TOHAV: Urgent appeal to CPT and UN on hunger strikes

The Istanbul-based TOHAV Foundation is appealing to the CPT and the UN to travel to Turkey for an emergency visit regarding the isolation imposed on Öcalan and hunger strikes by Kurdish prisoners.

The Foundation for Society and Legal Studies (Toplum ve Hukuk Araştırmaları Vakfı, TOHAV) has made an urgent appeal to the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the United Nations.

In its appeal, the Foundation calls on both institutions to exercise their authority over the routine administrative practices of Turkish authorities that are in complete contradiction to the United Nations Convention and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.

The Foundation urged the UN and CPT to pay an urgent visit to Turkey to prevent torture and other forms of abuse.

‘Hunger strike for Öcalan in critical phase’

TOHAV pointed to the critical phase in which DTK Co-chair and HDP MP Leyla Güven and the prisoners on hunger strike are.

Kurdish politician Güven initiated an indefinite hunger strike on November 7, 2018 in order to emphasize the call for the removal of Abdullah Öcalan's isolation on Imrali prison island. Some 7,000 political prisoners are also on hunger strike against the isolation conditions of the PKK founder.

Highlighting the reports of torture and ill-treatment against the prisoners on hunger strike, TOHAV said these have become a common practice in prisons.

“Several prisoners on hunger strike continue to be deprived of the urgently needed vitamin B and salt and, moreover, medical examinations of the prisoners are not carried out in accordance with the legal provisions.”

The Foundation also criticized disciplinary sanctions such as solitary confinement and isolation imposed on prisoners for participating in hunger strikes. "The disciplinary sanctions violate both the Turkish Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, they are incompatible with human dignity," TOHAV said.

'Torture and risk of death'

Another offense against prisoners on hunger strike, sharply criticized by TOHAV, is the threat of forced feeding of prisoners and the degrading treatment by prison staff and the authorities that also target the relatives of these prisoners.

In its appeal, the Foundation pointed to the permanent damage and even more critical consequences for the prisoners that have already started to emerge. Warning against the risk of imminent death for those joining the indefinite hunger strike action, TOHAV recalled that political prisoners Zülküf Gezen, Ayten Beçet, Zehra Sağlam and Medya Çınar have put an end to their lives to express their protest against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan.

'You must act'

In its appeal, the Foundation concludes that the 800th petition by Öcalan’s lawyers has been rejected by the Turkish authorities and that the Kurdish leader has been denied the right to telephone contact with his relatives for 20 years.

The Foundation said: "We have serious concerns about violations of fundamental human rights, in particular the fundamental right to life and health of prisoners on hunger strike. The absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of abuse is fundamentally threatened by violations.

We call on you to arrange visits by independent committees and delegations in Imrali Prison and other detention centers in Turkey, to ensure that basic human rights of all prisoners are respected, and to contact the Ministry of Justice and other authorities in this regard. Since this is a very urgent matter, we ask you to respond promptly and positively.”