The Human Rights Investigation Committee (İHİK) of the Turkish Parliament has rejected a request by MPs from the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) for an urgent session to discuss the visitation rights of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The committee cited a lack of quorum as the reason for not meeting.
Öcalan has been at the centre of Turkish policy on isolation and human rights issues, having been held in solitary confinement on İmralı Island for more than 25 years and without contact for the past three years.
Despite a formal request for an investigation and visit to İmralı on 16 November, İHİK’s response on 7 December suggested that such a visit could only take place with the approval of its sub-commission. In return, on 12 December, DEM MPs appealed to the sub-commission for an urgent session and a request for an inspection and visit.
However, in a response on Friday, the İHİK referred to an article of the parliament’s statute that states that the commission can only be convened by its chairman. The same article also suggests that the commission could be convened at the request of a third of its members. The İHİK noted that among those who made the request, only DEM Party MP Nevroz Uysal was a member of the commission and that it was technically impossible to convene the commission under these circumstances. The 10-member commission needs at least one-third of its members to request a meeting.
Establishment and functions of the Human Rights Commission
Following Turkey’s application for full membership of the European Union (then the European Economic Community) in 1987, there was a proposal to establish a commission at parliamentary level to deal with human rights violations. As a result, the İHİK was established on 5 December 1990 to monitor human rights developments worldwide and in Turkey, to ensure that practices are in line with these developments and to investigate complaints.
The Commission was established at a time of heightened conflict over the Kurdish issue, with frequent reports of torture and enforced disappearances. Its tasks included monitoring internationally recognised human rights developments, identifying necessary changes to bring Turkey’s practices into line with the international conventions it has ratified, recommending legislative adjustments, reviewing Turkey’s human rights practices for compliance with international conventions, the Constitution and laws, conducting research, proposing improvements and forwarding complaints of human rights violations to the relevant authorities.
The Commission currently has 26 members, five of whom are women. All four sub-commissions are chaired by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including the sub-commission on the rights of prisoners and detainees.