Turkey: Prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners in civilian and F-type prisons, including the prevalence of torture and the state response to it (2006-2007)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||7 June 2007|
|Citation / Document Symbol||TUR102517.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Turkey: Prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners in civilian and F-type prisons, including the prevalence of torture and the state response to it (2006-2007), 7 June 2007, TUR102517.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d6547e23.html [accessed 21 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The Turkish prison system
With 91 detainees per 100,000 inhabitants, Turkey is considered to have a low rate of incarceration (UN 7 Feb. 2007, para. 60). As of 2006, there were 67,772 prisoners in Turkey's 503 prisons, out of an official prison capacity of 70,994 (World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Correctional Systems 2007, 912).
Turkish prisons are divided into three security categories: F-type, which are maximum-security; E-type and special type, which are medium-security; and, open prisons and juvenile reformations, which are minimum-security (ibid.).
Rules governing prison administration
Prisoners whose behaviour is deemed disruptive may be denied contact with visitors or other inmates (World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Correctional Systems 2007, 911). Turkish law forbids the use of collective, physical, cruel, degrading and inhumane methods of punishment in Turkish prisons (ibid.). Prisoners, prison directors, or two or more members of the disciplinary board have the right to appeal any punishment decision within a 24-hour period (ibid.).
Prisoners who maintain good behaviour for the first fifth of their incarceration may be transferred to open prisons; they may also be eligible for "excuse permission" for up to ten days in case of death, illness or a grave situation affecting a close relative (ibid.), although the Research Directorate was unable to clarify the meaning of the term "excuse permission." Prisoners who serve one fourth of their imprisonment with good behaviour and are selected for an open prison may be granted a three-day special leave (ibid.).
Reports of prison conditions
Various sources note that conditions in Turkish prisons have been improving, although there are areas that remain inadequate (EU 8 Nov. 2006; Freedom House 2006). There remain serious concerns in some prisons (Turkish Daily News 16 Mar. 2007). According to the European Union (EU), the lack of communal activities, problems regarding prisoner-staff interaction, limited medical and psychological care and the high prisoner-to-cell ratio are the principle areas of concern (8 Nov. 2006).
In its report on human rights violations in Turkey in 2006, the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD) recorded a total of 2,764 violations of human rights in Turkish prisons, including:
- 44 violations of rights of health;
- 491 arbitrary and ill-treatments;
- 88 violations of sending to medical (sic.);
- 615 violations of right of communication;
- 1 preventing meetings with lawyers;
- 1,525 disciplinary punishments, including 57 cell punishments, 588 bans on family interviews; 391 prohibitions on publishing; and 489 prohibitions on social activities. (IHD 27 Feb. 2007)
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 cites a medical association as stating that the number of doctors and psychologists in Turkish prisons is insufficient and available only in some of the larger prisons; some inmates have reportedly claimed that they were denied treatment for serious medical situations (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.c).
Additionally, Country Reports 2006 states that juveniles and adults were sometimes held in the same facilities, as were detainees and convicts (ibid.). In some cases, persons convicted for non-violent crimes (such as speeches) were held in high-security institutions (ibid.). Further information on the nature of these speeches could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
While some international organizations, such as the Council of Europe's Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT), are allowed to make prison visits, others, such as domestic non-governmental organizations, are not (ibid.). Country Reports 2006 cited Turkish human rights activists as stating that Prison Monitoring Boards (which include government officials and private individuals) are ineffective (ibid.), while the UN notes that the Boards' reports and findings are not made public (16 Nov. 2006, para. 58).
In December 2005, the CPT sent a delegation to visit the Adana E-type Prison (COE 6 Sept. 2006, para. 41). Numerous current and former prisoners reported allegations of ill-treatment at the hands of prison staff at this prison, including "slaps, punches and kicks, as well as verbal abuse"; there were also reports of falaka (ibid.), which involves beating of the soles of the feet (AI 1 Sept. 2002). NGO representatives describe the prison as implementing a "very strict code of behaviour" and punishing minor breaches (ibid.). The Turkish government responded that all complaints of ill-treatment were subjected to administrative and judicial investigations and denied accusations that falaka was used as a form of punishment (Turkey 6 Sept. 2006, para. 41).
In addition, the Adana E-type prison reportedly held 950 inmates even though it has a capacity of 450; in one case, 22 prisoners were found sharing a 24 square-metre room (COE 6 Sept. 2006, para. 41). In response, Turkey stated that it was building a new prison to alleviate this overcrowding (Turkey 6 Sept. 2006, para. 41).
