Year2017

Latest updates

Medical personnel are understaffed particularly considering the high growth rates of the prison population. As of 2016, medical staff included1:

  • 471 health care staff (as well as 207 under contract)
  • 675 psychologists
  • 10 doctors
  • 3 dentists
  • 3 nutritionists

  1. According to the latest figures published by the Prison Service in its 2016 Activity Report

Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls

yes

In Kocaeli Kandira and Tekirdag prisons, prisoners have the right to call their family members twice a month for ten minutes. The number of phone call destinations for each prisoner is limited to three, which is validated in advance by the management of the establishment.
In the Silivri prison there are two communications per month. Their duration is limited to eight minutes and the call can only occur on national lines. No exceptions are made, even in case of emergency.

  • Amnesty International Turkey Director Idil Eser, imprisoned in Silivri Prison, has no access to telephone or mail 1 and only receives messages sent by her lawyer.


    1. “A journey into the dark heart of Turkey’s prison system in * Newsweek *, December 2017 (in English). 

The state of emergency declared since the attempted coup has tightened policies regarding maintaining family ties. Contact visits are now permitted in some prisons only once every two months.

  • Dozens of women who came to visit their imprisoned husbands in January 2017 were in turn imprisoned, sometimes with their children.1


    1. Journalists and WritersFoundation, “Women’s rights under attack in Turkey”, 2017, p. 53. 

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  • The prison administration’s activity report for the year 2016 recorded the following inmate participation in education:

    • 10,762 in literacy classes
    • 35,647 in school and university education
    • 386 in distance educationstatis
    • 62,490 in vocational training

The duration for placement in solitary confinement is limited

no

The use of isolation confinement is recurrent and abusive and reserved mostly for political prisoners.

  • The German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel has been [kept in isolation confinement for several months](https://www.challenges.fr/world /for -the -reporter-deniz-yucel-turkey-derive-towards -the - fascism_512622) in the Silivri prison.

Numerous hunger strikes were identified during the year. Eighty-five people were on a hunger strike in April 2017 in four different prisons.

  • In February 2017, Kurds prisoners, convicted for joining the PKK, began a hunger strike in six prisons. They denounced abusive placement in solitary confinement and constant ill-treatment. They demanded the release of Abdullah Ocalan, former leader of the PKK, imprisoned on the island of İmralı. Amnesty International and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) repeatedly report the psychological torture of one of the PKK’s founders.

    i
    10/2017
    / L'Humanité

Death penalty is abolished

yes, abolished since May 7, 2004

The last execution took place in 1984.1


  1. Between 1920 and 1984, 712 people were executed. Hıdır Aslan was the last person to be executed on the 25 October 1984. 

  • The reintroduction of the death penalty has been debated publicly for several years. A referendum aimed at strengthening the president’s power took place on the 16 April 2017.When the “Yes” vote won, crowds in Istanbul chanted “Death Penalty”. On this occasion President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, he was prepared to hold a referendum on the reinstatement of the death penalty.

The infrastructures of the other prisons are not adapted. The living conditions are even more difficult for people with disabilities who are dependent on the help of other prisoners. Abuse is constant. Prisoners with disabilities suffer particularly when it comes to difficult access to care (see “Health” rubric).

  • Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST) found that in May 2015 there were no wheelchairs modified to go through metal detecting doors.1


    1. Civil Society In the Penal System, “Beeing a disabled, foreign or LGBTI prisoner”, Juin 2015, p.15. 

Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care

no

  • Diren Coşkun has also been imprisoned at the Tekirdağ men’s prison since 2017. She is currently conducting a hunger strike in protest of her isolation as well as the mistreatments she has experienced with regards to the way staff treat her and her medical needs.

Many people in the LGBTI community hide their sexual identities in order to protect themselves from acts of violence either from other prisoners or from prison staff. This results in a lack of accurate information about the LGBTI population in Turkish prisons.

  • In 2014/2015, the Turkish government planned on dedicating an entire building to LGBTI prisoners. The aim, according to the authorities, is to protect them from possible acts of violence. LGBTI organizations argue that this arrangement could cause disruption to families because of how far the building would be, and the fact that this project would institutionalize the discrimination of a minority. The authorities have yet to confirm the realization of this project.

LGBTI persons are separated from other prisoners

in most cases

LGBTI inmates are usually placed either in isolation or in distinct cells to avoid any aggression towards them. This measure is taken particularly for the transgender women being held in men’s prisons. In order to be placed in a prison or quarters that match the gender they identify with, they must go through gender reassignment surgery in a public hospital. The procedure lasts at least one year.

  • At the Tekirdağ men’s prison, there is an imprisoned trans person who has been awaiting surgery for five years.

