The Committee of Ministers, the decision-making body of the Council of Europe, will discuss Abdullah Öcalan’s case and the cases of three other prisoners seven years after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on a decision of the violation of a ban on torture regarding their applications.
Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK, applied in 2014 to the ECHR, complaining about the conditions of his detention, in particular his social isolation and the restrictions on his communication with members of his family and his lawyers on the prison island of İmralı, where he has been held since 1999,
Öcalan was held in absolute solitary confinement up to 17 November 2009, when five other inmates were transferred to the island. ECHR held that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment) of the European Convention of Human Rights relating to the conditions of Abdullah Öcalan’s detention.
Since 2014, many lawyers in Turkey have opened cases against violations in regards to this decision, but none of these were concluded positively, Ayşe Bingöl Demir, a lawyer from the Society and Legal Research Foundation (TOHAV) recently explained.
After such lack of action by the Committee of Ministers, 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, Hayati Kaytan, Emin Gurban and Civan Boltan.
The Committee has now placed this application on its agenda for the forthcoming meeting to be held between 30 November and 2 December.
Newroz Uysal, one of Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers from Asrın Law Bureau, shared her evaluations with MA regarding the application to the Committee of Ministers. Uysal stated that Öcalan’s lawyers strongly hope and expect that the Committee of Ministers do not make Abdullah Öcalan’s case a subject of political manoeuvring with Turkey.
“The decisions ruled by the ECHR are binding for each signatory state. The Committee, a body within the Council is responsible for monitoring whether the states comply by the decision or not,” she said.
Uysal stated that the expectation of Öcalan’s lawyers from the Committee is “to act on the decision about Mr. Öcalan according to its monitoring procedures with the same seriousness, same effectiveness, same legal approach that they deal with other cases. We demand that they do not to make this a subject of political manoeuvring and to consider the legal aspect and urgency of this matter.”
Uysal stated that international institutions such as the Council of Europe tend to only see Abdullah Öcalan’s political role that is now internationally recognised and therefore do not act, as they are obliged to, solely on the legal basis in relation to Öcalan’s case.
“The political position and role of Mr. Öcalan gains strength each and every day. Mr. Öcalan’s role and mission regarding the Kurdish question is not only binding locally, but it has a correspondence on the international arena,” she said.
“But, unfortunately, political processes, human rights institutions, and international political institutions such as the Council of Europe do not maintain their legal approach to his situation. We believe, the fact that Turkey’s violations have not been taken as an item on the agenda for 7 years is a result of a political bargain.”
A ban on torture, Uysal explained, is accepted as the most significant violation of human rights by the international laws and conventions, immediately after the violation of the right to life.
“Its urgency is accepted internationally,” she said and asked: “How come you were then able to make that application, which you defined as a violation on the ban on torture, to wait for 7 years?”
“An effective professional legal attitude towards Mr. Öcalan’s case,” This is how Uysal summarises their demand from the Committee.
“We expect the Committee to explicitly demand from Turkey a change in all the specific laws, which prevent prisoners of aggravated life sentence from using their rights of early release on bail,” she said.
And we demand that the Committee give a specific and clear deadline for this. We really do not want this issue to remain open-ended, and to be spread out going on for years.
Explaining more of the violations of rights Abdullah Öcalan is subjected to, Uysal also shared her views regarding the fact that pacing up and down a courtyard taking fresh air has been used as grounds to give Abdullah Öcalan a disciplinary punishment of a ban of visits by his family and lawyers.
“The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) said in their 2020 report that such excuses regarding these acts within the prison cannot be a used as grounds to ban lawyers and family visits,” she stated.
Adding that the purpose of such prohibitions is simply to find an excuse, to create a legal justification to ban the lawyer and familiy visits of Öcalan, she concluded:
“The prison administration says: ‘Don’t talk to each other, do not pace up and down.’ This shows the extent to which the state wants to control the prisoners.”