50 sick inmates died behind bars in 2019 - report

A total of 50 inmates died due to illness in Turkish prisons in 2019 and human rights groups are unable to obtain information on the health of sick prisoners, Evrensel newspaper reported on Tuesday.

There are 1,333 sick inmates, 457 of whom are in critical condition and 18 of whom are bedridden, in Turkey’s prisons and the prisoners are not released despite calls by physicians urging the Justice Ministry to do so, it said citing the Human Rights Association (IHD). 

There has been a sharp rise in the rights violations following the July 2016 coup attempt, which is felt strongly in the country’s prison population, İHD İstanbul branch prisons committee member Hatice Onaran said.

Turkey’s prison population has soared since July 2016 as tens of thousands of people have been arrested over alleged links to the coup attempt under a two-year state of emergency, which ended last year.

“We can say that there is an excessive violation of rights where sick inmates are concerned. When we look at their access to healthcare, the poor conditions of prisons and the overall approach towards them we see how grave the situation is,’’ Onaran said.

Turkey ranks second behind the United States in the incarceration rate, the number of people in prison per 100,000 of population among OECD countries, according to a report published earlier this year. As of May 2019, the incarceration rate in Turkey was 318 prisoners per 100,000.

There are currently 260,144 people in Turkish prisons, according to data from the Justice Ministry.

The İHD and the Civil Society in the Penal System (CİSST) filed around 7,000 applications regarding sick inmates, but the ministry left them unanswered citing the need for special investigations into the cases, Evrensel said. 

“We’ve been asking for the number of prisoners who died or committed suicide, as well the number of sick prisoners, but unfortunately we have not been provided with adequate responses,” Berivan Korkut of CİSST said.