Turkish Justice Ministry denies juvenile prison torture claims

Turkish Justice Ministry denies juvenile prison torture claims

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Justice Ministry denies juvenile prison torture claims

This file photo shows an inmate behind bars. The Progressive Lawyers’ Association statement claims that minor inmates of a juvenile prison in İzmir’s Aliağa district suffer from severe torture. Hürriyet photo

Claims of torture and emotional abuse in a juvenile prison in İzmir’s Aliağa district, which were voiced by the Progressive Lawyers’ Association and stirred public debate, are “completely untrue” but nevertheless will be subject to further inspection, Justice Ministry said on May 28.

In a statement released a day after the association’s remarks, the Ministry dismissed any claims of torture and abuse in the mentioned Şakran prison, where severe beating, abusive behavior and demeaning treatments were taking place, according to the association’s report.

Şakran had been previously visited by the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission and was defined as setting an example to other prisons following the official inspection, which was also attended by Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü, who called on the ministry to act on the same day of the association’s remarks.

Kürkçü defined prisons as “houses of torture and rape for children” after the report surfaced, saying he would appeal to the Justice Ministry on the matter, according to Anatolia news agency.

The association cited children’s testimonies of isolation for days and months, emotional abuse, denial of medical assistance and severe beatings, including one instance where a prison warden, named Ercan, had beaten an inmate with a hose.

The ministry claimed that, since 238 cameras are in operation around the institution, this would have made it impossible for the claims to be true, adding that no one worked in the prison by the name of Ercan. The ministry’s statement further said that the children had been receiving medical assistance when needed, unlike what was stated in the association’s report.

One inmate, who was said in the report to have been refused surgery due to a lack of hospital staff, was indeed scheduled to undergo treatment, but was later re-diagnosed and received treatment accordingly, the ministry said.

The lawyers association had claimed children were sent to isolated rooms, which were as small as three square meters in total area and contained nothing but a bed, sink and toilet, where they were kept for days or even months. The 22 isolation rooms were reportedly almost always full to their capacity, according to the children’s statements, adding that the rooms were cleared out ahead of official inspections.

None of the petitions written by the inmates received any response, which prompted the belief that the administrative officials were blocking them before they were sent to the authorities, Association member Nergis Tuba Aslan has said, adding that the association was in the process of filing a criminal complaint, as well as applying to governor’s office human rights commission.

No petitions have been filed, despite inmates claiming otherwise, according to the ministry. The law also rules out any isolation detention for children and only permits exclusion from social activities for up to five days at most, the statement added, with medical reports required at the start and end of the detention.

All prisons under the Justice Ministry are open to inspections from all national and international groups, the statement said, while inviting the parliamentary human rights commission to re-inspect the prison following the public interest.