Protest against Camera Surveillance in Turkish Prisons











United Nation’s Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states in its first principle that “All persons under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be treated in a humane manner and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

Reports about conditions in Turkish prisons show that UN member Turkey is not complying with the human rights regulations mandated by the UN as is evident here, here and here, just to mention a few examples.

More reports about ill treatment of Kurdish inmates in Turkish prisons are appearing. Hayri Demir recently wrote for DIHA:

Human rights violations of captives increase day by day in the prisons of Turkey, and the recent implementation of surveillance system through cameras makes captives say enough is enough. In the recent months, there is an extensive placement of cameras especially in the parts of prisons where captives from PKK and PAJK are imprisoned. The captives are kept under surveillance for 24 hours without having a legal base either in national or in international law. The captives who protest against this unlawful practice face disciplinary actions.

Lawyer Muhterem Süren (member of Diyarbakir branch of the Prison Commission of Human Rights Association) said that the use of camera surveillance can only be defended “if and only if the prisoner is likely to continue committing crimes or to destroy the proofs or to harm the others,” but says that these conditions are not met and the actual aim is to keep the prisoners under control.

Another lawyer, Selvi Tunç, said

The captives in the prisons had already been under surveillance through many methods, but this application adds insult to injury. The aim of it is to isolate, to leave in loneliness. Its base is psychological torture. The application is to create a feeling of being incessantly observed and therefore to take away captives’ right to socialization.

Prisoners call for action

PKK prisoners in the Alanya L Type Prison (Alanya L Tipi Cezaevi) reported to their families during phone conversations that the prison administration had placed cameras inside their wards, which prompted the prisoners to call out to the public. The prisoners’ relatives informed the public about the camera surveillance and that the prisoners reacted to it by covering the cameras with clothes.

The families shared the prisoners’ call for action:

By installing the cameras, they are spying on our lives. They are restricting our right to live. As if the arrest was not enough, they are now observing us with cameras. Our call is meant to all the sympathetic and democratic people: rise against this practice.

‘They are under surveillance 24 hours a day’

After an incident in September where 18 PKK members escaped from the Bingöl M Type Prison (Bingöl M Tipi Cezaevi), the repression of inmates in other prisons is continuing. The prisoners in Balikesir L Type Prison explained how their rights were abused and how they were suppressed.

A. Gafur Ateş who lives in the Bağlar district of Diyarbakir described the difficulties his brothers Mehmet Ateş and İbrahim Ateş and his cousin Ramazan Ateş were suffering in prison which they had mentioned during phone conversations.

Ateş explained that his brother Mehmet Ateş and his cousin Ramazan Ateş were imprisoned 21 years ago for participating in a demonstration and were given a life sentence, whereas his other brother İbrahim Ateş was captured in a wounded condition 18 years ago during a clash. He also reported that his relatives who were kept at different prisons were all sent to Balıkesir L Type Prison a year ago. Ateş said that because of their lack of opportunities to go to Balikesir, they have not been able to see their imprisoned relatives for a year and can only communicate with them through phone.

Ateş said that after the incident with the escape of 18 PKK members from the Bingöl Prison, all the wards and ventilation systems have had cameras installed and that the prisoners are now under surveillance 24 hours a day. Ateş said that the prisoners’ first response was to cover the cameras with blankets but because the implementation continued, they unplugged the cameras without damaging them. This led to inquiries into the action and the prisoners were given cell punishments (periods of solitary confinement).

‘They are given the newspapers after they have lost their value of being up-to-date’

Ateş who reported that the repression of the political prisoners is increasing day by day said that unless the abuses of rights, ill treatment and suppression are stopped, his relatives might go through similar incidents as the ones in Muş E Type Closed Prison (where women in the female section burnt blankets in protest and some were injured). Ateş explained that the prison administration is systematically suppressing the prisoners and “they are doing everything to keep the prisoners isolated from the world. Newspapers are not given to them. The newspaper Azadiya Welat is given to them 10 days after it is printed.”

A 2013 report from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) noted that

The CPT attaches considerable importance to the maintenance of good contact with the outside world for all persons deprived of their liberty. The active promotion of such contact can be especially beneficial for juveniles deprived of their liberty, many of whom may have behavioural problems related to emotional deprivation or a lack of social skills.

Ateş also said that the prisoners are having trouble being granted access to go to the hospital and “they (prison officials) want a separate letter of application before they send them to the hospital. The processing of the application takes at least 10 days. They do this to prevent the prisoners from going to the hospital”.

The CPT remarked on similar conditions:

[…] at Diyarbakir and Gaziantep Prisons, all request of prisoners to see a doctor were also notified to the management and that, at Gaziantep Prison, all prescriptions for medicines issued by the doctor were countersigned by the Director.

The CPT once again calls upon the Ministry of Justice to take immediate steps – in co-operation with the Ministry of Health – to ensure that the principle of medical confidentiality is fully respected […].

Ateş, who wants the suppression of the prisoners to end, called on people to raise awareness of prison conditions.