The Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) stated on Sunday that human rights violations in Turkish prisons have become widespread and systematic and called on all political parties and presidential candidates preparing for the forthcoming elections to take concrete steps to protect human rights in the prisons.
In its call for a series of priority legal changes, the ÖHD states that policies to improve the conditions of detainees in Turkish prisons in terms of human rights are essential, and argues that with the deterioration of prison conditions, areas of democratic struggle have narrowed and democracy and human rights have been erased both in theory and in practice.
The ÖHD calls on all presidential candidates to take concrete steps to end the absolute isolation imposed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been serving a life sentence for 24 years, adding that, “İmralı F-Type island prison must be closed down”.
Öcalan’s last contact with the outside world, in the form of an interrupted phone call with his brother, was on 25 March 2021. Since that date, the absolute and aggravated isolation of Öcalan and the three other detainees, Hamili Yıldırım, Ömer Hayri Konar and Veysi Aktaş, in Turkey’s İmralı Island Prison, has continued.
The association states that Turkey’s Forensic Medicine Institution needs to be transformed into an autonomous body independent of political power and calls for the necessary steps to be taken for the release of prisoners with serious illnesses.
The association also calls for an independent, effective and transparent investigation of deaths in prisons based on the United Nations Minnesota Protocol on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.
Pointing out that political prisoners are deprived of their right to conditional release and that the ÖHD receives many applications made to them in this regard, the association says that the evaluation mechanism that decides on conditional release needs to be changed so that it is not made up of the staff of the penal institution.
“The law on aggravated life imprisonment needs to be amended immediately in accordance with the decisions of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe,” the ÖHD statement continues.
The Council of Europe said in March 2014 that Turkey violated the rights of political prisoners both due to the inhumane conditions of severe solitary confinement, and also due to aggravated life imprisonment in Turkey being a sentence disregarding any possibility of conditional release.
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 and replaced it with what is called “aggravated life sentence”; life imprisonment with no prospect of early release, that may involve severe restrictions of movement in prison or prolonged solitary confinement.