A delegation of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out a periodic visit to Turkey from 11 to 25 January 2021.
Whilst the CPT did not visit the Imralı F-Type High-Security Prison where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has been isolated for 22 years, alongside three other prisoners, the CPT brought up the issue with Turkish authorities regarding its previous recommendations concerning this prison.
The main objective of the visit by the CPT delegation, headed by Mykola Gnatovskyy, President of the CPT and Therese Rytter, second Vice President of the CPT was stated as examining “the treatment and safeguards afforded to persons detained by law enforcement agencies as well as the treatment and conditions of detention of persons held in prisons. Particular attention was paid to the situation of women, juvenile prisoners and persons sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment. Further, the delegation was able to assess the impact of the measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in prisons”.
CPT referred to previous recommendations relating to Imralı prison
During the visit, the delegation also reportedly raised with relevant authorities certain issues relating to the follow-up of previous recommendations the CPT had made regarding the situation of the prisoners being held in Imralı F-Type High-Security Prison.
Delegation met with Turkey’s Ministers of the Interior and Justice
In the course of the visit, the delegation met Süleyman Soylu, Minister of the Interior, Abdulhamit Gül, Minister of Justice, Muhterem Ince, Deputy Minister of the Interior, Uğurhan Kuş, Deputy Minister of Justice, and Yunus Alkaç, Director General of Prisons and Detention Centres. The delegation also met with senior officials from the Ministries of the Interior (including the General Command of Gendarmerie), Justice and Foreign Affairs.
Additional meetings were held with Süleyman Arslan, President of the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey, in his capacity as Head of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) set up under the Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention against Torture, and representatives of non-governmental organisations active in areas of concern relating to the tasks undertaken by the CPT. At the end of its visit, the delegation presented its preliminary observations to the Turkish authorities.
CPT had visited Imralı Island in May 2019
A delegation of the CPT had carried out an ad hoc visit to Turkey from 6-17 May 2019. On the occasion of the visit, the delegation also visited Imralı F-Type High-Security Prison in order to examine the treatment and conditions of detention of all four prisoners held there. The CPT’s visit in 2019 also sought to review the measures taken by the Turkish authorities in the light of the recommendations made by the CPT after its previous visit to the prison in April 2016.
In this connection, particular attention had been paid to the communal activities offered to the prisoners and the application in practice of their right to receive visits from relatives and lawyers. After the visit of the delegation, Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül issued a statement on 16 May 2019, stating that: “The decisions regarding the ban on meetings have been lifted and the opportunities of visits have been introduced” regarding the CPT’s recommendation that lawyers visits to Öcalan and three other prisoners on Imralı Island should be ensured. However, Öcalan’s lawyers stated that they did not receive a positive or negative response to their applications to visit their client Öcalan and stated that there is a “de facto” ban on visits to Imralı.