As the Turkish government has, just a few weeks ago, launched yet another military assault against the guerrilla forces of the PKK, in the Zap, Metina and Avashin areas of the Qandil Mountains, politicians and political analysts are once again questioning the effectiveness of Turkey’s decades old policy of treating the Kurdish issue as simply an issue of security to be solved purely by military means. Dozens of similar military operations have been launched to great fanfare only to end in stalemate and eventual retreat with a great human cost of losses on both sides and destruction of villages and forests.
As Turkey gears up for a general election next year in the 100th anniversary year of the establishment of the modern Turkish state in with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, many commentators are highlighting the failure of this policy of treating the Kurdish issue purely as a security issue and pushing the desperate need for a fresh approach such as a political and peaceful solution to the Kurdish Question that has caused so much agony and hardship for the majority of those 100 years not just for the Kurds but for the whole of Turkish society.
The first stage of any political approach would obviously have to include the decriminalisation of the PKK but Turkey are unlikely to do this without some kind of outside political pressure and guidance with supported mediation to do so.
So, could a beginning, be the decriminalisation of the PKK in Europe and the United States to lay the ground for the possibility of political negotiations to finally solve the Kurdish question?
And how could that be achieved as the proscription of the PKK is purely a political act and has nothing really to do with the law as the recent Brussels case has showed with Turkey’s so called ‘evidence’ against the PKK being characterised as a ‘terrorist’ organisation being subjected to ridicule and derision by all sides in the case.
So, to look at another important and potentially historic case along the decriminalisation road is the case that was brought to the Court of Justice of the European Union recently and I am very happy and honoured to say that we are able to speak today to one of the lead lawyers representing the PKK in that case that was heard most recently on the 31 March of this year.
Dutch human rights lawyer, Tamara Buruma spoke after the hearing in the grand halls of the court and said that she was ‘pleasantly surprised’ with what she had heard, also adding, “We felt that the court was very interested in the case and asked some very useful questions also to clarify the statements made by us. It has been a very long case, and a lot has happened in the jurisprudence of the court since the beginning of this case so it was very important to discuss where we stand today,” “I was particularly pleased by the way that the court also very much focused on the specific situation of self determination and of the manner in which the Council [of the European Union], for example, considers the PKK”
I warmly welcomed Tamara Buruma to Medya News and asked her if she could begin by giving us just a little bit of background about the journey and nature of this case before it came to the Court of Justice on 31 March and what were the aspects of the way the case was heard that gave her some optimism.
Tamara explained the long legal battles that have gone on since 2014 and how the proscription lists have been used both politically and legally in the past and how her and her team have thought that since groups and entities have been criminalised that it is important for them to be heard and for the arguments about what is and what is not a ‘terrorist’ organisation should be heard by the courts.
Tamara believes that legislation regarding listed groups as ‘terrorist’ organisations has lost it’s meaning and now is not being used for what it was originally designed for, ie groups such as ISIS who conduct acts of terrorism in democratic countries such as Holland, Belgium, France etc and that legislation was not designed to criminalise groups such as the PKK who as the Brussels court case has demonstrated is a partner to an internal armed conflict and the EU court was open to these arguments and listened to them.
Tamara says that if the case fails then we will have to go back to the politicians and say, ‘look your original legislation is being used in a way you did not intend and that it was not designed, to the extent that groups like the PKK are being criminalised.’
Tamara spoke about how the Turkish state use the labelling of the PKK in such a disproportionate way with governments and private institutions, such as banks, broadening the scope and over complying so much, that it is used to stifle democracy and freedom of expression and the same is true in Europe where she gave examples. She went on to talk about how the court also asked her about questions to do with self determination which she said showed the court was actually asking some of the right questions for once.
Please listen to the whole Podcast interview for her insightful responses including a detailed explanation of the history of the case going back to 2014 and what her expectation and possible results could be.