Four NGOs from Turkey filed an appeal to the European Council Committee of Ministers on 29 July requesting an urgent review of the situation concerning the long-expected implementation of a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on the execution of aggravated life sentences in Turkey.
Newroz Uysal has been, for years (alongside her colleagues in Asrın Law Bureau), representing Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader, who was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in Turkey in 1999 and imprisoned in Imrali Island prison, located in the Sea of Marmara.
As part of their attempts to bring Öcalan’s confinement conditions which they define as “severe isolation” – where he is not allowed visits by his lawyers or family members – to the agenda of international human rights defenders (HRDs) nationally and internationally, they have been involved in, and closely followed, the application to the Council of Europe.
Uysal explained the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the aggravated life imprisonment sentence: “The European Court of Human Rights ruled that an individual being sentenced to life imprisonment until they die in prison, being never allowed to benefit from conditional release and never giving this individual a chance to be socialised and get involved in society and connect with society ever again, is not humanitarian and is a violation of the ban on torture.”
She stated that the Committee of Ministers is the main body responsible for monitoring the implementation of ECHR decisions in countries.
“To monitor the implementation of this decision is the Committee of Ministers’ [of the Council of Europe’s] task. In 2014, the decision regarding Öcalan was given and despite the fact that the file has been waiting before the Committee since then, it has not been acted on.”
Lawyers of Abdullah Öcalan, each year between 2015 and 2018, have filed applications regarding this matter, she noted. “We have been stating ever since that Mr. Öcalan’s issue is not a personal matter but a political decision given to him. It has been continuing to effect hundreds of people in Turkey and the Committee should place that ECHR decision on their agenda and urgently monitor Turkey.”
Uysal stated that in their last application, the four NGOs in Turkey demanded that the Committee of Ministers take up this file, which has been waiting for seven years for them to monitor, and place it on their agenda urgently.
“The basic demand of these four institutions is that the Committee takes up this matter in their agenda, examines the impartial policies towards Turkey and all other countries, against which a violation decision has been made by the ECHR and addresses all the decisions given in favour of Mr. Öcalan in their agenda urgently to make sure that Turkey amends its laws accordingly.”
“When considering Mr. Öcalan’s conditions, of course, the aggravated life imprisonment sentence regime represents an unlawfulness in itself,” she said, “But the fact is, the execution of his sentence in Turkey is even worse than that. Meaning, a regime worse than the regime that they call ‘inhumane’ is being implemented in Imralı.”
Uysal stated that Abdullah Öcalan’s case and status has gone beyond a legal discussion, because decisions regarding him have been motivated politically. “We are not talking about a legal process here, but a process which is based on revenge and political motives. But the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers, the relevant commissions of the United Nations, unfortunately, do nothing but mention this situation in their annual reports.”