Human rights groups in Turkey have raised the alarm as hunger strikes by inmates in various prisons across the country enter their 22nd day.
The Hunger Strike Monitoring and Follow-up Coordination, a joint initiative of various legal and human rights organisations, presented a report on the situation at a press conference in Diyarbakır (Amed) on Monday.
The hunger strikes, which started on 27 November, are demanding a stop to human rights violations in Turkish prisons, improvements in prison conditions and an end to the long isolation of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaderAbdullah Öcalan in İmralı Island Prison. The prisoners are also demanding a resumption of family and legal visits for Öcalan and a democratic solution to the Kurdish question.
Secretary of Diyarbakır Bar Association’s Prison Monitoring Committee, the lawyer Reyhan Gök, expressed concern about the lack of action by the political authorities in response to the hunger strikes and stressed that the dignity, right to life and health rights of prisoners are the responsibility of the state. Depriving hunger-striking prisoners of essential nutrients could lead to serious health problems, including permanent brain damage and death, as has been seen in previous hunger strikes.
In order to prevent further health complications, Gök called for regular monitoring by health professionals, the provision of essential nutrients, the assistance of warders if prisoners are unable to care for themselves, and avoidance of the use of force. She also highlighted the continued use of total isolation in İmralı F-type high security prison as a violation of constitutional and of international law.
In conclusion, Gök called for immediate the Ministry of Justice and relevant institutions to immediately address the hunger strikes, to avoid possible tragic consequences. The lawyer stressed the need for the authorities to take measures in a non-combative manner, and invited national and international legal and human rights organisations to monitor the situation and take action in accordance with fundamental rights and freedoms.