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Top court finds rights violation in case of inmate who died in Ankara prison

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the death of a prisoner due to a deteriorating medical condition in Ankara L Type Prison No 1 violated his right to life and the government’s obligation to protect lives, local media reported on Thursday.

According to the ruling published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, the inmate, identified only by the initials S.M., was arrested on Jan. 19, 2015 and died behind bars five days later, after his medical condition deteriorated twice in a day.

S.M., who felt ill around 3.00 a.m. on Jan. 24 and was sent to the infirmary nearly two hours later, told the health officer who checked his pulse and blood pressure that he was a drug addict experiencing withdrawal symptoms and that he should be given drugs to alleviate them.

However, the officer told S.M. that they have no authority to change the medication prescribed by his doctor and sent him back to his ward. After feeling sick again in the afternoon of the same day, S.M. died at 2.39 p.m. despite the efforts of emergency personnel, local media reports said.

İbrahim Moran, the father of S.M., filed an application at the top court claiming that his son’s right to life was violated due to officials’ failure to take measures to prevent his death and the lack of an effective investigation into the incident.

The Constitutional Court ruled that S.M.’s right to life and the government’s obligation to protect lives were violated, stating that the chief public prosecutor’s office failed to consider the fact that S.M., who was diagnosed with substance abuse after being admitted to the prison, received no treatment for his illness.

“The chief public prosecutor’s office didn’t consider whether the failure to closely monitor S.M., who wasn’t referred to a health institution [after feeling ill], in a way that would allow medical intervention, should be evaluated as a simple error of judgment or negligence. As a result, the criminal investigation into S.M.’s death was not conducted effectively,” the court said.

According to the most recent statistics published by the Human Rights Foundation (İHD), the number of sick prisoners in Turkey is in the thousands, more than 600 of whom are critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients have forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they are not released.

A number of critically ill prisoners died in 2020 allegedly due to the negligence of prison authorities and because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.

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