number of prisoners held in Turkish prisons and the violations to increase day by day.
Prisons in Turkey have turned into “human rights violation centers” where many problems have become permanent and practices that threaten prisoners’ lives. There are many violations in prisons such as isolation or incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment, prevention of social rights, forced transfers, prevention of treatment rights of sick prisoners, prevention of releases through administrative observation board decisions, deaths under suspicious circumstances, which violate the right to life.
It is the responsibility of the state to respect the rights of prisoners and to ensure that they do not face discriminatory policies in the exercise of their rights. States are obliged to ensure that prisoners are treated with human dignity regardless of their political views, ethnic identity, gender and other differences.
In this context, isolation or incommunicado detention policy, which we consider to be a method of torture, causes many serious violations in the newly established S-Type, Y-Type and maximum security prisons in Turkey, especially in İmralı Maximum Security Closed Prison. As a method of torture, isolation is a way for states to “reform” prisoners, especially political prisoners, and thereby intimidate all dissident groups in the society. The long-standing absolute isolation of Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş, who have been held in the same prison with Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı Maximum Security Closed Prison, which includes isolation from the outside world, prohibition of lawyer and family visits, and prevention of the right to communicate by phone and letter, reveals the degree of isolation. Applications by their families and lawyers for visitation rights have been rejected for the last 33 months. Such absolute isolation violates both domestic legal mechanisms and international conventions that the state is obliged to abide by. Although the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has repeatedly released its findings and recommendations regarding the isolation and other rights violations in İmralı Maximum Security Closed Prison, no steps have been taken by the authorities to lift the isolation. Our association has also repeatedly applied to the Ministry of Justice to visit İmralı Maximum Security Closed Prison and to determine the practices in the prison. The authorities, however, have left our appeals unanswered.
Prisoners have gone on hunger strikes many times to demand an end to isolation or incommunicado detention and to protest rights violations in prisons in Turkey. On 27 November 2020, the indefinite alternating hunger strikes against isolation on its 290th day; in 2021, prisoners went on hunger strikes again in response to the problems in the penal system. Finally, on 27 November 2023, many prisoners started alternating hunger strikes to demand an end to the isolation in İmralı Prison and a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue. The demands of the prisoners regarding the hunger strikes, which have been tried many times in the past and led to the death of prisoners, should be taken into consideration by the state and government authorities and the incommunicado detention in İmralı Prison should be lifted immediately and the visitation requests of their families and lawyers should be accepted immediately.
Building dignified peace in Turkey is only possible through lifting isolation or incommunicado detention in prisons and the elimination of discriminatory practices against prisoners held in prison for political reasons, particularly sick prisoners in critical condition. The Human Rights Association reiterates its call for an end to the torture of isolation, the release of sick prisoners in critical condition, and the abolition of administrative observation boards. We say peace right now!
Human Rights Association