Turkish parliament has been rocked by the infamous national security bill over the past few weeks. Government has tried all methods to pass the bills disregarding the constitution and international agreements Turkey is a signatory to. The new bill has been especially criticized for the legal impunity it supplies to the police forces and declaring any citizen as potential criminal. A second bill has now been brought to the parliament floor, regarding the prison guards.
The new prison bill’s 19 articles have already been passed without much debate or anyone noticing really. Since most members of the parliament are busy preparing for the election period, very few members of parliament take the time to study and evaluate the new bill. According to the new prison guards bill, guardians will be allowed to use trained dogs, teargas (even though prohibited from indoors use), pressured water, fire arms against the prisoners “if need be”.
The new bill has been considered as declaration of war against prisoners and lawyers have named their concerns reminding of the massive deaths in prisons due to security operations that targetted prisons prior to AKP’s rule. The draconian bill at the parliament floor has implications that it will disregard the right to life and many other rights; especially combined with the isolation-system through individual cells in Turkish prisons, the depth of the bill can be considered very worrisome.
The official reason on the draft page states that the bill has been taken to pen “in order to improve the individuals who have shown social inadaptability”. The bill foresees use of firearms, teargas, pressured water, and trained dogs to assault on prisoners in cases of revolt, resistance, escape, attempted escape or disturbances in order in prison. One article in the bill also states a special clause which will enable the guardians to use maximum measures in case there is passive resistance from prisoners, and a warning message is not cited necessary for application of these measures.
When to use weapons in prisons?
Guardians and “other security personnel” will be allowed to shoot prisoners in case there is a tendency not to submit items which might be of use in case of a resistance. Security forces will be allowed to use serial-shooting if there is attempt at assault on security forces. According to the bill, it is upto the security forces to shoot a prisoner if he were to resist against strip-search or torture, or if the prisoner starts hunger-strike. One other clause is about the surveillance cameras installed in prison cells. Prisoners break these cameras that do not leave any dark spots, since they violate the prisoners’ privacy. According to the new bill, guardians will be allowed to use firearms if a prisoner breaks the camera in his cell.
Other measures cited in the bill vary from pressured water, trained dogs to assault on prisoners and “powders” which remind one of chemical weapons. Not only does this bill allow security personnel to use several means of arms against unarmed prisoners, but also measures to guarantee impunity have been taken. The identities of armed forces personnel who participate in such “interventions” against prisoners will be kept secret according to the bill.
Remembering “Operation: Return to Life” from 2000
The bill reminds one of an infamous operation in Turkish prisons in the year 2000, when 20 prisons were raided by armed forces, dozens were killed instantly, dozens of others were raped, and hundreds were left wounded for life due to chemical weapons. One victim of chemical powders described of the feeling she faced during the operation saying “there was no fire, but we felt the flames under our skin”. Lawyers now refer to this one of the darkest pages of history of Turkish prisons and notify the dangers and risks of having a bill that will allow even harsher treatment of prisoners.