Another example of an overcrowded penitentiary is Buca Jail, where there are reportedly 2,600 prisoners in a prison made for 1,300 (Turkish Daily News 28 Apr. 2007). While the prison contains a theatre, cinema, concert hall, sports center and infirmary, residents cannot take full advantage of these amenities due to the overcrowding (ibid.).
The CPT further complains of a lack of adequate medical care in some medium- or minimum-security prisons, with some prisons having only one doctor per 1,000 inmates (COE 6 Sept. 2006, para. 55).
On the other hand, after having visited seven prisons in October 2006 and interviewed 200 detainees (UN 7 Feb. 2007, 2), the United Nation's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered that
[t]he administration of the penitentiary institutions also appeared to be professional and well funded. There are fewer prisoners than places in the penitentiary system and conditions of detention in the new prisons, which the Government is building at considerable speed to replace older facilities, are respectful of international standards. (7 Feb. 2007, para. 59)
In February 2007, the Istanbul daily Today's Zaman reported that, in 2006, 99 Turkish citizens convicted for crimes abroad requested to complete their sentence in Turkey, of which 51 were granted their wish; the newspaper considers this a sign of Turkey's improving prison conditions (27 Feb. 2007).
Turkish prisons reportedly allow for a variety of recreational activities for inmates, including: reading classes and elementary to university education; vocational courses and creative activities; cultural and athletic activities; and, religious education (ibid.). The Associated Press (AP) notes that a recently inaugurated prison that it visited "resembles a muted, austere summer camp, where militants, killers and miscreants weave carpets in workshops, study computers, play zithers and volleyball, and jog on gym treatments. They can even attend 'anger management' class" (15 Mar. 2007).
As of 15 March 2007, Turkey was reportedly building 30 new prisons across the country (AP 15 Mar. 2007). As of May 2007, no additional data on their proposed date of completion could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
F-type prisons were created in 2000 by the Turkish government to house prisoners in cells alone or with only two fellow inmates (IADL 31 Oct. 2006; Turkish Daily News 16 Dec. 2006; AFP 20 Nov. 2006). The F-type prison was a response to the frequent prison mutinies and hostage situations that characterized previous housing arrangements in which dozens of prisoners were kept in the same cell (ibid.). There are an estimated 2,000 convicts held in F-type prisons in Turkey today (IADL 31 Oct. 2006).
F-type prisons have received criticism from human rights organizations, and a number of activists have called for their abolition (ibid.; AFP 20 Nov. 2006; IHD 17 Jan. 2007). According to the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), the Union of Turkish Bars (TBB) and the Association of Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), "F-type prisons are geared to break prisoners psychologically through isolation" (Turkish Daily News 16 Dec. 2006).
Since 20 October 2000, some 122 prisoners in F-type prisons have died from hunger strikes they were leading in protest of their treatment (ibid.; IADL 31 Oct. 2006). The EU has complained that solitary confinement for prisoners sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment is "too extensive" (8 Nov. 2006). In October 2006, two Brussels-based lawyers, representing the Belgian League of Human Rights (Ligue belge des droits de l'homme) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), led a fact-finding mission to Turkey to visit domestic civil society groups to assess the situation of F-type prisons (IADL 31 Oct. 2006). The lawyers' assessment was that the disciplinary measures taken against prisoners in F-type prisons were "humiliating" and that prisoners were subject to [translation] "excessive disciplinary sanctions," such as deprivation of contact with family members for periods of up to one year (ibid.).
However, during a December 2005 visit to three different F-type prisons (at Adana and Tekirdag), the CPT stated that there were almost no complaints by prisoners of ill-treatment by prison staff (COE 6 Sept. 2006, para. 39). In addition, the CPT's delegation "formed an overall positive impression of the quality of the staff assigned to the above-mentioned F-type establishments," although it found that interactions between prison staff and inmates could be improved (ibid., para. 40). In response, Turkey noted that prisoner-staff communication is encouraged and that many staff are trained in courses such as human relations and convict psychology (Turkey 6 Sept. 2006, para. 40).
