KURDISTAN AKTUELL BRIEFINGS
Ein Offener Brief der IHD's an Lord Russell Johnston
Open Letter to Lord Russell Johnston
Ankara, 20 May 2001
Lord Russell Johnston,
Council of Europe
President of the Parliamentary Assembly
Dear Lord Johnston,
We thank you for your expression of concern about the continuing hunger strikes
by political prisoners in protest against the isolation imposed in Turkish
prisons. However, we would like to draw a number of points to your attention, in
view of the Council of Europeıs regional role in the protection of human rights
and the Parliamentary Assemblyıs role in monitoring human rights
responsibilities of member countries.
We are hereby addressing you to express our expectation that you might invite
the Turkish government to solve the current prison crisis on the basis of
Turkey's Council of Europe obligations.
As we made clear to you in our letter of 12 April 2001, the crisis which is now
presenting a fatal threat in Turkish prisons, is inextricably tied up with the
isolation policy. While the Justice Minister on 9 December 2000 declared that
the F-type Prisons would not open until measures had been put in place to
prevent isolation and torture, and while the relevant professional organizations
were making efforts to bring the hunger strikes to an end through dialogue, on
19 December 2000 the government launched a bloody operation to transfer a large
number of political prisoners to the F type Prisons; there has still been no
independent investigation of how 32 people lost their lives in the course of
these events, or of the serious allegations of torture. In response to this
operation, which could fairly be called a massacre, the hunger strikes spread.
So far 22 people have died and many prisoners are left permanently disabled.
The government declares that it has done everything necessary to protect human
rights and that the hunger strikes should now be called off. Our Association has
also taken a number of initiatives to bring the hunger strikes immediately to an
end, but it is our belief that the government has not done what it should to end
isolation and other abuses in the F Type Prisons.
With the 2 May amendment to Article 16 of the Anti-Terror Law which provided for
unconditional isolation for all prisoners, the lifting of isolation was made
conditional, permanent isolation brought in as a punishment measure for some
prisoners, and discretion in such matters left entirely with the prison
administration; however, isolation has not been lifted in the F Type Prisons,
and reports are now coming in from other prisons of isolation and ill-treatment.
The prisoners in these facilities have been under conditions of intense
isolation for 5 months; moreover, there are serious reports of torture and
ill-treatment. Access to health facilities or to court are being obstructed and
visits by lawyers and families are being limited, while prisoners are being
denied some of their most basic human needs. Hunger strikers in hospital, many
of whom have lost most of their mental and physical abilities, are lying chained
by their ankles, isolated even in the hospital environment. Hunger strikers who
abandon their action are not receiving the medically indicated nutrition, and
there are frequent reports that they are ill-treated.
The government claims that the hunger strikers want the F Type Prisons abolished
and a return to the dormitory system.
However, our Associationıs impression, based on discussions with relatives and
lawyers, is that the hunger strikersı demand is for the lifting of isolation.
We fear that if isolation is not lifted, the hunger strikes will spread and lead
to still further loss of life.
Our Association and other involved professional and democratic organizations
have, in various initiatives, called not only for the lifting of isolation, but
also other reforms which are among the demands of the hunger strikers, but which
the Association has been pressing for over many years.
1. Solitary and "small group" (three person) isolation must be ended.
2. Prisoners with health problems must be treated in accordance with doctorsı
advice, without forcible intervention.
3. The 19 December "operation" and earlier operations in other prisons
must be subject to independent investigation and promptly brought to justice.
4. The management of prisons and remand facilities must be open to monitoring by
independent councils on which non-governmental organizations are represented.
Our Association has made various initiatives inviting the government to have a
dialogue with the protesters and thereby bring the hunger strikes to a close
without further loss of life.
These demands are for measures which are quite normal in a democratic state
based on the rule of law. They are also in conformity with the standards of the
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
The government, however, has chosen to increase pressure on all non-governmental
organizations which have opposed the isolation and torture, including our
Association. Human rights organizations and interested professional
organizations have not only been prevented from directly monitoring what is
happening in the prisons, but have also been relentlessly persecuted.
Prosecutions have been brought against the Headquarters of the Human Rights
Association and several of its branches. Most recently, a trial was opened
against the Turkish Medical Association, claiming that its statements about the
19 December operations were "activities in breach of its statute" and
that Medical Association doctors examining prisoners at Bursa E Type Prison had
"disobeyed the orders of authorised officers."
In the face of such a situation, your support, as President of the Parliamentary
Assembly, for the governmentıs prison policy and most recently, in the speech
you made in Ankara on 18 May, your unloading of responsibility for ending the
hunger strike onto the poor families who have been harassed by the security
forces for so many months (in effect accusing them of colluding in the death of
their own children), conflicts with the principle of regional cooperation for
the protection of human rights which was the founding aim of the Council of
Europe. We wish to express our concern about this serious retrograde move on the
part of the Council of Europe. We consider that the correct address for ending
the hunger strikes is the government, which should do so in compliance with the
Council of Europe obligations. In our opinion, this is also in line with your
position as the Speaker of the inter-parliamentary organ of an intergovernmental
organisation. For us, such an attitude as we suggest is also well-founded,
considering statements by the Committee of Ministers and the CPT, as well as the
state of Turkey's compliance with the ECHR judgements point to a general
relentless non-compliance with those obligations.
With our respects,
In the name of the Executive Board of the Human Rights Association