In August 2017, the maximum duration of pre-trial imprisonment increased, from five to seven years. On October 30, 2017, about 150,000 people were arrested. Around 50,000 individuals were kept in prison, of which 7,500 were military.
From the coup attempt up until March 2017, 13 deputies were imprisoned. As of March 2017, a total of 83 mayors thought to be pro-PKK have been either suspended or arrested.
As of March 2016, there were 6,592 prisoners presumed to be members of the PKK.

  • Civil society actors are also being targeted. The president of the Turkish branch of Amnesty International, Taner Kiliç, was arrested on June 6, 2017. He has since been imprisoned. The director from the same organization, Idil Eser, was also arrested (in French) during training with 11 other civil society organizations in July 2017. She was freed in October 2017. The authorities also target journalists and lawyers. Investigations on human rights violations are very heavily reprimanded. According to the “Turkey Purge” website, between the coup attempt and February 5, 2018, 319 journalists have been arrested.
    According to the Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, between July 2016 and December 2017, 570 lawyers were arrested, while 1,486 were prosecuted. Seventy of them are serving prison sentences.
    Osman Kavala, a Turkish businessman, philanthropist, and advocate for intercultural dialogue, was arrested (in French) on October 18, 2017 at the Atatürk airport in Istanbul. He had just returned from a meeting held in partnership with the Goethe Institute and the Kurds. He has, since then, been held in prison.

Childbirth takes place in

  • in an outside care facility
  • within the prison establishment
  • Şule Gümüşoluk, who was detained in Kayseri prison when she was eight and a half months’ pregnant, was kept in prison during childbirth due to a court order in May 2017. This decision was made in spite of the risk of a difficult childbirth.

The sentence can be adjusted as soon as it is pronounced (ab initio)

no

Community service exists as an alternative to incarceration: 29,707 people received this sentence in 2016. Placement under electronic surveillance is provided by the law and has been applied since February 2013.

  • Up to 3,000 people were placed under electronic surveillance in April 2017, including 359 people accused of being members of the Gülen movement. These people are being monitored from a center based in Istanbul. The Director General of Prisons and Detention Centers says the device can monitor up to 5,000 people.

A regional body monitors the places of deprivation of liberty

yes

European or international bodies occasionally visit Turkish prisons. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) visited a number of prisons in Turkey following the attempted coup d’état. The Turkish government did not allow them to publish their report.

Prisoners may lodge complaints about prison administration with the any of following:

  • Enforcement Court
  • Prison Prosecutor
  • Administrative justice
  • Constitutional Court
  • Human Rights and Equality Council (ombudsman)
  • Prison control commissions
  • Local ombudsman offices.
    These complaints include grievances related to overcrowding, the right to correspondence, cultural and social activities, family visits, food, medical visits, extractions, and abuse. Complaint procedures against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment often remain unanswered.
  • A report by the Union of Turkish Bar Associations on human rights (2016-2017) outlined the number of complaints of ill-treatment lodged by prisoners against staff:

    • From 1 January to 15 July 2016 (before the coup attempt): 344 complaints
    • From 15 July to 31 December 2016: 89 complaints
    • From 1st January 2017 to May 2017: 194 complaints
      The Human Rights Office of the Central Section of the Prison Service states that in the course of 2016 it received 819 complaints1:
    • 323 from NGOs
    • 151 from the Commission on Human Rights of the Parliament
    • 195 from persons deprived of their liberty, their relatives or legal representative.

    The President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Guido Raimondi, cited 5,363 complaints filed by Turkish nationals between July and December 2016 (after the coup attempt). He reported a [276% increase over the previous year](http://www.dw.com/en/more-than-5000-cases-filed-against-turkey-over-post-coup-purge -says-echr / a-37294226).


    1. Figures provided in the 2016 activity report of the Prison Service. 

In their report 2017, Amnesty International found data indicating “*the widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment of people suspected of participating in the attempted coup d’état”*. They also reported that soldiers undergo the worst threats to their physical integrity.
Following the 27 November - 2 December 2016 visit, the special United Nations Reporter on torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment confirmed, that a general climate of intimidation and mistrust has been established in the country following the attempted coup d’état. This has prevented complaints about alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment, and hindered subsequent documentation and investigation.
In November 2016, an Executive Decree disbanded three lawyer associations working on police violence and torture. Amnesty International reported on this dissolution. 1

  • Mizgin Dag, a 23-year-old student, was attacked, along with her sister Zelal, during their transfer to Tarsus prison. Zelal explained that her sister still had bruises on her arms and face 20 days after being beaten. She was deprived of water for three days after her arrival. She was only permitted to see a doctor two weeks later. The ill-treatment continues once in prison. Prisoners explain how they have been kept in painful positions for long periods and have been subjected to sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual abuse, and threats of rape. One of the methods of torture is to insert needles into their nipples[^Silivri]. Some prisoners in Silivrihave described the physical and verbal violence they have undergone to their lawyers.

