Turkish hunger strike protest by world medical association

The World Medical Association has protested in the strongest possible terms about the use of solitary confinement in Turkish prisons, which has led to 3,000 detainees going on hunger strike.

In a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, WMA leaders says it has been informed that some 3,000 detainees in 90 Turkish prisons were currently on hunger strike protesting against the widespread practice of solitary confinement used as a disciplinary measure. 

‘According to our sources, the current conditions in prisons, in particular the deteriorating healthcare system, do not allow adequate follow-up by physicians of prisoners on hunger strikes. We are aware of emerging severe health problems as a result, such gastrointestinal bleeding or hypersensitivity reaction, without mentioning the devastating impact on mental health for many’.

The WMA says it is particularly concerned at reports that the Turkish authorities are failing to respect the rights of prisoners on hunger strike, including adequate access to qualified health professionals and any needed treatment. 

The letter, signed by WMA Chair Dr. Frank Montgomery, says: ‘We would also like to be assured that prison authorities allow access to drinking water and to sugar, salt, vitamins and other supplements added to the drinking water consumed by the hunger strikers’.

WMA policy opposes the widespread use of solitary confinement, given the increasing documentation on its severe detrimental impact on health and on the potential misuse of the practice. It says the practice should be imposed “only as a last resort whether to protect others or the individual prisoner, and only for the shortest period of time possible. The human dignity of prisoners confined in isolation must always be respected”.

The WMA letter to President Erdoğan concludes: ‘We expect that you will finally honour your obligations, including, by ensuring to all prisoners, decent conditions of detention respecting their dignity at all times’.