The May 21-23, 2001 Council of Europe meeting in Istanbul will bring together the Standing Committee of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly, made up of dozens of prominent parliamentarians from the Council's 43 member states.

The May 21-23 Istanbul meeting will bring together the Standing Committee of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly, made up of dozens of prominent parliamentarians from the Council's 43 member states. In an sent to members of the Standing Committee last week, Human Rights Watch called for urgent attention to resolve the Turkish prisons crisis in advance of the Istanbul meeting.

Hundreds of Turkish prisoners and their family members are on a hunger strike to protest isolation conditions in new Turkish prisons and the violent transfer of prisoners to the new facilities last December. The crisis has cost fifty-four lives so far.

"The Turkish government should not be hosting a meeting for Europe's leading human rights institution when it's in the middle of defying that institution," said Elizabeth Andersen, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "The participants in the meeting should make this clear."

The Turkish government has ignored recommendations of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture, whose experts visited Turkey in April in response to the ongoing crisis. The Committee has repeatedly urged immediate steps to end prisoners' isolation, including out-of-cell activities and expanded visitation and telephone privileges. The Committee's annual report is among the items on the agenda of the Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting in Istanbul.

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President, Lord Russell-Johnston of the United Kingdom, arrives in Ankara today, ahead of the other parliamentarians, for an official visit during which he is expected to raise the prisons issue with the Turkish government.