Abdullah Öcalan, the founder and leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been held on İmralı prison island since 1999. He has been kept in isolation for years, serving an aggravated life sentence.
Öcalan’s lawyers previously applied to the European Convention Human Rights (ECHR) in regards the “aggravated life in prison” that he was sentenced to. The Court on 18 March 2014 ruled that the aggravated life in prison sentence given for Öcalan and three other prisoners, named Hayati Kaytan, Emin Gurban and Civan Boltan was contrary to article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights ‘ ban on torture’. The ECHR gave a similar decision for the detained Hayati Kaytan, Emin Gurban and Civan Boltan.
After seven years of the ECHR decision, no steps have been taken, neither for Öcalan nor for the three other prisoners by the Turkish authorities. The Society and Legal Research Foundation (TOHAV), Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD), the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) and Lawyers for Freedom (OHD) on 26 July applied to the Committee for a review of the ”aggravated life imprisonment” sentence of Abdullah Öcalan and three other political prisoners.
The Committee of Ministers is now expected to discuss this application as an item in their agenda for their meeting which started yesterday and will continue until tomorrow, 2 December.
“With the İmralı isolation system, they are trying to separate Mr. Öcalan from the Kurdish people, they want to deprive the society of freedom. These are the founding codes of the Republic of Turkey; the denial of the Kurds and the insistence on war,” Feleknas Uca, Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) co-spokesperson for Foreign Relations, told MA.
Uca drew attention to the role of international bodies and the EU institutions in the confinement of Öcalan under such circumstances.
”Both the isolation of Mr. Öcalan and his aggravated life sentence is an issue not just limited to Turkey, but also Europe, NATO and global powers play a role in it. The Guantanamo system has been used heavily on Imrali for 23 years,” she said.
”European countries are signatories of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). The CPT carries out prison monitoring activities in regular visits against torture. While Europe has been monitoring Guantanamo, Imrali is under the observation and the control of CPT. The Council of Europe and the CPT are components of the system in İmralı.”
Uca criticised the CPT for even though they have visited İmralı Prison and even though the CPT is the only organisation that can visit İmralı Prison, they remain inactive against Turkey’s lack of inaction regarding the issues highlighted by the CPT in their 2017 and 2019 reports on İmralı.
“The report criticised the detention conditions in Imrali. It has been repeatedly highlighted by the Council of Europe repeatedly in its reports. It was emphasised that all prisoners have right to meet with their families. However, there is a situation that goes beyond torture, white torture is imposed in Imrali,” Uca said.
“Warnings and recommendations were offered to Turkey in this regard. However, Turkey is not followed, and the isolation still continues. Neither the CPT nor the Council of Europe follow up on these recommendations, a surveillance mechanism should be established. The situation also concerns all 46 member states of the Council of Europe because these recommendations are based on the decision of all members states.”
Uca stressed that as the Foreign Relations office of the HDP, she and her fellow politicians from the HDP have been trying to bring these discussions to the agenda of European institutions on each of their visits.
Uca said they are also closely monitoring the developments regarding Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala, for whom the ECHR also gave a ruling requiring the urgent release of both men and that Turkey has not yet complied as both figures remain jailed.
“The Council of Europe gave a decision to release Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş. However, Turkey has not complied with the decision. In this meeting, the Committee of Ministers is expected to give some decisions on İmralı, Demirtaş and Kavala,” she said regarding the Committee of Ministers meeting that started on Tuesday, 30 November.
“The Council of Europe holds a meeting in every three months. Turkey is discussed at every meeting. Turkey can no longer continue its human rights violations. Sanctions are possibly going to be imposed on Turkey, and even Turkey’s removal from the Council may come to the fore.”