Turkish prisoners filed 396 torture complaints since October – Justice Ministry

Turkey’s Justice Ministry said that 396 torture and mistreatment complaints have been filed by prisoners since October 1, 2019, the newspaper Birgün reported on Friday.

"Fundamental changes have been made in our legislation so that arrestees and convicts will not be subjected to any incidents of maltreatment in penal institutions and the causes of such complaints can be eliminated," the Justice Ministry said.

The ministry’s statement was an answer to a parliamentary question tabled last year by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu. 

He had asked: "How many complaints have reached the related authorities about the incidents of maltreatment, violence and inhuman treatment faced by arrestees, convicts and their relatives and their access to right to health?"

In its statement, the Justice Ministry also said that Turkey's prisons are inspected without notice by the monitoring boards as well as by bodies such as the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK), the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

"Competent authorities are informed about the flaws and shortcomings relating to the health and living conditions of arrestees and convicts as well as the interior security and their referral and transfer proceedings," the ministry said.

The ministry also stated that a special unit to address torture and mistreatment in prison had been established under the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses.

Duvar newspaper reported that the ministry failed to respond to the CHP deputy’s question about the number of inmates in Turkey who are ill, but said that inmates have full access to healthcare.

“Inmates have priority access to health rights and services, and all their examination or treatment are secured by the government and free,” the ministry said.

A report covering January to March 2020 by the Human Rights Association (İHD) said that 246 violations of rights were reported from prisons in the Marmara region alone, news website Bianet reported. 

Last month, the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices on Turkey said that arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of people in custody and torture are among a long list of Turkey’s human rights violations.