“Abysmal” prisons becoming the epicentre of human rights violations in Turkey and Iran

The conditions inside Turkey’s prisons deteriorated rapidly in 2020, according to a new report published by the Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD), which has documented a significant rise in the number of human rights violations against detainees and convicts in Turkish prisons.

The report, which covers the last 3 months of 2020, found that unlawful strip-searches, abuse, and torture have become commonplace within the Turkish prison system; going on to state that the widespread use of solitary confinement could be considered “inhuman or degrading treatment” and that:

“It is inevitable that prisoners living in very small cells with a limited number of people will experience psychological and physical problems.”

According to the report, prisoners were frequently transferred between prisons against their will, undoubtedly exacerbating the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Prisoner’s inability to access necessary medical care was also highlighted in the report; describing conditions as “not conducive to a healthy life”, with prisoner’s applications to the infirmary denied “on the grounds that there is no doctor.”

The report continues, calling the provision of medication to inmates with chronic diseases insufficient, a clear breach of these prisoner’s right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The attempted suicide of 9 inmates in 2 weeks at a prison in the southern province of Antalya once again highlights the detrimental effects of imprisonment in Turkey, with the ÖHD stating that their confinement:

“has become a strain on their mental health. Not only can they not see their families due to restrictions on visitations, but they are not allowed to play sports or socialize among themselves in common areas”

The use of the prison system as a focal point for the violation of human rights is not limited to Turkey, however, with Iranian prisons also exhibiting similar behaviour.

The impact of Covid-19 on prisons in Iran cannot be understated; described by the NGO Iran Human Rights Monitor as “abysmal”, Twelve of the 17 detainees in Ward 8 of the infamous Evin Prison tested positive on 9 August 2020. This demonstrates the clear lack of regard for the safety of the inmates with Amnesty International calling on the Iranian authorities to:

“stop denying the health crisis in Iran’s prisons and take urgent steps to protect prisoners’ health and lives.”

There has also been massive regression on death penalty restrictions in Iran, materialising in a spree of executions – at least 11 inmates put to death since the 19th of December. Additionally, one victim, Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee was executed for a crime he committed at just 16.

A culmination of the mismanaged Covid-19 pandemic and the crackdown by authoritarian regimes on political opposition; prisons becoming the epicentre of the world’s human rights crises was almost inevitable.

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