While the amount of time that the average prisoner spent outside of his or her cell ranged from 6 to 20 hours per month, some prisoners were spending up to 30 hours per week in workshops (COE 6 Sept. 2006, para. 44-46). However, the CPT noted that the F-type prisons that it visited appeared to restrict prisoner access to social activities and sports (ibid., para. 43). Turkey responded that, in the absence of any security risks, F-type prison inmates are guaranteed one hour of exercise per day (Turkey 6 Sept. 2006, para. 54), and are encouraged to socialize with other prisoners for a set period every week, although in some cases this is hindered by enmity among convicts (ibid., para. 47)
The CPT further noted that the medical, psychological and psychiatric resources devoted to F-type prisons were inadequate (COE 6 Sept. 2006, para. 55). However, the Turkish government states that
[t]he level of medical care provided to remand and sentenced prisoners accommodated in prisons is no less than the one provided to regular citizens. In fact, it is even higher than the medical care level provided to regular citizens without social security. (Turkey 6 Sept. 2006, para. 57)
In January 2007, Turkey's Justice Ministry announced that it would alleviate F-type prison conditions by allowing inmates to socialize for up to 10 hours a week, versus the previous maximum of 5 hours a week (Today's Zaman 23 Jan. 2007; Turkish Daily News 23 Jan. 2007). Yet, human rights organizations, such as the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), observe that some 60 to 70 percent of detainees could not take advantage of more lenient measures in F-type prisons because they were currently undergoing disciplinary punishments (ibid. 12 Feb. 2007).
Use of torture in prisons
In February 2006, a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights visited Turkey to assess the effect of counter-terrorism initiatives on human rights (UN 16 Nov. 2006). According to the Special Rapporteur,
[a]fter the Government's announcement of a zero-tolerance policy towards torture in 2003, many steps have been taken to prevent torture and also to improve the bringing to justice of perpetrators. The pattern of a decrease in torture was acknowledged by all of the interlocutors. Safeguards which have a preventative effect on torture include the duty to inform the family of detainees of detention, medical examinations before and after detention, access to counsel, and human rights training of Jandarma and police officers. (ibid., para. 48)
Additionally, the Special Rapporteur observed that the "past widespread use of torture" that took place in Turkish prisons in the 1990s was not always properly addressed, with some victims unaware that their torturers had later been brought to justice (ibid., para. 49).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Agence France-Presse (AFP). 20 November 2006. "Prisons: Fin de l'occupation du bureau de l'Associated Press à Ankara." (Factiva)
Amnesty International (AI). 1 September 2002. Turkey: Systematic Torture Continues in early 2002.
Associated Press (AP). 15 March 2007. Christopher Torchia. "Turkey Reforms One of Its Most Troubled Institutions: The Prison System." (Factiva)
Council of Europe (COE). 6 September 2006. European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). Report to the Turkish Government on the Visit to Turkey Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on Its Visit to Turkey from 7 to 14 December 2005.
European Union (EU). 8 November 2006. Commission of the European Communities. Turkey 2006 Progress Report.
Freedom House. 2006. "Turkey." Freedom in the World 2006.
Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD). 27 February 2007. Human Rights Violation in Turkey – Summary Table of 2006.
_____. 17 January 2007. "Three Doors and Three Locks in F Type Prisons Should be Opened."
International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) [Brussels]. 31 October 2006. Georges Henri Beauthier and Jan Fermon. L'isolement carcéral et le « jeûne jusqu'à la mort » de Maître Behic Asci, avocat au barreau d'Istanbul.
Today's Zaman [Istanbul]. 27 February 2007. "Turkish Prisons Prove Magnet for Turks Convicted Overseas."
_____. 23 January 2007. "F-Type Prisoner Asci Ending His Death Fast."
Turkey. 6 September 2006. Response of the Turkish Government to the Report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatmwent or Punishment (CPT) on Its Visit to Turkey From 7 to 14 December 2005.
Turkish Daily News [Ankara]. 28 April 2007. "No Vacancy in Jails."
_____. 16 March 2007. Goksel Bozkurt. "Parliament Slams Istanbul on Rights." (Factiva)
_____. 12 February 2007. "Prisons Remodeled, Scrutiny Remains."
_____. 23 January 2007. "Justice Ministry Eases Inmate Isolation."
_____. 16 December 2006. Isil Siriyuce. "Dying Alone to Protest Prison Isolation." (Factiva)
United Nations (UN). 7 February 2007. Human Rights Council (HRC). Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled "Human Rights Council": Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – Addendum: Mission to Turkey.
_____. 16 November 2006. Human Rights Council (HRC). Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitlted "Human Rights Council": Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism" – Addendum: Mission to Turkey.
United States (US). 6 March 2006. Department of State. "Turkey." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006.
World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Correctional Systems, 2nd Ed. 2007. "Turkey." Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources, including: Amnesty International Turkey, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT), the Organization for Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (Mazlumder), and the Turkish Red Crescent Society did not respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this Response.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme (FIDH), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Centre for Prison Studies, International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA), International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Observatoire international des prisons (OIP), Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT), Prisons de femmes en Europe, Prisons en Turquie, Tayad, Turkish Red Crescent Society.