    The prisoner Yakup Gündoğan, who was transferred to Van prison, affirmed that a guard said, in May 2017: “I have been given permission to use torture”. In the same prison, Recep Adıyaman, who was strip searched with his feet and hands handcuffed round his back, said he was no longer able to sleep because of the pain.

    Ibrahim Halil Baran, a Kurdish militant, was in prison in Urfa between January and April 2017. He said he was tortured for 13 days. The anti-terrorist headquarters in Urfa is used to harbour acts of torture. He affirmed he would be able to identify the police officers that tortured him.

Number of deaths attributed to suicide

280

Human rights organisations often call into question the credibility of these reports and speak out about suspect deaths.

Deaths in custody are logged in a register

no

The prison authorities do not regularly publish figures on the number of deaths in detention. Human rights organisations often make public the cases they are made aware of.

The Ministry of Justice reported 2,300 deaths in detention during the period 2009-2016.

These deaths were, for the most part, a result of the adverse conditions of confinement and inadequate access to health care. The elderly were also affected.

  • An article in Turkey Purge, dated April 17, 2017, reported 28 suspicious deaths in prison since the attempted coup d’état on 15 July 2016.
    24-year-old Mehmet Kil was found dead in Kürkçüler prison. The authorities reported it as suicide. His brother testified to death threats from guards.
    The member of Parliament,Danış Beştaş, challenged,the authorities regarding the circumstances of his death on the 26 October.

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Some prisoners participate in court hearings from prison via the SEGBIS, an audio-visual communication interface. This measure mainly concerns prisoners who are serving their sentence in a prison away from the court in charge of their case.

The outcomes of the state of emergency:

The state of emergency1, which was declared following the attempted coup d’état, deprived prisoners of many protective rights:

  • The maximum period possibleto be held in was extended from 4 to 30 days. Since January 2017, this period has been changed again to seven days, renewable once, for the same length of time. In actual fact, this length of time is often exceeded.
  • The law does not permit consultation with a lawyer in the first five days of remand in police custody.
  • Communication between lawyer and client can be registered and transmitted to the prosecutorial authorities.
  • The right to access a lawyer of one’s own choice to consult for advice is limited. -Some medical examinations are carried out in the presence of police officers.

These abuses are possible when the independence of judicial power is undermined. The number of judges and prosecutors removed from office since 15 July 2016 was 4,463 on 5th February 2018.


  1. The state of emergency was declared shortly after the failed coup on July 15, 2016. It has been continuously renewed since then. It was extended for the sixth time in January 2018. 

  • Between July 2016 and December 2017, 570 lawyers were arrested. 1,486 were prosecuted, according to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative (The Arrested Lawyers Initiative).
    Seventy of them are serving a prison sentence. Master Melih Dikayak, a member of the Izmir Bar, was sentenced to seven years and five months in prison. He was accused of downloading the Bylock messaging application. Using or downloading this is regarded as evidence of membership of the Gulenist movement.

All inmates are admitted to prison with a valid commitment order

no

The Turkish authorities have arrested thousands of people suspected of belonging to the Gülen movement.

  • In a report in September 2017, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) explained the following pretexts used for the arrests:

    • Subscription to the newspaper Zaman, an opposition publication, banned on 27 July 2016. Thousands of readers of the newspaper were arrested for this reason.
    • Being a customer of the Asya bank, which was seized by the government in May 2015. Twenty-eight of its managers were imprisoned. It is not known how many of its customers have been detained.
    • Being a member of a union: thousands of teachers who were members of different trade unions were arrested.
    • Being in possession of American dollar bills, which contain secret codes for the members of the Gülen movement.
      People have sometimes been arrested in place of a family member. Hacer Korucu, wife of the journalist Bulent Korucu, was held for eight months. The bill of indictment suggested that her husband’s actions were a legal reason for arresting his wife.1
      On the 5 February 2018 The militant website, Turkey Purge reported 64,358 people, of whom 319 were journalists, were arrested since the attempted coup d’état in July 2016.

