The bar association in the Diyarbakır (Amed) province will renew their appeals to Turkey’s Justice Ministry following the May elections for jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan to be allowed visits with his family and lawyers, bar chairman Nahit Eren told Mezopotamya Agency on Thursday.
“The ruling party did not change with the elections, but in the end, there is a cabinet, new justice minister, and bureaucrats,” Eren said. “With the new legal year, we will start new appeals regarding the state of our previous appeals.”
In December last year the bar had submitted an appeal to the Justice Ministry and the Bar Associations of Turkey (TBB) over the violations of Öcalan’s rights, upon an appeal to the bar by 107 of its members who said their rights as lawyers were being violated as they were prevented from meeting with their client.
Öcalan was arrested in 1999 and faced trial on high treason and terrorism charges as the founding leader of the outlawed PKK. He has been serving a life sentence in a special prison on the northwestern İmralı island since, and has had zero contact with the outside world for 27 months. Appeals by his lawyers, as well as lawyers of four other high-level PKK members held in the same prison, go unanswered by Turkish authorities, citing the disciplinary penalties issued to the inmates.
“To resolve a problem, actors related to the matter must be involved in the solution,” Eren said, pointing to Öcalan’s key position for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue. “In prison, outside of prison… The actors who could facilitate a solution are very well known. In this sense, of course, if a dialogue and will to resolve the issue manifest, contact with the İmralı Island will result in positive outcomes for peace.”
Öcalan “still has influence” with the PKK, Eren said. “All of society acknowledges that the person to contact first is him, when a will and a willingness emerges for a solution.”
“Unfortunately, currently there is no such intent or desire. Nonetheless, our expectation is that all channels will be opened for a democratic and peaceful resolution. We have witnessed the last 40 years of this society, (the conflict) has had severe outcomes. This burning issue demands that any and all influential actor be contacted, to ensure a democratic solution,” Eren said.
While lawyers and defenders of Kurdish rights have taken the matter to international bodies, including the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council of Europe, and despite many reports on the mistreatment and torture in the island prison, the efficacy of such organisations “is sacrificed to inter-state relations”, Eren continued.
“We see that political dealings can suspend the law when necessary,” the bar chair added. “It has become routine for Turkey to ignore ECHR rulings on rights violations. Similarly, reports of human rights violations are not taken seriously. These are due to the handicap created by international relations.”