Human Rights in Turkish Prisons: Monitoring Report 2020
1 April 2021
Prisons prove to be a multilayered and multidimensional issue in Turkey. It is virtually impossible to solve these problems by a few interventions. Yet, it is possible to at least remedy cases of victimization through certain changes and improvements.
Although there are quite advanced standards in prisoners’ rights in national and international human rights law, prisoners are not able to directly exercise related rights and regulations while they can only do so through the mediation of authorities in the places they are held. The fact that the power to exercise one’s rights falls in the hands/power of someone else renders, at the same time, their arbitrary restriction possible. Authorities, prison directors are engaged in procedures and practices infringing the legislation that stem from international human rights conventions, covenants and the constitution itself. Such state of affairs, in turn, induce serious distrust about the prison system in prisoners, their families, attorneys and human rights organizations. These points as a whole reveal that authorities tend to ignore the fact that depriving an individual of their liberty in the enforcement of prison sentences is sufficient punishment on its own and both the material conditions of prisons and the implemented regime itself further aggravate the severity of sentences served. Moreover, there is no mechanism that would effectively monitor such “aggravated” conditions of imprisonment. Practices like depriving prisoners of their right to confer with their attorneys, to have visitation by their friends and families; restrictions imposed on their right to access telephone, fax and letters which facilitate their communication with the outside world are against the inherent dignity of the human person. These signify that prisoners are subjected to acts of torture and degrading punishment. It is, thus, a vital requirement to review and amend enforcement legislation in reference to the UN’s Mandela Rules to address these problems.
First and foremost, Turkey needs to change its mentality with a disposition to incarcerate people. Constant investments to raise prison capacity, introducing unjust amnesty laws in order to cope with the ever-increasing prison population, insisting on practices incompatible with the equality principle further deteriorate the problems rather than solving them.
There are still about 300,000 prisoners in Turkish prisons. This figure is way above the current capacities of prisons. Further, it is known that there are tens of thousands of individuals (except for those imprisoned under the Anti-Terror Code) who were released from prisons under supervised release while serving the last three years of their sentences having not yet completed the enforcement of their sentences. Some argue that this figure even amounts to more than a hundred thousand.
The solution to this crisis of justice in Turkey can only be achieved by the introduction of fundamental amendments to the country’s penal legislation. It is, at the same time, mandatory to introduce these amendments in line with the provisions of international conventions and covenants Turkey is a party to, the judgments and case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, and universal human rights values.
Click to read the full report in English: sr20210401_prisons report