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Joint Statement: Indefinite/ Non-Alternate Hunger Strike on 56th Day

Mass hunger strike in Turkish prisons, which started on 12 September 2012, is on the 56th day. Hunger strikers declared that the strike was a non-alternate one to be carried out for an indefinite period of time. Human rights organizations monitoring the prisons stated that 654 prisoners were on hunger strike in 59 prisons.[1] The news reports imply that the number of prisoners on hunger strike might increase dramatically. Remembering previous hunger strikes in prisons which have wounded the public conscience deeply, we are anxiously monitoring the situation in prisons.

According to the World Medical Association Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikes, dated 1991, “a hunger striker is a mentally competent person who has indicated that he has decided to embark on a hunger strike and has refused to take food and/or fluids for a significant interval.”[2]

According to this definition, hunger strike is a form of protest. The hunger striker refuses to eat food on his/her own will. The hunger striker takes certain amounts of water, salt and sugar daily. Besides, the hunger striker should be provided with mixtures containing vitamin B1 in order to avoid permanent neurological sequels in future.

The hunger strike might result in death. Nevertheless, the hunger strikes usually do not take this action aiming for death but to try to make their demands for life known.

Normally, no one would want the death of the hunger strikers. For this reason, we urge all of the authorities and the public in general to act with sensitivity to protect the hunger strikers’ right to life.

A total of 144 people lost their lives in hunger strikes in Turkish prisons since 1980; thousands of others had to live with permanent illnesses.

Intervening in the prisoners’ hunger strike by using force, isolating them in single cell units or forced “medical interventions” might increase the severity of the problem. Medical services provided to hunger strikers in prisons or attempts for normalising their health condition should be based on the principles and practices developed by Turkish Medical Association in line with national and international medical and legal texts and universal ethics, including the declarations/ principles of the World Medical Association.

It is essential that the problems causing the hunger strike and the demands of the hunger strikers should be evaluated on the basis of fundamental rights and freedoms, and proper solutions should be developed accordingly. We always need an unbiased system of values which places the individual at the centre unconditionally.

We call the democratic public groups to put more efforts for bringing an end to the process with minimum risks to the health of the hunger strikers and for the solution of the problems, and the government to take urgent steps for proper solution of the problem.

– Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly
– Human Rights Association
– Amnesty International Turkey


[1] See Prison Monitor Preliminary Report published by the Human Rights Association, Progressive Lawyers Association and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey on 2 November 2012 at  http://www.ihd.org.tr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2592

[2] http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/hungerstrikers.html

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