Türkiye: The situation in prisons is reaching crisis levels

Geneva – Brussels, 15 July, 2022 Increased incarceration rates over recent years have exacerbated already substandard conditions of detention in Turkey, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) said in a briefing published today. The situation is particularly challenging for vulnerable groups, such as women, minors, LGBTI+, prisoners with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

Dismal conditions of detention have been the norm in Turkey for many years. With imprisonment rates skyrocketing over the past decade, torture, ill-treatment, and medical neglect are reaching crisis levels”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. The authorities must remember a basic rule: States have an obligation to guarantee prison conditions that do not infringe human dignity.”

Turkey’s incarceration rate grew by 89.3% between 2011 and 2021. The country is now among the top three in Europe for prison overcrowding, scoring over 25% higher than the median. This despite temporary parole measures, motivated by the Covid-19 pandemic, that have benefitted 200,000 people – many of whom should return to prison in the next year.

Turkey is also one of five countries within the Council of Europe with the highest rates of suicides in prison. Physical attacks, beatings, naked searches, violations of the right to medical treatment and other arbitrary restrictions are on the rise. European bodies such as the Anti-Torture Committee have repeatedly stated that the steady increase in the size of the prison population since the mid-2000s has continued despite the expansion of the prison estate and greater use of conditional release.

The briefing identifies several structural causes leading to this alarming situation, including excessive powers granted to prison administrations, lack of proper oversight, and disproportionate reliance on aggravated life sentences without the possibility of release. The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, with bans on lawyers and family visits leaving prisoners even more at the mercy of overstretched prison staff.

This briefing note is the fourth in a series documenting the collapse of the rule of law in Turkey and is based on the work of OMCT’s partners in Turkey. Read it in English and Turkish.

Click to access the previous briefing notes:

Emergency decrees

Human rights defenders

Excessive use of force

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the largest global NGO group actively standing up to torture and protecting human rights defenders worldwide. It has more than 200 members in 90 countries. Its international Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information, please contact :
Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications

+41 79 539 41 06