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CHP report reveals gross human rights violations in Turkey’s overcrowded prisons

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A report drafted by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) reveals that the prison population in Turkey has increased by 285 percent during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and that serious human rights violations are taking place in these prisons, the Birgün daily reported on Wednesday.

The report, based on data from Turkey’s Justice Ministry, was prepared by CHP Deputy Chairman Tekin Bingöl, who is responsible for human rights issues for the party.

According to the report, there are currently 228,993 people in Turkey’s prisons, 140,248 of whom have been convicted of a crime, while 88,745 are in pre-trial detention. These figures show that the prison population in Turkey has increased by 285 percent since the AKP came to power in 2002.

Due to the high prison population and lack of adequate space for prisoners, more than 20,000 inmates sleep in shifts, the report said.

One of the major problems in Turkey’s prisons is the difficulty experienced by prisoners who suffer from health problems in accessing medical services. An insufficient number of doctors, a lack of medical supplies and inmates being taken for treatment in handcuffs all conspire to make the treatment of ailing inmates difficult, according to the report.

Over the past 16 years, 3,432 inmates have died in prison. In 2015 alone, the number of people who died in jail is 426. Fifty-four of them died in pre-trial detention and 43 committed suicide.

There are currently 1,154 ailing inmates in Turkey’s prisons, 357 of whom need to be urgently released. According to data from the Justice Ministry, 2,300 ill inmates have died in prison over the past two years.

The report also revealed an increase in the number of cases of torture and maltreatment in Turkey’s prisons, particularly after the declaration of a state of emergency in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Beating, threats of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, electric shock and the use of pressurized water are some of the forms of maltreatment that are inflicted on inmates in Turkish prisons.

A report prepared by the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association in 2017 revealed that 433 inmates were exposed to acts of torture and maltreatment in the prisons in the country’s southeast region in the year 2017 alone. The same report also revealed that three children burned to death, eight inmates allegedly committed suicide and six inmates died due to health problems, while two inmates were killed by other inmates in prisons in the same period.

The inmates’ right to communication is also being restricted or violated in Turkey’s prisons, according to the report. Some letters written by the inmates are arbitrarily seized by prison authorities and letters in Kurdish are not allowed, while some inmates are disciplined on the grounds that they were spreading the propaganda of a terror organization in the letters they wrote.

In the CHP’s report, there is also information about the number of children who are jailed along with their mothers. As of December 2017, there were around 600 women in pre-trial detention with their children, and 100 of these women had newborn babies.

Around 17,000 women have been put in pre-trial detention in Turkey since the failed coup due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the failed coup attempt. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed coup.

The report also says many women have difficulty in accessing personal hygiene products sold in the canteens of the prisons.

With regard to the situation of child inmates, the CHP’s report shows that child inmates are kept in the same cells as adults and face lengthy detention periods. There are 1,715  boys and 63 girls aged 12-18 in prisons in pre-trial detention, along with 994 boys and 28 girls who have been convicted of a crime, bringing the total number of child inmates to 2,800.

Inmates who have special needs, including disabled and foreign inmates, are deprived of the means to make their lives easier in prison, according to the report.

Commenting on the report, Tekin said nobody should be deceived by the election promises of the AKP government for the upcoming general election because the AKP’s election manifesto does not reflect the facts of Turkey.

“Those who want to see the facts of this country should look at the country’s prisons. This is the real election manifesto of the AKP: More prisons, more deaths, more torture,” Tekin said.

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