There was a 43 percent increase in the number of complaints of rights violations submitted to the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK), a government organization responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, in the first six months of 2022 compared to the same period of the previous year, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Tuesday.
While 631 complaints about rights violations were submitted to TİHEK in the January-June period of 2021, the number surged to 905 in the first six months of 2022, with 506 of them – corresponding to 55 percent – submitted by inmates, including convicted criminals and suspects in pretrial detention, according to DW.
Among the most noteworthy topics of the prisoners’ complaints were deteriorating conditions in Turkish prisons and detention centers, torture and ill-treatment, violation of the right to file an individual application with the Constitutional Court and the lack of access to proper healthcare.
When asked if the surge in TİHEK figures points to an increase in rights violations in Turkish prisons, lawyer Ercan Yılmaz from the Human Rights Association (İHD) told DW that violations of rights in Turkey’s prisons have been increasing since the 1980s.
“… We also state that the [rights] violations against inmates in [Turkish] prisons, torture and ill-treatment [behind bars] and violation of the right to life have increased,” Yılmaz said, noting that similar allegations have also been made by international institutions.
Following a visit to Turkey among eight other countries last year, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) underlined in its annual report published on April 21 that the problem of overcrowding persists in many prison systems, categorizing Turkey as among the countries with “very high” incarceration rates, over 25 percent higher than the European average.
The CoE report revealed that Turkey had the sixth most crowded prisons in Europe, with 108 inmates per 100 available places on Jan. 31, 2021 and 3.9 prisoners for every prison staff member, the highest figure among the 47 member countries.
“We think the recent increase [in rights violations in Turkish prisons] is a reflection of the oppressive policies in Turkey and that prisons are the areas where these pressure tools and the methods of suppression of the government can be used most comfortably,” Yılmaz said, estimating that the number of rights violations occurring behind bars in Turkey was much higher than the complaints submitted to TİHEK.
Also speaking to DW, Berivan Korkut, advocacy coordinator of the Civil Society in the Penal System (CİSST), underlined that the psychological and verbal violence experienced by inmates has increased dramatically and “turned into a natural part of the dialogue between the prison guards and the prisoners.”
The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and İHD said in a joint statement, which was released on the occasion of June 26, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, that Turkey had become a place of torture during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, adding that the government’s zero-tolerance policy towards torture had been historically and factually proven to be just “propaganda rhetoric.”
The joint statement also included a list of demands of the government aiming to prevent and stop torture, including ending the policy of impunity for public servants, the abandonment of rhetoric that praises and encourages torture and the torturer, public condemnation of torture from authorities at all levels, full implementation of procedural safeguards in detention conditions, shortening of detention periods and opening prisons to human rights and legal organizations.