İHD-THİV Call for Urgent Action to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in Prisons
7 April 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is creating extraordinary challenges worldwide. To overcome this pandemic in the shortest time possible with the least damage depends on the effective and rapid implementation of scientific, holistic and sincere approaches in a participatory manner.
It goes without saying that risk groups should always be taken into consideration within the scope of response programs that need to be implemented through a public approach with the participation of the whole society. One of these risk groups is comprised of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons. Prisons are closed penitentiary institutions with little personal space and hygiene. Dense and mobile population, material conditions and organization of prisons provide a quite favorable medium for the spread of such outbreaks. States’ serious handling of the condition of detained persons in their crisis responses bears vital significance to protect prisoners, prison staff, visitors, and the society in general because it is indeed the responsibility of states to protect and guarantee the right to life and health of everyone deprived of their liberty in prisons without exception.
When we take into account the recent information we received, our concerns expressed in our previous statements deepen even further.
The fact that a second physician in Şakran Prison (İzmir) was admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 clinical symptoms and prediagnosis underlines, once again, the necessity that measures at all levels should rapidly be taken particularly in Şakran Prison and generally in all prisons. The top priority within the scope of such measures is the quarantine under the most appropriate conditions of all prisoners and staff in contact with these physicians, their immediate testing, and the implementation of measures aptly stated in the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’s (CPT) “Statement of Principles Relating to the Treatment of Persons Deprived of Their Liberty in the Context of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic” of 20 March 2020.
Yet, what is more important is to enable a rapid decrease in the population of all prisons, particularly Şakran Prison, and releasing critically sick patients, children and women in the light of shared information pointing out to the fact that the risk of an outbreak has been materialized when the current state of affairs in the prisons in our country is taken into account as has been recommended by all the related international organs that Turkey is a member of. Within this scope UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s statement of 25 March 2020, in which she stressed “Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views” should be taken into account by the authorities as doing what is necessary to implement High Commissioner’s recommendations bears more significance each day.
Because it is life that really matters.
Human Rights Association
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey