Lawyers who are from the Bar Association of Diyarbakir and also members of the Diyarbakir Branch of the Lawyers for Freedom Association conducted a visit regarding the physical attacks and potentially lethal injuries that became public knowledge in the High-Security Closed Penitentiary Institution No. 1 of Elazig. During the visit on August 9, 2023, interviews were held with 5 detainees/convicts.
The subject of the interviews with the detainees/convicts was the physical assault incident that took place in the penitentiary institution.
The visit aimed at conducting necessary assessments of the violent incident based on the content of news reports that came to the public's attention, documenting these assessments in reports, and subsequently providing the required legal support based on the resulting reports.
It was stated that searches were conducted for detainees/convicts in the right corridor of Block E before August 6, 2023; however, searches were not carried out in the rooms of individuals identified as perpetrators.
It was stated that one week before the incident, the detainee/convict identified as the perpetrator called out to individuals in other rooms, attempting to learn the types of crimes committed by those staying in those rooms.
Incident dated August 7, 2023
It was stated that on the night of August 6, 2023, the detainee/convict identified as the perpetrator experienced a heart condition and was referred to the hospital. After receiving treatment, he was brought back to the prison. On August 7, 2023, around 03:0 am, as he was being escorted to his room in the prison, it was reported that he incapacitated the accompanying correctional officer. Subsequently, he locked the officer in the room, forcibly tore the officer's shirt, took the metal rod the officer had, which is used for opening doors, and was seen heading towards other rooms.
In the High-Security Closed Penitentiary Institution No. 1 of Elazig, rooms marked E-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23 are located on the E-right corridor.
It was stated that the detainee/prisoner identified as the perpetrator managed to open the doors of two rooms, proceeded along the E-right corridor, and shouted, "I am the deep state, I have permission from above." It was mentioned that during this incident, due to the corridor doors and room doors not being locked, the iron bar could be easily used to open them, which resulted in other detainees' room doors being easily opened as well.
It was reported that the individual sequentially opened the rooms, engaged in insulting, threatening, and physically assaulting the detainees/prisoners, and attacked them using the iron bar and sharp objects.
The team of visiting members received information about the detainees/prisoners named H. A, M. Y., S. Y, M. O, and C., with an unknown last name, who were reported to have been subjected to the attack. The team conducted interviews with the victim and witness detainees/convicts.
We were informed that the victim detainee/convict H.A.'s unlocked room door was opened with the iron bar by the detainees/convicts identified as the perpetrators (two individuals). After taking H.A. hostage, they reportedly said, "We will do it slowly," "We will stay here for at least seven hours. Turn on the Haber Turk news channel. We will stay here until this incident makes it to the news." It was conveyed to us that they physically assaulted and injured the victim detainee/convict during this incident.
It was reported that the room of the victim detainee/convict S.Y. was entered, and he was subjected to physical violence in a manner that resulted in injuries to the groin area.
It was stated that following S.Y. being taken hostage, the room door of the victim M.Y. was opened with the iron bar by the detainees/convicts identified as the perpetrators.
It was reported to us that after the detainees/convicts identified as the perpetrators shouted "get out" to the victim detainee/convict M.Y., they entered the inner part of the room where M.Y. was located. They targeted the victim's head with the iron bar, while the victim tried to shield his head with his hands. During this time, the attack continued, and it was conveyed to us that they inflicted deep cuts on the victim's right hand and upper left abdomen using a sharp tool. They also wounded the victim's left arm and the right side of his waist at belt level with a cutting and piercing object.
It was reported to us that the door of the victim M. O.’s room was opened with the iron bar, and he was taken hostage and injured in the head region.
It was reported to us during the interviews conducted by the members of the visiting team with the victims that the attack, which began around 3:00 a.m., lasted for nearly an hour. Within this timeframe, it was indicated to us that neither the staff nor the soldiers made any interventions to prevent the incident from occurring.
The members of the visiting team interviewed witness detainees/convicts located in the right corridor of Block E. During the interviews, the witnesses stated that the following words were uttered by the detainees/convicts identified as the perpetrators: “Don't kill before I tell you to kill,” “He's losing blood, he might die now,” “That visible state is not the real state. I represent the deep state,” “People betray the state. Is the only punishment for this imprisonment?,” “How many bullets did you shoot at Omer Halisdemir?” “We are not rebelling against the state. We are here to avenge Omer Halisdemir,” “Down with the PKK, long live the Turkish Republic.” It was also reported that it was probably the head officer in charge of security who said to the detainees/convicts identified as the perpetrators, “I swear on my honor and dignity, I give you my word, nothing will happen to you."
Although the members of the visiting team wanted to meet with the victim detainees H. A, S. Y, and M.O., the interviews could not take place due to their ongoing medical treatment at the hospital.
