The Committee of Ministers, the decision-making body of the Council of Europe, will finally discuss the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan’s case and the cases of three other prisoners on 30 November-2 December, seven years after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on a decision of a violation of a ban on torture regarding their applications.
Rezan Sarıca, one of Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers who has been representing the Kurdish leader for years, states that Turkey responded to the committee twice, but none of these responses included a proper, realistic action plan that gives any promise or commitment to comply with the ECHR decision.
“In the first response,” he explains that, “Turkey claimed that there was no violation of rights in Imralı Prison since 2009. And in the second response on 7 October, entitled an ‘action plan’, Turkey has actually admitted that they have been applying a ‘special law’ in Imralı, saying that Leader Öcalan and other inmates of Imralı do not have the right to be released on bail.”
Sarıca explained that the Turkish authorities admit themselves that they have been applying a special law in Imralı, saying that Mr. Öcalan and other inmates of Imralı are “exceptional cases” in which case the “conditional release on bail” in not applicable.
“The ECHR in 2014 ruled a decision of a violation regarding this regulation. When Turkey stated in its response to the Committee that the conditional release of bail is not applicable for some exceptional cases, it has actully admitted that there is a special law applied in Imralı Prison,” he says.
The responses prepared by Turkey so far do not constitute a proper action plan complying with the essence of the ECHR ruling, according to Sarıca.
“Turkey is actually in such a position that they run away from the essence of the ruling,” he says, “Therefore we believe that such an attitude of Turkey, which completely disregards the essence of the ruling, will not be given any credit. As a matter of fact, Turkey tries to manifest its insistence on not complying with the Court’s ruling.”
Sarıca says, the Committee of Ministers, right now, monitor mostly the execution of the aggravated life in prison sentence, and not the isolation conditions.
The regulation regarding the life-long execution of the aggravated life in prison sentence was introduced after the death penalty was abolished in Turkey as a result of Mr. Öcalan’s arrest, Sarıca explained.
“So ,what they monitor is whether Turkey makes necessary adjustments in the law regarding the life-long execution of aggravated life in prison sentences,” he says.
He insists that if Turkey is not willing to comply with the ruling of the ECHR, the responsibility regarding this matter then falls within the scope of the Committee of Ministers.
“If the Committee of Ministers rule that Turkey is not likely to comply with the ECHR ruling,” he underlines, “this issue would then be carried to the administrative level, and Turkey’s relations with the Council of Europe could be a matter of discussion.”
Summarising their demands, he concluded: “Actually, our urgent demand is an amendment in the current law in Turkey in compliance with human rights. And we demand Turkey to propose a realistic and applicable action plan.”
Öcalan was held in absolute solitary confinement up to 17 November 2009, when five other inmates were transferred to Imralı island, where the PKK leader has been jailed in a high security prison since 1999.
The European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment) of the ECHR relating to the conditions of Öcalan’s detention, but no legal steps have yet been taken by Turkey to correct the violations addressed by the ECHR in the meantime.
The Committee of Ministers took this subject as an item in their agenda for the first time after seven years following the 26 July application of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) – alongside the lawyers’ associations Lawyers for Freedom (OHD) and the Society and Legal Research Foundation (TOHAV)- for a review of the “aggravated life imprisonment” sentence that Öcalan and three other political prisoners, Hayati Kaytan, Emin Gurban and Civan Boltan, were given.