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Turkey: Amended Article 16 of Turkish Anti-Terror Law - CINAT's position

  • Event Date: 02.07.01
  • Event Time: 00:00:00
Mister President Ahmet Necdet Sezer Cumhurbaskani Cankaya Köskü Cankaya / Ankara Turkey Geneva, 22 June 2001 Mister President, On 26 June 1987, the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment entered into force. Ten years later, the UN General Assembly, declared the 26 June International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On this day, in Switzerland, our four organisations working against torture - Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, Amnesty International, Association for the Prevention of Torture, World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) – launch a joint action. We invite people to wear stickers in different Swiss languages in order to break the silence surrounding the practice of torture. This year, the highlight of this action will be in St-Gallen, where the President of Switzerland, M. Moritz Leuenberger, will honour our benefit event with his presence. Our organisations also fight for the implementation of the Convention which entered into force on that day. In this regard, we would like to present some comments on the recently adopted amendments to Article 16 of the Anti-Terror Law. If we welcome the change, we deeply regret that these changes bring only very limited amelioration and will not protect all the prisoners against isolation. Whilst the amendments to Article 16 provide for prisoner participation in education, sports, vocational training and other social and cultural activities, participation in these activities can only take place within the framework of certain rehabilitation and education programmes. The rehabilitation and education programmes will be developed with specific categories of prisoners in mind. Such categories will be based upon the nature of the offence committed, the prisoners' conduct and areas of interest and capabilities. Therefore, there is no objective criteria for these programmes, the process is highly subjective and open to abuse by the authorities. Programmes which have a political content, will be unacceptable to some prisoners, yet the compulsory nature of these programmes in order to gain access to communal areas, may result in prisoners who refuse to participate being left in solitary confinement. Furthermore, the duration, objective and number of participants of the programmes, will also be subject to the security conditions and facilities within the institution. Thus, if for security reasons or due to lack of facilities, educational and rehabilitation programmes can not be established, prisoner access to recreational and communal activities will be limited. In this regard, we are concerned that the amended Article 16 does not provide for an objective criteria for establishing whether the security conditions are sufficient for the establishment of such programmes, and the decision is therefore left to the discretion of the institution administrators. Further, the State, also bears the responsibility to ensure that facilities for recreation and education are provided for within institutions, however, the amended Article 16 does not impose an obligation to create facilities or provide interim measures where they are lacking. Thus, once again the provisions of the Article can be implemented in an arbitrary and non-discretionary manner. We are also strongly concerned about the fact that, up to this day, no prisoner placed under isolation by application of Article 16 of the Anti Terror Law has been able to benefit from communal activities, as enunciated in the amendment to the same Article 16. Accordingly, Article 16 must provide for unconditional access to recreational and cultural activities for all prisoners. This was made clear by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), following its visits to Turkey in December 2000 and January 2001. In its Press Release dated 24 March 2001, the CPT confirmed that there was growing concern over how and to whom the activity programmes, envisaged by the amendments to Article 16, will be offered. Thus, the provision of such activities should be closely monitored by independent external monitoring bodies and should not be left to the discretion of the institution authorities. Whilst, we welcome the steps taken by Turkey to establish prison monitoring and supervisory judges to review the management of prisons, such external monitoring bodies should be independent and free to monitor, inspect and report on the implementation of Article 16 and conditions within places of detention. These independent bodies should be composed of independent experts, doctors, psychologists and representatives of Civil Society such as; lawyers and independent and impartial NGOs working on the specific question of prison systems. We therefore urge the Turkish Government to apply promptly the right to communal activities to any prisoner placed under the Turkish penitentiary administration's jurisdiction. To establish a real and unconditional right to communal activities, limited only for disciplinary measures in accordance with Articles 27 to 32 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and to establish independent prison monitoring groups to inspect and report on the implementation of Article 16 and conditions within prisons. Yours sincerely, Fra Martino Dotta President ACAT Switzerland Daniel Bolomey Deputy Secretary General Amnesty International Swiss Section Mark Thomson Secretary General Association for the Prevention Of Torture Eric Sottas Director World Organisation against Torture
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