Obligation to Take Measures to Protect the Rights and Freedoms of Convicts
Ensuring security and order in prisons is essential. From a human rights perspective, security and safety constitute an integral part of the responsibility to protect individuals deprived of their liberty by the state.
Preventing violence among detainees/convicts is a crucial security concern within the prison environment. This ranges from individual acts of violence against detainees/convicts to systematic violence perpetrated against the most vulnerable among them, encompassing various dimensions that extend from sporadic acts of violence to organized violence by informal groups or leaderships.
Preserving the right to life and the physical and mental integrity of convicts and detainees is a paramount concern that must be secured primarily within correctional facilities. Ensuring the preservation of individuals' right to life and their physical and mental integrity is a fundamental obligation of prison administrations. In this context, it is obligatory, in accordance with the principle defined in Article 6 of Law No. 5275, to take all necessary protective measures to safeguard the right to life and the physical and mental integrity of convicts within penal institutions.
Within the framework of principles established by the Constitution, laws, and international agreements and documents, the primary responsibility for ensuring an effective, rehabilitative, and restorative execution process lies with the prison administration and personnel.
Necessary precautions must be taken against physical conditions within the institution that threaten the life, physical, and mental integrity of the convict, as well as against threats from other inmates in this regard, or any actions by prison staff in this direction. Detainees and convicts are subject to the responsibility and control of the penitentiary administration. If individuals deprived of their freedom claim to have been subjected to acts of violence and a physical injury is identified on their bodies, the state is obligated to provide a reasonable explanation regarding the circumstances of how that injury occurred.
1- Article 6/1-a of Law No. 5275: “Convicts are kept within penal institutions in a secure manner, taking measures to prevent escape, while maintaining order, security, and discipline."
2- Under the title “Observation and Classification of Convicts” in Article 23 of Law No. 5275: “a) Convicts are allocated to appropriate correctional institutions based on their personal characteristics, physical and mental health conditions, their pre-offense lives, social environments, relationships, artistic and vocational activities, moral inclinations, perspectives on crime, duration of their sentences, and types of offenses. The execution and rehabilitation regime determined according to these factors is established in observation and classification centers that operate through observation, examination, and assessment methods, or in specific sections designated within closed penitentiary institutions for this purpose. Depending on the types of crimes committed, demonstrated tendencies, attitudes, and behaviors, convicts are sent to high-security penitentiary institutions, regular-security penitentiary institutions, or open penitentiary institutions, considering the need for close supervision and control."
3- Under the title “Grouping of Convicts” in Article 24 of Law No. 5275:
“(1) Convicts are divided into such groups:
a) First-time offenders, repeat offenders, habitual criminals, or those who make a profession out of committing crimes,
c) Those who pose a danger,
e) Those who are members of criminal organizations or profit-oriented criminal organizations.”
4- Within the scope of Article 17/1 of the 1982 Constitution, “Everyone has the right to live and to protect and improve their material and spiritual existence.”
5- European Prison Rules (Recommendation Rec(2006)2-rev of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the European Prison Rules)
-Principle 17.2: “Allocation shall also take into account the requirements of continuing criminal investigations, safety and security, and the need to provide appropriate regimes for all prisoners.”
-Principle 18.10: “Accommodation of all prisoners shall be in conditions with the least restrictive security arrangements compatible with the risk of their escaping or harming themselves or others.”
-Principle 52.1: “As soon as possible after admission, prisoners shall be assessed to determine whether they pose a safety risk to other prisoners, prison staff, or other persons working in the prison, or whether they are likely to harm themselves.”
CONCLUSION and SUGGESTIONS:
1- Necessary preventive measures must be taken to prevent individuals from being deprived of their freedom due to arrest by a judicial authority or, as a result of their convictions, from being subjected to acts of violence within the prison where they are held.
2- Within the scope of Article 23 of Law No. 5275, observation and classification, and within the scope of Article 24, grouping must be carried out while considering the dangerousness of the detainees/convicts.
3- It is necessary to conduct an effective criminal investigation against the detainees/convicts identified as the perpetrators for their physically and verbally violent attacks on the material and moral well-being of the victims and to ensure their prosecution based on charges that correspond to legal definitions.
4- It must be investigated whether necessary security measures were not taken during the placement of the detainee/convict identified as the perpetrator in his room after being transferred from the hospital to the prison and whether urgent intervention was not promptly carried out during the attacks by the detainees/convicts identified as the perpetrators. In case of finding that security measures were not taken and required urgent intervention was not provided, administrative and judicial investigations must be conducted against those responsible.
Bar Association of Diyarbakır
Diyarbakir Branch of the Lawyers for Freedom Association