In a concerning development, Administrative and Observation Boards, established in 2012 and operating in a manner akin to judicial bodies, have been responsible for extending the sentences of 271 detainees in prisons across the country, Bold Media reported.
These Administrative and Observation Boards wield the authority to evaluate the conduct of inmates in correctional facilities, often leading to their sentences being extended on the basis of vague and discretionary reasons. Factors under scrutiny include whether inmates exhibit remorse, the monitoring of their utility bills, the number of books borrowed from the prison library, and the frequency of family visitations. According to data compiled by the Human Rights Association, the sentences of no fewer than 271 inmates have been prolonged under these abstract grounds.
Commenting on the operation of these boards, Ercan Yılmaz, the President of the Diyarbakır Branch of the Human Rights Association (HRA), expressed concerns. “Considering the current political climate in Turkey, it is highly suspicious that these decisions are made under the influence of the ruling political authority,” Yılmaz remarked.
DETENTION TERMS LENGTHENED ON ARBITRARY GROUNDS
Yılmaz further added, “An examination of the composition of the Administrative and Observation Boards reveals that all their members are government officials, with the board being presided over by the local prosecutor or a prosecutor appointed by them. During the debates surrounding the establishment of these boards, civil society organizations and human rights advocates raised objections, highlighting the potential for these boards to contribute to a host of new rights violations. They argued that if such a board were to be established, its members should be impartial individuals. Despite these objections, the political authority disregarded them and proceeded with the formation of these administrative and observation boards. Shortly after these boards commenced their operations, the validity of criticisms regarding their structure became evident, with the Human Rights Association identifying at least 271 instances where inmate sentences were arbitrarily extended on abstract grounds.”
BECOMING A CENSORSHIP TOOL
The assessment of good behavior among inmates involves scrutinizing their actions throughout their incarceration period, leading to a scoring system being applied based on these observations. This practice has evolved into a form of censorship that curtails the freedoms of inmates. Yılmaz offered an illustrative example, stating, “From actions as trivial as the wording in an inmate’s personal notebook to the color of clothing sent to them, a song they might sing, or a book they choose to read, disciplinary investigations are initiated, resulting in a negative scoring system that leads to sentence extensions, ranging from 6 months to 1 year.”
Yılmaz, noting that “It is evident from the applications made to us that the processes of the administrative observation boards are working against the interests of inmates,” continued: “In some cases, even when inmates had previously received disciplinary penalties that had long lost their relevance, these penalties are revived shortly before their scheduled release, reinforcing the suspicion that these boards were established to act against the inmates.”
BOARDS USURP THE ROLE OF COURTS
Lawyer Yılmaz emphasized, “When the Administrative Observation Boards inquire whether inmates feel remorse for the alleged crime, it effectively means these boards are assuming a role above the jurisdiction of the courts,” and he added, “No individual or entity should have the authority to supplant the role of the courts and impose additional penalties on another person. Such a practice can be considered a secondary method of punishment for inmates. Importantly, many of the questions posed by the administrative observation boards, including inquiries about an inmate’s remorse for an alleged crime, clearly infringe upon the freedom of thought and conscience as enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.”