Over 23,000 rights violations recorded in Turkish prisons in 2023, reports association

The Human Rights Association (İHD) Central Prisons Commission released its 2023 prison rights violations report. The association has reported at least 23,899 rights violations that occurred in a total of 147 prisons, across 51 provinces in Turkey in 2023.

Duvar English

The Human Rights Association of Turkey (İHD) on June 1 released its 2023 report on rights violations in Turkish prisons. The association received 23,899 instances of human rights violations from detainees.

The association noted that the Justice Ministry did not disclose data regarding political prisoners, foreign nationals, sick prisoners, deceased inmates, LGBTI+ individuals, as well as disabled, infant, and female prisoners. Therefore, the yearly report was compiled through individual tips the association received.

The report drew attention to the increasing number of prisons in Turkey. In 2023 alone, 19 new prisons were opened. Additionally, 12 more prisons were planned to be opened in 2024. 

The report noted that 78,000 people were detained in the last eight months, and the number of inmates had risen to 329,000 as of May 2.

The report focused on the treatment of ill prisoners as the first rights violations, saying some were not being released despite being in the terminal stages of their illnesses. 

"The Forensic Medicine Institute makes release decisions based on political bias, refuses to accept hospital reports, and fails to implement decisions or reports on 'security' grounds, worsening the situation for severely ill prisoners," the report noted. 

As a result of these violations, at least 2,258 people have died in prisons since 2018. In 2023, at least 42 people died. 

The report indicated at least 17,218 violations under the heading of torture. This included 772 cases of beating, threats, and insults, 175 strip searches, 567 oral cavity searches, 252 standing counts, and 240 instances of being denied outdoor time. 

The report also highlighted issues in living quarters, forced informant activities, cameras placed in living spaces, and property being scattered during raids, along with 169 violations of anti-discrimination laws. Regarding the obstruction of social activities, it noted 2,246 violations of communication and correspondence rights and 2,216 violations of the right to access information.

Arbitrary granting of “good conduct” status was another problem in Turkey’s prisons. Observation boards made abstract and subjective comments when deciding on prisoners’ good conduct, often asking political prisoners to express remorse. 

The report continued,“Hundreds of political prisoners are thus deprived of parole rights. From the implementation of the regulation until the end of 2023, the release of at least 426 prisoners was periodically obstructed.”

In Turkey’s prisons were 13,819 female and 2,983 child detainees, whose rights to healthcare and privacy were being violated most frequently. 

Issues such as lack of hygiene and cleaning supplies and problems accessing hot and clean water persisted in the prisons, and cameras monitoring women’s living areas continued to compromise privacy. Wards are surveilled 24 hours a day, with some restrooms and changing quarters under cameras’ line of sight, which disturbed the detainees.  

The report also highlighted discrimination and inhumane treatment against LGBTI+ individuals. The İHD listed its demands for ending the violations and called for the implementation of international norms that Turkey has committed to.