En 2016, la sección regional de la administración penitenciaria contaba con 52 610 personas (el 88 % hombres y el 12 % mujeres).1 Las diferentes funciones comprenden:

  • 1052 directores
  • 37 604 guardias (y 2580 guardias contractuales)
  • 1100 secretarios
  • 84 directores del servicio de reinserción y libertad vigilada
  • 675 psicólogos
  • 652 profesores
  • 425 sociólogos
  • 249 asistentes sociales
  • 10 médicos
  • 471 trabajadores de salud (así como 207 trabajadores contractuales)
  • 3 dentistas
  • 3 nutricionistas

El número de guardias penitenciarios es insuficiente con respecto a la creciente población carcelaria. Los guardias penitenciarios no se reclutan en función de sus cualificaciones o competencias.

En septiembre de 2016, Al Jazeera informó que 1500 miembros del personal penitenciario, acusados de apoyar el movimiento Gülen, fueron suspendidos de sus funciones.

La presidenta de la Fundación turca de derechos humanos afirmó, en septiembre de 2017, que a los guardias que se niegan a torturar a los presos se les amenaza con penas de prisión.


  1. Según las últimas cifras que publicó la administración penitenciaria en su informe de actividades de 2016

  • In September 2016, Al Jazeera reported that 1,500 members of the penitentiary personnel accused of supporting the Gülen movement were suspended.
    In September 2017, the president of the Turkish Foundation of Human Rights reported that guards whorefused orders to torture were being threatened with incarceration.

Prison directors and guards are required to undergo training before assuming their duties. This requirement started being enforced in 2010.

Theoretical prior training lasts five months. Some applicants have internship opportunities where they can apply their skills through field training, under the supervision of the trainers. This initial training has been thought to be insufficient, as it doesn’t prepare future guards for the realities of the job.

Staff also receive continuous training through courses and themed seminars.

  • In 2016, continuous training was held for 9,111 staff members. The following are some of the titles of the 2016 trainings: “Human rights”, “Communication”, “Negative effects of emotions and combating stress”, “To lead and be lead”, “Delinquency and the delinquent”, “Ethics”, “Be a good role model”, “Penitentiary law”, “Anger management”, “Intervention strategies and techniques”, “Information on prohibited objects and narcotics”, “Fight against escape”, and “Restraints and emergency situations”.
    Between 2014 and 2017, the Turkish prison administration participated in the IDECOM (Innovation, Development and Communication for a better Education in Prison Systems) project along with Romania, Portugal, the Maldives, and EuroPris. Its goal is to improve the prison staff’s professional training.

Overcrowding is an issue for specific types of prison facilities

yes

The usual detention centres were not equipped to accommodate the huge number of people arrested the day after the coup d’état of 15 July, 2016. Thousands of people were placed in stadiums and function rooms and other places with no video surveillance. Some were victims of ill-treatment and abuse. The SCF confirmed, in May 2017, that the Turkish police force made use of the State Water Company (DSİ) buildings as a detention centre. Cases of verbal and physical violence were denied.

A gymnasium in the Karabuk prison had become a makeshift cell, housing about a hundred prisoners. Prison density varies from one establishment to the next and often within the same prison. A cell designed for three or four prisoners can accommodate up to eight. Some sleep on mattresses on the floor.

  • In 2017, 60 people in Tarsus prison were housed in a cell designed for 26. In the same year, Kirklareli prison accommodated 1,000 prisoners in a space with capacity for 500.

The Turkish government has taken steps to improve detention conditions, since 2004, in order to join the European Union; this included the abolition of death sentences on May 7, 2004, and the reform of the Penal Code to criminalize acts of torture. Prisons are gradually opening their doors to associations and researchers. Prison administration and its personnel are becoming more respectful of human rights. The reforms also call for new, more modern penitentiary institutions.

  • On August 29, 2017, State-Secretary Kenan İpek shared that they were building 50 prisons meant to hold people associated with the Gülen movement. According to the militant site Turkey Purge, the Turkish government expects to build 228 new institutions in the next five years. The capacity would increase to 137,687 prisoners. The government expects to allocate 5.5 billion Turkish liras towards the building of 39 new prisons. The entire budget for the Ministry of Justice is 13.7 billion for the 2018 fiscal year.

The administration does not provide suitable food for children or extra mattresses for them. They have to share their mothers’ beds. Toys are not allowed in cells. Because of their isolation from family, foreign female prisoners have particular difficulties meeting their own needs and those of their children. Sometimes the children grow up without ever having left prison.

  • Aysun Aydemir gave birth to her baby on 12 May 2017. She was detained just after having given birth by Caesarean section, despite having difficulty walking. She was then detained with her three-day-old child in pre-trial detention in the province of Zonguldak. On 31 March 2017, Sezgin Tanrikulu, an opposition MP, challenged the Prime Minister over the case of a woman who gave birth alone in a police station in Ankara.