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Warders under Justice Ministry authority provide the internal security for all prisons in Turkey, but the external perimeter of prisons is guarded by gendarmes under the authority of the Interior Ministry. These gendarmes, trained for counter-insurgency in southeastern Turkey, are sometimes called in to quell unrest, and they use this as an opportunity to settle accounts with prisoners accused of links with illegal armed groups that may be fighting security forces elsewhere in the country. Since 1995, twenty-six prisoners have been killed in Turkish prisons as a result of gendarmes being sent in to "restore order," a duty they customarily carry out with extreme brutality. Ten of these prisoners were killed in an intervention by gendarmes at Ulucanlar Prison in September 1999. All of those killed were prisoners remanded or convicted for offenses under the wide-ranging Anti-Terror Law. Prisoners also frequently report being beaten or otherwise abused during trips from prison to court or for medical treatment. Again, these transfer duties are carried out by gendarmes.

Accession Partnership Recommendation:

* Gendarmes should be immediately removed from prison guard duties and replaced by staff under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. This measure is not specified in the Report or the Calendar.

Small group isolation

Unrest among prisoners held for offenses under the Anti-Terror Law has often arisen when they have been alarmed by developments that suggested they were going to be put under a regime of small group isolation. The Justice Ministry is currently trying to move away from its traditional system of large wards of eighty or more prisoners, which have proved difficult to manage, to a cell or room system. New cell-based "F-Type" prisons are under construction, and existing prisons are being remodeled. Human Rights Watch does not oppose the move to cell based prisons per se, but we are concerned that unless accompanied by productive activities and substantial out-of-cell time, the new prisons may impose a harsh isolation regime that violates international standards. These concerns stem from the fact that the Ministry of Justice has already begun to apply small group isolation in parts of the prison system, including at Kartal Special Closed Prison in the Soganlik district of Istanbul.

While construction work on the new prisons continues, the Ministry of Justice has remained inexplicably silent on how it intends to run the new facilities. Yet this information is vital, as it will determine whether the planned changes represent progress or a serious regression for the Turkish prison system. Speaking about the plan to institute an individual cell system, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture stated in a recent report to the Turkish government:

It is imperative for moves toward smaller living units for prisoners in Turkey to be accompanied by measures to ensure that prisoners spend a reasonable part of the day engaged in purposeful activities outside their living unit. Indeed, the effects of the current almost total absence of any organized program of activities for prisoners would be felt even more keenly in smaller living units. In the absence of a significantimprovement in activities for prisoners, the introduction of smaller living units will almost certainly cause more problems than it solves.42
The CPT asked for detailed information about the planned regime, but unfortunately the Turkish government has so far failed to reply to the committee's request. On May 24, 2000 Human Rights Watch issued a report on conditions at Kartal Special Type Prison, and the planned F-type cell-based prisons, entitled Small Group Isolation in Turkish Prisons: An Avoidable Disaster.43

Accession Partnership Recommendation:

* The Justice Ministry should put an end to the regime of intense isolation at Kartal Special Closed Prison and publicly announce plans for the future management of prisons that are consistent with international standards and promise a healthy environment for prisoners. Such plans should include a schedule for the establishment of a system of independent monitoring such as that discussed above as a measure to curb torture. This measure is not specified in the Report or the Calendar but both propose seeking E.U. funding in order to accelerate the move from the ward system to the cell or room system.

Lack of civil society monitoring of prison conditions

Turkish prisons are visited regularly by the local prosecutor, and are inspected by the Justice Ministry every two years. Human Rights Watch shares the view of the CPT that this should be supplemented by supervision by a body independent of state institutions. In its report on a visit to Turkey in October 1997, published in 1999, the CPT said that it "attaches particular importance to regular visits to all prison establishments by an independent body (for example, a visiting committee or a judge with responsibility for carrying out inspections) with authority to receive-and, if necessary, take action on-prisoners' complaints and to visit the premises."

Accession Partnership Recommendation:

* The Turkish government should announce a schedule for the establishment of a nationwide system of visiting boards, comprised of local persons trusted for their independence and commitment to human rights, who could visit prisons in order to talk to prisoners, inspect facilities. Such boards should report publicly on their work and findings. This measure is not specified in the Report or the Calendar.

42 CPT/Inf (99) 2 [EN]; February 23, 1999.

43 Available on our website at

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