TURKEY: Letter to Justice Minister
The amendment opens the possibility for prisoners to participate in common activities, such as education and sport, and allows for unobstructed visits. However the wording suggests that these changes will depend on individual prison resources and be provided at the discretion of individual prison authorities. Amnesty International also expressed concern that communal activities will only be possible within the 'framework of rehabilitation and education programs developed for such prisoners'.
Amnesty International called on the Justice Minister to 'ensure that prisoners spend a reasonable part of the day engaged in a program of communal activities outside their living units', as called for by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). The CPT has said that prisoners should spend eight hours or more outside their cells engaged in purposeful activity of a varied nature.
Prison conditions have been a subject of intense debate in Turkey in the past year. Prisoners and their families as well as many human rights defenders and other civil organizations have been concerned that the new 'F-type' prison system might lead to regimes of isolation which would increase the risk of torture or ill-treatment .
Since October 2000 more than 1,000 political prisoners have participated in hunger strikes against the 'F-Type' prisons. Reportedly up to 800 people remain on hunger strike. To date 20 people, including 16 prisoners and four of their relatives, have died as a result.
On 9 December 2000, the Justice Minister promised that the planned transfer of prisoners to the 'F- type' prisons would not take place until Article 16 of the Anti-Terror Law, which lays down a draconian regime of isolation, was amended. Yet on 19 December, an operation was conducted by the security forces in 20 prisons, as a result of which 30 prisoners and two soldiers died. Subsequently, hundreds of prisoners were transferred to three new 'F-Type' prisons.
Further details of Amnesty International's concerns about the use of isolation and allegations of torture and ill-treatment in 'F-Type' prisons are documented in Amnesty International's recent report: 'Turkey: 'F-Type' prisons - Isolation and allegations of torture and ill-treatment':