‘The government will be responsible for every death in prison unless a solution is found’

HEDEP stated that prisoner Cemal Tanhan lost his life because he was not released on time.

In a written statement on Monday, the Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) Law and Human Rights Commission said: "Prisons in Turkey have become centres where political prisoners in particular are subjected to violations leading to the loss of their lives. So much so that the news of death, torture and health violations coming from prisons is unceasing. Sick prisoners either die in prison or are released in the terminal period, when their lives are irreversibly at risk and it is too late".

The statement continued:

"At least 37 prisoners died in prisons this year alone and at least 81 prisoners died in 2022. Some prisoners died shortly after their release from prison because they were not released on time. The perpetrator of some of these deaths is the ATK (the Institute of Forensic Medicine), which gave prisoners the report that they "can stay in prison" even though they are too ill to survive in prison.

Today, we have received the news of the death of Cemal Tanhan, who was released after the ATK reported that he "could stay in prison", was not released despite the applications, and his illness progressed irreversibly. Cemal Tanhan (68), a seriously ill prisoner of 30 years in Bolu F Type Closed Prison, was hospitalised after suffering a stroke on 23 October. Upon his application, his execution was postponed on 6 November, and he was intubated on 13 November.

Tanhan was not subjected to a biopsy despite the fact that he had dropped to 40kg, could not walk or speak due to cancer and was diagnosed with a mass in his lung. Tanhan's treatment was obstructed and his release was also prevented despite the Human Rights Association (IHD) Ankara Branch applying 4 times in 2023. In the ATK report dated 5 April 2023, it was decided that he could stay in prison.

The process has shown that Cemal Tanhan's death was not a natural death, but a result of the prevention of his treatment and the failure to release him on time. The fact that he was released after it was too late does not remove the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, the ATK and the prison administration.

As HEDEP, we repeat once again that we will hold all those responsible for violations of the sick prisoners’ right to life accountable before the law. We once again call on the government to find a humane solution to the situation of sick prisoners in prisons. We remind once again that they will be responsible for every death unless a solution is found."