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Isolation of Öcalan discussed at the UN: Human Rights Council must act

The isolation of Abdullah Öcalan was discussed at a conference at the UN Human Rights Council. Speakers drew attention to the unprecedented unlawfulness in İmralı and called on the UN to take action.

By Serkan Demirel in Geneva

July 4, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

No news has been received for 40 months from Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been held in İmralı Island Prison under heavy isolation conditions for more than 25 years.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which has the sole authority to enter İmralı and in this sense holds the responsibility and future of this isolation in its hands, remains inactive in the face of the state of absolute incommunicado imposed on Abdullah Öcalan, whose right to family and lawyer visits is arbitrarily usurped.

In order to break this silence and mobilise the international community, a global campaign has been underway since October 2023 demanding freedom for Abdullah Öcalan and a political solution to the Kurdish question.

The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP), which had previously brought the İmralı isolation to the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council with its reports and statements, has organised a conference titled "Human Rights in Turkey" as part of the ongoing 56th Human Rights Sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the UN Office at Geneva.

The conference, where the absolute isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan and the unlawful practices carried out by the Turkish state in Kurdistan were discussed, was attended by Asrın Bar Association lawyer İbrahim Bilmez, European Parliament Member Laura Castel Fort and Kurdish politician Fırat Anlı as speakers.

Gianfranco Fattorini, Permanent Representative of MRAP to the UN, moderated the conference, where Laura Castel Fort, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) was the first to take the floor.

Castel: Thousands are unlawfully detained

Castel Fort, who started by stating that human rights violations in Turkey have continued since the establishment of the Republic, drew attention to the fact that rights violations in Turkey reached the highest level after the military coup attempt in 2016.

Stating that the AKP-MHP fascist government is using the anti-terror laws to silence the opposition, MEP Laura Castel Fort said: "All Kurdish politicians are facing numerous lawsuits. The acts they are accused of, which are presented as acts of terrorism, consist of their speeches and meetings as elected representatives. Thousands of HDP and DEM Party members are in prison. Unlawful arrests may last for years."

‘There is unprecedented lawlessness on Imrali Island’

Drawing attention to the unlawful practices in Turkish prisons and especially the isolation conditions of Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan, Castel Fort said: "The imprisonment and isolation of Mr Öcalan is at the centre of the attacks on the rights of Kurds and the opposition. Mr Öcalan is considered a leader by millions of Kurds. Öcalan is also the main actor for the solution of the Kurdish question. Öcalan has been held under heavy isolation conditions for more than 25 years. For 40 months there has been no news from him. There is unprecedented lawlessness on Imrali Island. He is kept in a state of absolute incommunication as a whole. He cannot have any contact with his family or lawyers. The practices against him as a whole are beyond torture. The Imrali isolation is aimed at leaving the Kurdish question unsolved. The isolation imposed on Mr Öcalan has become a model for the practices in other prisons. With a life sentence, Mr Öcalan is also deprived of his right to hope."

‘Turkey is left unpunished’

Stating that both the European Union countries and NATO continue their relations with the Turkish state despite the human rights violations, Castel Fort said: "Despite all the human rights violations, countries and international organisations that claim to prioritise democracy and the rule of law continue their relations with Turkey in a comprehensive manner.

Reactions to Turkey are minimal. Turkey remains unpunished despite what it has done".

‘The UN should use its powers’

Laura Castel Fort called on the UN to take action against the lawlessness in Turkey, saying: "At a time when international legal systems and institutions are being tested as never before after the Second World War, the UN should use its powers on Turkey, especially against the lawlessness in İmralı."

Lawyer Bilmez: No law is being applied in İmralı

After Castel, İbrahim Bilmez, a lawyer from Asrın Bar Association, took the floor. Starting his speech by describing the unlawfulness that Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan has been subjected to since 1999, lawyer Bilmez said that at the current stage, no law is being applied in İmralı.

Reminding the judgement of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2005 on the violation of Abdullah Öcalan's right to a fair trial, Lawyer Bilmez said that the Turkish state rejected all the demands of the ECtHR. "Unfortunately, the CoE Committee of Ministers, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the ECtHR judgements, did not make any effort to break this illegal game and closed the file with a political decision by accepting that Turkey has fulfilled the ECtHR judgement.”

Recalling the application they made to the UN Human Rights Council regarding the isolation in İmralı and the cautionary decision issued, Lawyer Bilmez statted, "However, the state and government authorities did not comply with the Committee's request for this cautionary decision either. On the contrary, the government responded with new decisions banning family, guardian, lawyer visits and phone calls. The Committee then reiterated its request for measures in January 2023, but the government has not taken any action to make any improvements."

Bilmez continued: "Until today, not a single positive decision or result has been obtained in thousands of applications and files related to Öcalan in the domestic legal process, from the prison administration and the prosecutor's office to the Constitutional Court. Without exception, all requests and applications have been rejected. Especially since 2021, the judiciary has not only rejected the requests, but has also become a part of the isolation mechanism by conducting this process without the knowledge of the lawyers and preventing their initiatives. Therefore, we cannot talk about a functioning domestic legal process in Turkey for Öcalan and his fellow prisoners."

‘Öcalan should be enabled to fulfill his role’

Drawing attention to the political dimension of the isolation in İmralı, Bilmez said that the insistence on the lack of a solution to the Kurdish question is at the root of all the crises Turkey is going through.

"All the economic, political, social and legal indicators of our time dictate that the doors of İmralı should be opened and Mr. Öcalan should be enabled to fulfill his role as a subject in ensuring a democratic solution and peace. Without further delay, a policy of dialogue and negotiation should be adopted in which the health, safety and freedom conditions of Öcalan, who is in a position of a democratic solution and peace for the benefit of all, are ensured. This means putting the legal and political option into operation. On this basis, it is in the interest of everyone to consider the year 2024 as the year of Mr. Öcalan's freedom and in connection with this, the year of the solution of the Kurdish question, intertwined with the transition to a democratic constitution and democratic state of law, adapted to international UN and European human rights conventions that guarantee three generations of human rights and freedoms."

Lawyer Bilmez concluded his speech by calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council and authorised institutions to take action against the unlawfulness in İmralı.

Fırat Anlı: All the values of the Kurdish people are under attack

Kurdish politician Fırat Anlı, who took the floor after Lawyer Bilmez, started his speech by talking about the unlawfulness faced by the opposition groups in Turkey. Referring to the unlawful acts and arrests carried out by the government against the HDP and DEM Party, Anlı drew attention to the ruling AKP’s trustee policy directed against elected Kurdish officials. Stating that an occupation policy is being carried out in Kurdistan, Anlı noted that there is an attack against all the values of the Kurdish people.  

Pointing to the Turkish state's attack on the Medya Defence Zones in northern Iraq and Rojava in northern Syria, Anlı stated that attempts are being made to destroy the Kurdish people's acquired rights through invasion attacks.

Anlı also mentioned the unlawful practices in prisons, especially against sick prisoners, and said, "Dead bodies come out of prisons due to lawlessness. But the authorities prefer to remain silent in the face of all this."

The conference ended after the question and answer session following the speeches.

The 56th Human Rights Sessions of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, which started on 18 June, will end on 12 July.


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