The new set of regulations that has been introduced in Turkey to “evaluate the behaviours of the prisoners” only applies to “political prisoners.” Lawyers in Turkey have been campaigning against this regulation, stating it is both against the constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and a number of international conventions.
Whilst the debates are still ongoing regarding this “special treatment” of political prisoners, most of whom are already jailed in a cell-type isolation system, another highly contentious and scandalous bill regarding prisons has been proposed by MPs from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), chaired by the president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
This new bill proposal – known as the ‘4th Judicial Package’ – proposes regulations that would ensure that all the visits and ensuing meetings the political prisoners would have with their family members and also their lawyers would be “taken under record via electronic devices and listened to by the prison administrations.”
“Such a bill, to be proposed in parliament, creates question marks in our heads,” said Aslıhan Bulut, a lawyer and member of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD), who represents a number of political prisoners across the country. “They are already listening to the weekly phone calls of the prisoners and there is a Commission in the prison that reads all the letters they send or receive to detect any grounds for an investigation against them,” she said.
However, Bulut added: “Introducing this ‘Fourth Judicial Package’ under the circumstances I have already summarised, only aims to completely isolate the political prisoners.” Bulut stressed that the proposed new judicial package, if passed through parliament, would mean “the total isolation of the prisoners. We believe that this is not only about recording or listening to prisoners’ meetings, not only limited to physically isolating the prisoners, but it aims to isolate their thoughts.”
The package, if passed, means a violation of the “right to communicate freely,” Bulut stated.
“The prisoners are debarred from the right to get out of prison and their freedom is taken away from them as a penalty, yet they have to be able to use all other rights. One of those rights is the right to communicate and this package constitutes a serious violation of it,” she said.
The right to ‘freedom of thought’ is also under threat due to this package, she asserted. “The fact that there is an attempt to violate this right is not only considered as a violation of this right, but we consider this as an attempt to destroy the personalities of the prisoners,” she said.
“If we consider the very reason why political prisoners have been jailed in the first place, that it is because of their thoughts, we can conclude that they aim to prevent the prisoners maintaining such thoughts.”
“The state has to guarantee and supply sufficient conditions to protect the physical and mental existence of the prisoners,” Bulut stated and appealed to human rights defenders and law experts to remind Turkish authorities of their legal obligations.