MPs from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) marched on the Ministry of Justice in Ankara on Monday to draw attention to the isolation imposed on Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. HDP Parliamentary Group Leader Meral Danış Beştaş said, “There is torture and there is isolation in Turkey, these are crimes against humanity.”
The police intervened three times in the march, but eventually the MPs reached the Ministry of Justice, where they requested an appointment to talk about torture, isolation, transfers, and a number of other rights violations in Turkish prisons.
Beştaş spoke of the hundreds of applications she and her colleagues received daily complaining of rights violations in the prisons, and of the barrage of applications made by themselves, law groups and bar associations to all possible relevant bodies, including to the Deputy Presidency. She also said they had received no responses to parliamentary questions and no action was taken on requests for inquiries, blaming the ruling coalition of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for the lack of response.
Beştaş also spoke of the communication blackout with prisoners in İmralı Prison, where Öcalan is held, saying, “There has been no communication with prisoners, including Öcalan, Halil Konar and others held in İmralı Prison since 25 March 2021. No word. Their wives, their siblings, their lawyers don’t know if they’re alive or dead!” Adding that the HDP was aware that this is happening because of war policies, Beştaş said this was why they were fighting for peace.
The MP talked of how the administration was forcing war onto 84 million people in Turkey in order to hold on to power, how they needed to keep the isolation going for that reason, saying, “The continuing refusal to recognise the basic rights and freedoms of the Kurdish community is directly related to the isolation.”
She called on Turkey to stand by its international obligations, pointing out numerous conventions Turkey had signed against torture and other rights violations. But, she said, “There is torture and there is isolation in Turkey. Isolation is a crime against humanity in all international and domestic law. Turkey is committing crimes against humanity.”
Beştaş spoke of the misery caused by the prison administrations deferring release, citing the case of İzzettin Sevilgen, who had been in prison for 30 years and just had his release deferred by a further 6 months. She said political prisoners were dying in prison, and not even sick prisoners, the elderly, nor pregnant women, were able to meet their families to say goodbye, while kidnappers, rapists, murderers and mafia bosses are released on probation.
She said, “Neither prisoners, nor their relatives, nor the community nor ourselves, have the strength to be patient any longer. A solution must be found to this problem. An end must be brought to torture. Isolation must be stopped forthwith. People must not be allowed to die in prison, releases must not be deferred. The HDP will never step back from the struggle in this.”