16 international civil society organizations have released a joint statement, calling on Turkey to avoid any discriminatory exemption and to urgently release arrested lawyers, journalists, politicians and rights defenders.
Relasing a joint statement on the amendment to be introduced to the legislation on criminal execution, which is expected to exclude political prisoners from reduced prison sentences and early release, 16 international civil society organizations have called on Turkey to avoid any discrimination and to release political prisoners on an urgent basis.
Raising concerns over the "dire situation in Turkey's prisons" amid COVID-19 outbreak, the organizations have briefly stated the following:
'Political prisoners will be exempted'
"A number of rights organizations, medical associations and human rights activists have brought up the dire situation in Turkey's prisons where over 300 thousand inmates are accommodated.
"As credible reports have already documented, Turkey's prisons are overcrowded and not sufficiently hygienic. The occupancy level of Turkish prisons is reported as 131% or 153% in credible reports.
"According to a report by the Human Rights Commission of the Turkish Parliament, the inmate population in Silivri Prison is more than double the Prison's official capacity. The Commission also reported that the drinking water in the Prison was coming through old and rusty pipes, which was resulting in health problems among the inmates.
"Recently, it has been reported by the media that the government is preparing amendments to the penal system to allow the release nearly 100 thousand inmates in order to stem the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
"We applaud this action. However, according to media reports, those who have been imprisoned for certain charges including terror-related accusations will be exempted from benefitting this regulation.
"It means that lawyers, journalists, politicians, artists, judges and prosecutors, human rights defenders who were detained or convicted of terror-related accusations will not be benefiting of early release.
'We call on Turkey to avoid discriminatory exemption'
"The undersigned organizations call on the Turkish Government to avoid any discriminatory exemption, respect the fundamental human rights of all prisoners and ensure that all measures necessary to protect them from all kinds of harms including the COVID-19 pandemic are immediately taken. Prisoners who are elderly, sick, disabled and with children should be released from prisons immediately.
"It would be irresponsible and inhumane to continue to detain those kept in unhealthy prison conditions vulnerable to the dire threat of the current pandemic despite all calls from rights organizations and public figures drawing attention to the well-being of the inmates.
"We hope all necessary steps will immediately be taken in accordance with the Turkish Constitution and the framework of the Universal Human Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has determined that "the State party by arresting and detaining individuals takes the responsibility to care for their life. The Committee has also clarified that it is, "incumbent on States to ensure the right of life of detainees, and not incumbent on the latter to request protection."
Noting that they, as the undersigned organizations, "welcome the possible release of prisoners to stem COVID-19 in prisons", the organizations have called on the government of Turkey to meet the following three requests:
- Release measures include and do not exempt the release of political prisoners, particularly lawyers, journalists, politicians, artists, judges and prosecutors, human rights defenders and and others arbitrarily detained during the purge under emergency measures;
- Prisoners who are older, sick, disabled and with children are released first; and
- All releases take place on an urgent basis.
The undersigned organizations:
European Federation of Journalists
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
Foundation of Day of the Endangered Lawyers
International Association of People's Lawyers
International Observatory of Human Rights
International Federation of Journalists
Italian Federation for Human Rights
Lawyers for Lawyers
Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
Liga voor de Rechten van de Mens
Platform for Peace and Justice
Social Justice Advocacy Campaign
The Open Dialogue Foundation
The Arrested Lawyers Initiative
The Media and Law Studies Association