Covid-19 Spreading Fast in Turkey’s Prisons, Rights Defenders Warn

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Two separate reports by rights defenders and lawyers say that Covid-19 is spreading in prisons across the country and call the authorities to take measures, including providing hygiene and testing prisoners for coronavirus.

“The Covid-19 weekly prison monitoring bulletin” prepared by the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), the Human Rights Association, the Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) and the MED TUHAD-FED says that medical controls of prisoners both for Covid-19 and other diseases are not done in time, there are problems regarding nutrition and patients are not provided with a diet meal.

Problems in acces to healthcare

Some of the report’s findings are:

  • There are disruptions in prisoners being taken to the prison infirmary and their referral to the hospital.
  • Petitions of complaint by ill prisoners are mostly not processed and cause them to be investigated in some cases.
  • Prisoners’ medical controls are not done within the time that is stated in their medical reports.
  • The actions taken mostly reduce pain, lengthen the process and take problems under control rather than achieving full recovery. This situation affects patient prisoners both physically and psychologically, worsens the disease process and causes new diseases.
  • Some ill prisoners need to be fed with diet meals. However, the meals given to them are not suitable for their diets. The situation of those who do not have financial means is quite difficult in this respect. There are also prisons where regular meals are given less than the amount per person.
  • While some seriously ill prisoners need a companion during the operations they have, their demands are not met. This situation puts the patient’s life at risk.
  • The report says that prisoners who have a serious disease and who are above 60 years of age should be released and the enforcement of their sentences should be postponed. Also, it calls for the release of attorneys Ebru Timtik, and Aytaç Ünsal, who have been on a death fast for 130 days and 99 days, respectively.

The report also lists the following demands:

  • There must be a sufficient number of healthcare staff in prisons.
  • Among prisoners, prison workers and relatives of prisoners, those who show symptoms should be quickly and reliably tested.

“The outbreak has caused panic”

The ÖHD and TUHAY-DER say in the “Covid-19 Outbreak Report in Marmara Region Prisons” that the outbreak has caused panic among prisoners, the hygiene rules are not followed in prisons and prisoners are not provided with disinfectant.

*The postponement of prison visits does not protect the prisoners from the outbreak but means that they are in confinement.

CLICK – ‘Lives of Ill Prisoners Put at Risk’

*Although correction officers who work inside the prisons are quarantined and officers’ contact with the outside is restricted, the measures are not sufficient to protect the prisoners’ right to life and healthcare. In the statement made by the Ministry, it was stated that the coronavirus test of 79 enforcement officers was positive. It is also known that some doctors who go to prison infirmaries have tested positive for coronavirus.

*Dozens of prisoners contracted coronavirus at Tarsus Type-T Prison, Buca Closed Prison, Konya Type-E Prison, and Silivri No. 7 Type-L Prison. The outbreak is rapidly spreading in prisons. There are increasing concerns that prisoners kept in prisons while the virus is spreading will cause irreversible damages in terms of violation of the right to life and health.

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*Failure to provide healthy nutritional conditions, insufficient cleaning and hygiene materials, water shortage in some prisons, the suspension of treatments of ill prisoners, suspension of visits, restriction of attorney visits and not delivering/sending cargo and letters in some prisons increase the concerns of prisoners’ families and the public.

*The state has negative and positive obligations regarding the right to life without any discrimination against its citizens. Currently, the positive obligations regarding the right to life of prisoners must be fulfilled and necessary measures must be taken for the life and health rights of prisoners.

*Excluding political prisoners in the amendments violated the principle of equality and the prohibition of discrimination. This practice should end as soon as possible and those remanded in custody should be released.

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*Prisoners with chronic diseases, regardless of being arrested or convicted, should be urgently released, regardless of the severity of their illness, as they are more prone to the disease due to the weakness of their immune system.

*Sentences of convicts in risk groups should be enforced at home. At this point, the legal regulations should be made urgently. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) recommended that alternative practices to imprisonment should be applied and that the most vulnerable prisoners should be able to access intensive care by conducting Covid-19 screening. (AS/EMK/VK)

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