The case of Abdullah Öcalan, who’s been held in the Turkish prison of İmralı Island for almost 25 years, including three years without communicating with the outside world, became the focus of discussion in the Council of Europe during Wednesday’s Assembly debate on “Allegations of systematic torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places of detention in Europe”.
Berdan Öztürk from Turkey’s Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party, representing the United European Left, shed light on the severe isolation conditions in Turkish prisons, specifically highlighting the extreme case of İmralı Island prison where Öcalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader, is incarcerated along with three other prisoners.
Öztürk noted that these prisoners spend almost the entire day in individual cells with controlled interaction, and visits from family and lawyers have not only been restricted but are now completely banned. This isolation has led to no communication with the prisoners for nearly three years.
Öztürk emphasised that isolation itself is a form of torture, and it could potentially facilitate physical torture without being observed.
Laura Castel from the Republican Left of Catalonia, Spain, echoed concerns about the persistent presence of torture in places of detention, particularly emphasising systemic issues in Turkey. Castel cited reports and recommendations from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and judgments from the European Court of Human Rights, highlighting the severe violation of Öcalan’s rights over the past 25 years.
Castel described the inhumane treatment Öcalan and the other prisoners face on İmralı Island, emphasising the lack of contact with the outside world, including lawyers, for almost three years. She condemned the violation of European Conventions of Human Rights due to the aggravated life imprisonment, a sentence not recognised in Turkish law until it was specifically imposed on Öcalan in 2014.
The Catalan representative called for condemnation from numerous human rights bodies and international assemblies, emphasising that the isolation of Öcalan must end for any meaningful progress on human rights and democracy in Turkey. Castel concluded by asserting that neutrality in the face of such violations is equivalent to supporting the perpetrator.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Gavan also drew attention to the 25th anniversary of Öcalan’s imprisonment, highlighting the lack of communication and information about his condition over the past three years.
Gavan emphasised the crucial role played by Öcalan in the search for a solution to the Kurdish question and the aspirations for a peaceful and dignified future for the Kurdish people.
“It is the central issue for millions of Kurds who look to him as their leader and also for those who hope for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish question,” the Irish politician said, underlining the importance of Öcalan’s involvement in negotiations for a lasting peace in the region.
As Öcalan’s isolation continues, international concerns are escalating, with calls for action to address the reported systemic torture and human rights violations in Turkish prisons.