The Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT) has political reasons for not releasing the report on their recent visit to the İmralı Island Prison where Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan is being held, Thomas Schmidt, General Secretary of European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH) told Mezopoamya Agency.
The CPT has also acknowledged the extraordinary conditions in which Öcalan and three other prisoners are being held, Schmidt said.
Öcalan has been serving a life sentence since 1999 when he was captured in an international operation involving a number of states. He and the three other prisoners on the island have been held under conditions of severe isolation for most of their stay, and completely cut off from the outside world for over 21 months.
ELDH and a number of other European legal organisations, increasingly concerned over the incommunicado status, made representations to the CPT after the watchdog’s September visit to İmralı, calling for Turkey to implement the recommendations of the CPT and for an end to the unlawful isolation of Öcalan and the other prisoners.
The limits of the CPT’s role are “frequently misunderstood”, Schmidt said. The CPT could examine individual cases during its visits, reporting any human rights violations to the government and making suggestions on how to prevent them, but did not have direct power over countries, according to the lawyer.
The lawyer said that it is not possible to make the CPT publish their report, but that it could be used as evidence in national courts or the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). CPT’s visit was “good from the point of view of international public awareness”, he added, as the surprise visit could be considered acknowledgement of out of the ordinary conditions in the extremely isolated prison.
CPT’s reports following its almost yearly visits to Turkey can come with a delay, but delays in the report on September “could cause problems”, Schmidt noted. A public statement from the committee on their observations and whether recommendations have been implemented “is what the CPT needs to do now”, he said.
Earlier recommendations have yet to be implemented, Schmidt continued, and the CPT has stated before that conditions in İmralı were “unacceptable”. Part of CPT’s recommendations is that Öcalan and other inmates be allowed “contact with the outside world”, namely family and lawyer visits that have not happened for almost two years. The CPT must have identified this as a rights violation, the lawyer said.
However, Schmidt added, the problem in İmralı “requires a political solution”, which does not lie with European institutions. European Court of Human rights, the CPT and the European Council are “very limited in what they can do”, he said. “The Kurdish question requires a solution that can only be achieved by actors in Turkey. The European and international institutions are helpers at best in this matter.”
The best thing the CPT can do is to make a public statement to emphasise the length of time Ankara has been dragging its feet in improving conditions in İmralı, Schmidt said. “This is what we expect of the CPT and call them to do, because publicising it is all they have left if they want Turkey to implement their recommendations.”
The CPT and the Council of Ministers need to take swift action relating to the legal and family visits of Öcalan and the other inmates, Schmidt said. “I hope a swift solution is found to this insufferable problem of isolation.”