Statement: Political prisoners in Turkey in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic

BHRC has issued a public statement expressing serious concern that draft legislation in Turkey, which aims to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across prisons and detention centres, contains a blanket exclusion of political prisoners. These include thousands of civil servants, lawyers, politicians, activists, and journalists whom Turkey has detained, prosecuted and convicted in the period since the attempted coup in July 2016. BHRC has repeatedly raised that many have been subjected to excessive and unlawful pre-trial detention, and that the detention appears to have been pursued for an improper motive, namely to stifle dissent and limit the freedom of political debate. Many of these detainees and prisoners will be vulnerable populations. COVID-19 poses a specific and lethal risk to these, who should be prioritised and recommended for early release or suitable alternatives to detention. BHRC calls on the Government of Turkey to uphold its obligations under international human rights law, including to ensure the right to adequate health and support, as well as the right to life for prisoners. It must ensure that political prisoners, including those in provisional and pre-trial detention are immediately released, and to ensure that the principle of non-discrimination is applied in the application of such measures. Read the statement in full here. Statement in Turkish here.