The Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) and the country’s Human Rights Association (İHD) have raised an alarm as two doctors in Şakran Prison in the western port city of İzmir have tested positive for COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Tuesday.
In a joint written statement, the two rights groups urged authorities to take measures against high risk individuals in the country’s prisons.
“Prisons are the places where personal space and hygiene are the most limited. Their structure makes them extremely convenient for diseases to spread,” the statement read.
The associations reminded that in crisis situations governments are responsible for protecting all individuals in prisons and urged authorities to comply with Council of Europe recommendations regarding the protection of persons deprived of their liberty during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement called for a rapid reduction of the country’s incarcerated population.
The İHD and TİHV also referred brought to mind statement by Michele Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, calling for the release of all political prisoners who are behind bars simply for expressing dissent.
The Turkish parliament is reviewing a government-led bill aimed at releasing some inmates by introducing reduction in execution of prison sentences. The bill drew criticism from rights groups as it excluded those charged with or convicted of terrorism due to Turkey’s notoriously vague anti-terror laws.
Turkey’s prison system has reportedly been operating at more than 130 percent capacity. Rights defenders have also highlighted problems related to hygiene and medical capabilities in prison facilities.