IHD Adana Branch issues report on violations in Çukurova Plain Prisons

The IHD Adana Branch has issued a report on violations in Çukurova Plain Prisons. The report reveals a massive increase in human rights abuses behind bars.

What is the human rights situation in the Çukurova Plain prisons? In order to provide some clarity on this issue, the prison commission of the Adana-based branch of the human rights association IHD has submitted a report on the violations in the prisons of the region. The report reveals a massive increase in human rights violations behind bars. A total of six facilities in the provinces of Adana, Osmaniye and Maraş were examined.

The situation in the F- and T-type prisons in Adana-Kürkçüler and the two L-type prisons in Maraş-Turkoğlu is the most devastating, said lawyer Serhat Ökmen at the presentation of the report. "The rights violations range from the prevention of treatment and denial of health rights for ill prisoners, torture, ill-treatment and degrading practices, strip searching, oral searches, lack of hygiene measures during the Covid-19 pandemic, arbitrary disciplinary punishments, restrictions on freedom of expression and the exchange of information Prisoners among themselves, problems faced by prisoners with disabilities, through to the practice of denying prisoners early release despite good behaviour.”

Methods beyond human rights

According to Ökmen, who is also spokesman for the local prison commission, these violations were described both in letters from prisoners and by relatives in discussions with the IHD. “These allegations were confirmed during our personal visits. Methods beyond human rights are being practiced in the prisons of this country for years and are also still ongoing in the correctional facilities in Çukurova.”

The lawyer pointed to cases of torture through oral cavity searches in the Kürkçüler F-type prison and described, that when prisoners were being transferred to a hospital, the gendarmerie staff carried out an intraoral search, even though the prisoners had already been searched four times on the way from their cells to being handed over to the transport. Although these examinations were carried out using detectors and x-rays, among other things, the gendarmerie insisted on the intraoral search of the prisoners. “This practice is arbitrary because it is not conducted under the supervision of a doctor and does not comply with the law. This practice is seen as a violation of human dignity,” says Ökmen.

Same respirator for three weeks

Regarding further findings in connection with the "right to health" of prisoners during the Coronavirus pandemic, Ökmen explained that in all prisons in the region, even in the most critical times of the pandemic, no cleaning agents and disinfectants were made available and inmates sometimes used the same respirator. The guards, who are in very close contact with the outside world, enter the prisoner's cell blocks and cells without any precautionary measures. In the case of external hospital stays, those affected would be accommodated in extremely dirty rooms. The condition in the hospital rooms of city clinics in Osmaniye was described as particularly disastrous. The rooms of the quarantine station in the local T-type prison number 1 are also in a terrible state.

The situation of seriously ill prisoners

When presenting the report, lawyer Ökmen also addressed the documented violations of the rights of ill prisoners. For example, several prisoners in T-Type No. 2 prison in Osmaniye who were injured at the time of their arrest were denied the right to treatment for five years. “It was only after lengthy efforts that hospital transport could be obtained, but treatment by doctors was not carried out. In addition, the detainees were handcuffed during doctor consultations. We have found that the treatment of these cases has been deliberately delayed and permanent damage has been caused to the prisoners because necessary and appropriate therapies have been withheld for five years. In the case of a seriously ill prisoner held in the T-Type prison number 1 in Osmaniye, it could be proven that an urgently needed operation was not carried out because the prisoner had previously not consented to being treated in while handcuffed and in the presence of the gendarmerie.”

The report also documents several cases of elderly, sick or physically disabled prisoners who are denied the necessary routine medical examinations, medical treatment, accommodation appropriate to their situation or release. In some cases, life-threatening conditions have been caused by blocking access to medicines. "All of these are clear cases of violations of the right to health of prisoners," Serhat Ökmen said.

The right to free access to information is also regularly violated in the Çukurova Plain detention centers. The Commission of the Human Rights Association was able to document cases in three prisons in which opposition newspapers were not handed out despite the prisoners' express wish to read them. Complaints from prisoners to the courts and the public prosecutor's office went unanswered, and letters written in Kurdish or English were neither handed over nor sent to the prisoners. The right to contact with the outside world is also being violated through reduced telephone and visiting hours. Cancelling social activities is one of the most common legal violations.

Ten prisoners receive food rations for four people

Another problem that prisoners frequently reported to the IHD Commission was the quantity and quality of the food. "Much too small portions, lack of nutrients, bad smell and taste and often the same food for days, which is sold to the prisoners in the prison canteen at high prices, are particularly fatal for ill and weak prisoners. Of course, prisoners in detention also have the right to healthy food,” said Serhat Ökmen.

“Prisoners' right to access adequate, sufficient and wholesome food and the obligation to provide it is the responsibility of the state. Arbitrary practices that threaten prisoners' basic needs, particularly their right to life and health, should be stopped immediately. Ill prisoners in particular must have access to appropriate and healthy food, taking into account health aspects and their prison conditions,” said the IHD.