Kurds in Europe are planning to hold a demonstration outside of the Strasbourg offices of the Council of Europe (CoE) demanding information on the health and wellbeing of Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence in Turkey under absolute isolation conditions.
Groups of Kurds and supporters have continued a daily vigil outside the offices since 2012 to protest the prison conditions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founding leader. The current extended protest will be held between 23 and 25 January, with the specific goal to put pressure on the CoE’s anti-torture committee and push for transparency on its visit to the island prison Öcalan is held at.
Turkey is a founding member of the CoE, and has agreed to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. The authority Turkey grants to CoE bodies include the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which may inspect detention centres in all member countries and hold unannounced visits upon suspicion of extraordinary circumstances. The CPT presents its findings to the relevant member state, but must obtain authorisation from said country to open to the public its reports.
The CPT has made several visits to the İmralı Island Prison where Öcalan has been held since 1999 on charges of terrorism and treason, but has not released a report on findings from their recent ad-hoc inspection in September. Many assume Turkey is restricting the publication of the delegations’ findings.
“We call on the CPT and the Council of Europe, not to allow themselves to become complicit in Turkish government oppression,” wrote organisers of the vigil for Öcalan.
“The vigil demands that [the CPT] take action – initially against prison isolation that amounts to torture, and ultimately to support the release of a man who, should the Turkish government ever agree to talk, has long been ready to negotiate a peaceful solution,” the campaigners said.