Demands from 393 Women for Prisoners’ Right to Life and Health

393 rights defenders have shared nine demands with the public so that the right to life and health of arrested and convicted people can be safeguarded in prisons of Turkey amid coronavirus pandemic.

The law on criminal enforcement has been approved by the Constitutional Court in terms of form considerations, it will be examined as to the merits. The law has the characteristics of a partial amnesty. The Constitution stipulates that legislation on amnesty shall be enacted by a three-fifth majority. Consider that the law is against the principle of equality as per the Article 10 of the Constitution, the principle of rule of law as per the Article 2 of the Constitution and the prohibition of discrimination as per the Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

* Release women, children and disadvantaged groups whose right to life cannot be safeguarded in penal institutions immediately by establishing equality in the discriminatory law on criminal enforcement.

* Ensure that the ones with chronic diseases and the aged, who are at the highest risk in the outbreak, can serve their sentences at home even if they are convicted and release the arrestees with judicial control measures.

* Refer all prisoners with symptoms of flu to hospital immediately.

* Disinfect all areas of use frequently, give prisoners hygiene and cleaning products, distribute masks and gloves free of charge.

* According to the report of Justice Ministry, dozens of wardens in open prisons have tested positive for coronavirus. Test wardens every day.

* Make sure that the relatives of arrestees are informed about the decisions of the Ministry of Justice, remove the restrictions on phone calls and eliminate the concerns of prisoners’ relatives by giving the prisoners the right to make two 20-minute phone calls a week.

* Let prisons be inspected by medical chambers.

***

393 right-defending women have released a joint statement and shared the above nine demands with the public so that the right to life and health of arrestees and convicts can be safeguarded in Turkey’s prisons.

Demanding the elimination of inequality in the recently enacted Law on Criminal Enforcement and the protection of arrestees’ and convicts’ right to life and health, women have briefly stated the following:

‘Only bans imposed against the outbreak’

“We, women, know that women are going through the worst in prisons in these bad days, as it is the case in every other area of life.

“It has troubled the public conscience that prisons are one of the places with the highest risk in terms of coronavirus outbreak and the complicated and extremely unjust Law on Criminal Enforcement enacted due to the overcapacity in prisons has left political prisoners out of its scope.

“We defend life, above all else. No one shall be held in prisons in conditions where their right to life is not safeguarded. However, no one can convince us women about the legitimacy of releasing the criminals of injury and the ones who inflicted violence on women and children while keeping politicians and the ones who expressed their thoughts behind bars.

“The reports released about prisons and the information given by lawyers and families of prisoners these days are making us more concerned. It seems that only bans have been imposed against the outbreak, measures have not been taken about the right to health and life in prisons and, moreover, prisoners have been left to their own fates.

Problems of food and hygiene

“While the immune systems of prisoners are already weak and more different needs of women are not met, the service of hot meals has also been stopped now and prisoners have started to be given dry food.

“As the reason for this, it has been indicated that food is prepared in open prisons and no food can be given because the convicts held in these open prisons have been released.

“The places where arrestees and convicts stay are disinfected once a month, they are not give enough cleaning and hygiene products and they are not handed out masks and gloves. Canteens in prisons do not have disinfectants with alcohol that are effective against the virus and the products are sold at the canteens at excessive prices.

‘Violations faced by women politicians voiced less’

“As a reflection of the gender discrimination that prevails in every field, it is observed that the violations that we are trying to share are worse in prisons like Kandıra, where women politicians and co-chairs are held.

“While women in politics strive to ensure the visibility and representation of women and make their voices heard in fields that they have opened with great struggle, women politicians are made inivisible in prisons. It means that the violations faced by them come to the fore less often.

‘News from political prisoners are worrisome’

“Deprived of an opportunity to go to sick room or hospital, unable to meet in groups or receive parcels, letters and books and with their right to shop at the canteen dropped to once in two weeks in many prisons, prisoners see wardens everyday while they cannot meet their families and lawyers.

“As in the case of several prisons where it is also not possible to keep physical distance due to the high number of political prisoners, worrisome news are coming from political prisoners in Kandıra Prison, where several politician women, especially Gültan Kışanak, Sebahat Tuncel, Selma Irmak, Çağlar Demirel, Figen Yüksekdağ, Aysel Tuğluk, Gülser Yıldırım, Nurhayat Altun and Edibe Şahin stay.

“While it is possible to realize their request for being released pending trial immediately, the courts on duty that do not know the cases and do not want to take ‘responsibility’ are uttering the words of ‘continuation of arrest’ without examining the files, thereby disregarding the life safety of nine politician women and all prisoners in Kandıra Prison in the days of outbreak. We consider the current judicial process to be a grave violation of right to life and ‘a murder slowed down/extended over time’.”

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