Akın Birdal, Honorary President of the Human Rights Association (İHD), spoke to the Mesopotamia News Agency regarding the attitude of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) towards the violations of human rights in Turkey and the isolation system applied in İmralı Prison.
Birdal criticised the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe (EC) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for their silence on the numerous violations of rights in Turkey. “Human rights are universal”, said Birdal. “Today, the gravest human rights violations in many countries are being ignored by these organisations and the only thing they say is that they are ‘worried'”.
The discourse of the UN, the EC, the European Union (EU) and the European Parliament (EP) regarding human rights violations in Turkey is limited to saying “We are concerned”, according to Birdal.
“The most severe violations of human rights have been experienced within the last 15 years in Turkey, and no country imposes sanctions on Turkey. In the past, the criteria for military, financial, political, and commercial relations with other countries were based on human rights, legal norms, and democracy standards. However, it has completely changed”.
Birdal also spoke on the violations of rights in prisons and gave the example of the İmralı Prison System, which is the system of heavy isolation imposed upon Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı.
“The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) rarely visits Turkey, and when they do visit they never share their reports with the public in Turkey or Europe”.
There were approximately fifty-seven thousand prisoners in Turkey prisons around 15 years ago, but this number has increased to two hundred and eighty thousand prisoners, more a thousand of whom are listed as sick prisoners, according to Bidal. “IHD reports reveal that 41 people died due to the pandemic in prisons. And just a few days ago, three people died in quarantine in prison”.
Akın Birdal also commented on ongoing reform debates in Turkey. “If there are reforms in the justice system, they should immediately release political prisoners, human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers from prisons. The isolation imposed against PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan should be lifted as well”.
Birdal underlined that isolation is a human rights problem, recalling the hunger strikes in 2019 launched in protest of the isolation Öcalan’s isolation.
“The hunger strikes and death fasts were ended with Mr Öcalan’s meeting with his lawyers. Now, Öcalan still cannot meet his family and lawyers. Another hunger strike has been launched in prisons. Is this not a problem for the international legal institutions and the international community? Is this not a problem for the CPT, for the Turkish Grand National Assemby? Is it just a problem for the Kurds or the families of those in Imralı? No, this is everybody’s problem, because this is a question of democracy and a question of peace. That is why we want the isolation in İmralı to be lifted”.