Nonstop reports of deaths in prisons: 46 inmates lost their lives in one year

Nonstop reports of deaths in prisons: 46 inmates lost their lives in one year
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Prisoners who are classified as "fit for detention" despite their serious health conditions continue to die. This was the third death in prisons this week.

Turkish prisons continue to witness violations of inmate rights and associated suffering. Prisoners with medical conditions are the most vulnerable in this regard. Reports by the Council of Forensic Medicine designating prisoners as "fit to remain in prison" despite their serious health conditions seem to be the main source of violations. Currently, 1,577 prisoners with medical problems have applied for a medical review, 651 of whom are severely impaired but must continue to await release despite their serious health problems because of the negative reports mentioned. In effect, this means that seriously ill prisoners are left to die inside, as evidenced by the fact that rarely does a week go by without hearing of another death in prison.

Third death in prisons in the last week

Zulfu (Ibrahim) Yildirim, 68, a 96% disabled prisoner at Elazig No. 1 Closed Maximum Security Prison, died on August 14, ten days before his release. The following day, another death was announced at the Giresun Espiye L-type Closed Penitentiary. Former Democratic Regions Party (DBP) provincial co-chairman and party assembly member Mehmet Candemir also died in prison. The latest death news this week came from the closed T-type prison in Urfa. 67-year-old Bazo Yilmaz, who was imprisoned in Urfa No. 2 T-type prison, suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) had confirmed in a report that Yilmaz was "fit for detention." An appeal to the Constitutional Court challenging this report was also rejected. Despite his family's best efforts, Yilmaz died in prison before his release.

"More than 650 prisoners are seriously ill"

The Dersim Bar Association released a statement regarding sick prisoners in jails. The statement recalled that there are more than 650 seriously ill inmates in prisons and read, "Seriously ill prisoners, first and foremost Aysel Tugluk, should be treated and released as soon as possible. It is important that they are free, not only because they are seriously ill, but also because of the principles of fair trial, democracy and freedom of expression."

"Freedom for all political prisoners"

Emphasizing that prisoners with serious health conditions must be released as a matter of respect for their right to health and right to life, the statement made the following call: "Crimes of conviction and thought are outrageous. People are entitled to be opponents of the regime, this is a human right. All defendants in the Kobani case must be released. All political prisoners, including Gulten Kisanak, Figen Yuksekdag, Selahattin Demirtas and Osman Kavala, Selcuk Kozagacli, the lawyers of Contemporary Lawyers Assosiacition and People's Law Office, the 16 journalists detained in Diyarbakir, must be released. We would also like Sibel Balac and Gokhan Yildirim, who have been on a death fast for more than 200 days, to be given a hearing to understand what they have to say, what their demands are and how they are faring. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial and no one should be deprived of their liberty or imprisoned for their political views. We demand the release of the seriously ill prisoners and say: No more imprisonment, no more trials, no more punishment for political beliefs. All political prisoners must be exonerated and released."

"Death toll reaches 46 prisoners"

The Dersim Platform for Labor and Democracy issued a statement on prisoners with serious conditions. The statement notes that since the beginning of 2021, at least 46 prisoners have died in prison due to their illnesses, "15 of them died due to Covid-19, and three seriously ill prisoners were only able to see a few days before their demise when their executions were finally postponed and they were released. Recently, Ibrahim Yildirim from Dersim was not released despite his serious illness and died in Elazig prison due to the authorities' irresponsibility and violation of the right to life.

We must remember that most deaths in prisons are preventable. But the physical conditions of prisons, malnutrition, lack of timely transfers to hospitals, discriminatory practices faced by prisoners, transfers in single-ring vehicles and handcuffed examinations, problems in obtaining medications, ignorance regarding the postponement of executions of seriously ill prisoners, and many such problems come together, and thus ill prisoners have to fight for their lives."

"Aysel Tugluk's death is sought"

The statement recounts that one of the most obvious examples of discriminatory policies against revolutionary prisoners in prisons is the fact that Aysel Tugluk has not been released despite her serious illness: "While a prisoner suffering from the same illness as Aysel Tugluk was given release due to her illness, Aysel Tugluk continues to be consciously kept in prison and the purpose is to ensure her death." As identified by the Central Prison Commission of the Human Rights Association, as of April 2022, there are 1517 sick prisoners who have applied for release in Turkish prisons, of which 651 are seriously ill.

Seriously ill prisoners should be released immediately by postponing their execution until they recover. The Council of Forensic Medicine has lost all credibility with the public by issuing reports on the fitness of dying prisoners to remain in prison. The Council violates the right to life by ignoring reports issued by teaching or full-service hospitals for sick prisoners, and by issuing reports contrary to them.

These reports of the Council of Forensic Medicine contradict the criterion of "ability to maintain life on one's own to be fit to remain in prison" enshrined in the law. Mehmet Emin Ozkan and Aysel Tugluk are two examples of this situation. This provision of the law should be abolished and all seriously ill prisoners should be released to recover.

"The problems of sick prısoners has turned chronic"

The amendment to the Enforcement Law No. 7242, which took effect on April 15, 2020 under the pretext of Covid-19, created a terrible discrimination by excluding prisoners who fall under the Anti-Terror Law, so the problem of sick prisoners who were sentenced under this law has turned chronic. Moreover, the "Regulation on the Administration of Penitentiary Institutions and the Execution of Penal and Security Measures" published by the Presidency in the Official Gazette of March 29, 2020, has maintained the aspects of the existing enforcement law that infringe the rights of prisoners and even aggravate the enforcement.

The council must cease to be the last and only resort

All seriously ill prisoners currently in prisons should be released immediately on the basis of a report from a general hospital, so that their treatment can continue while their families are with them, and their medical insurance should be covered by the state. The Council of Forensic Medicine should no longer be the last and only authority to issue reports on the suitability of inmates to continue their sentences, and reports from general hospitals and teaching hospitals should also be accepted.

The discretionary power of prosecutors on decisions to postpone execution on health grounds should be abolished, the execution of sentences should be postponed on the basis of hospital reports, and the criterion of "constituting a danger to public safety", which is the excuse that stands between sick prisoners and their release, should be removed from the law.