Duran Kalkan, the Executive Committee member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was interviewed in a special programme that was broadcast on Medya Haber TV.
Kalkan shared his views about the recent applications to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) and to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for an end to the isolation of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been held for almost 23 years in Imralı Prison, which is located on a remote island in the Sea of Marmara, Turkey.
Speaking about the recent campaigns to secure “freedom for Öcalan,” Kalkan saluted all those who are in prisons engaged in actions over this, and he noted the contributions of campaigners around the world who have raised these concerns and demands.
“Our campaign ‘dem dema Azadi’ [‘time for freedom’] continues successfully. Throughout the four parts of Kurdistan, and especially abroad, our friends, democratic forces, intellectuals and social scientists campaign over leader Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] at a significant level and they join this struggle. There are many valuable forms of campaigns as we observe them: we evaluate such diversity very positively.”
Kalkan talked about the recent application of Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers to the CPT, sharing his views on the role of the CPT.
“There are applications and appeals to the CPT. There are appeals to urgently visit Imralı. There are demands from and warnings to the CPT that it should abide by its duty and responsibility. Because leader Apo himself had said, ‘When I entered Imralı, it was the CPT that I first saw.’ Meaning, the CPT was decisive in building the system in Imralı.”
Kalkan stated that Öcalan’s lawyers and family members assert that the CPT displays little interest, visits him rarely and shares no information with the lawyers, his family or the public.
“The CPT also does not closely follow through with its own statements and findings. They found that there was torture. They do not follow through whether this torture ended or not. Its decisions have not been implemented, but it has not put in place any sanctions. That will never do.”
Kalkan criticised the CPT for acting in a biased manner towards Abdullah Öcalan: “They would never act like this if other people were involved. So, that is a special attitude towards the Kurds. The CPT takes the side against the Kurds, then it is not an institution of law. The Committee to Prevent Torture, this and that, but the Committee to prevent which torture? When they are subjected to lawlessness, European countries react, but when such lawlessness is subjected to someone else, to Abdullah Öcalan, Europe does not even bother to criticise this. Maybe, sometimes, they make speeches, but that is all.”
Kalkan stated that aggravated life sentences have been and are still being pronounced in Turkey randomly and arbitrarily to several people, but in European law, such a practice of aggravated life sentences cannot be found and Europe’s law institutions do not monitor such sentences that have been passed in Turkey.
“Strictly speaking, within the terms of law, an aggravated life sentence has no correspondence in law. Meaning, you cannot just simply sentence a person in prison for the rest of their life without certain re-evaluations at certain periods. Otherwise, aggravated life sentences would have no end.”
Kalkan also talked about the application by four NGOs in Turkey demanding that they monitor the decision of aggravated life imprisonment for Abdullah Öcalan and three other prisoners in Turkey that had been announced and reported by Medya News in an exclusive report.
“Let us see how the Committee of Ministers will respond to that. This is an issue of key importance,” he said.
“The Council of Europe was already significant, because Turkey does everything leaning on the Council of Europe. It is important that, now, some law and human rights organisations have applied to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.”
Referring to the nature of Turkey’s membership of the Council of Europe as a “de facto” one, the PKK executive stated that if European governments do not make an effort to fill in the gap between Turkey’s laws and European laws, that would mean Europe accepts Turkey as a member based on politics, not principles.
“Of course, we know a thing or two about the European laws. So, some courts keep giving people aggravated life sentences. I have said this in many previous interviews. Concerning the CPT, the Council of Europe, other institutions of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), none of these follow these cases.”
Kalkan continued: “We know it very well that when someone goes through 15-years in prison, their case is seen again. Even if it is not directly a re-trial, the court that gave the sentence or another court re-evaluates the sentence.”
Kalkan stated that, despite the fact that it has been 23 years now since Abdullah Öcalan has been jailed in Imralı, there has been no evaluation of his sentence, no re-trial.
“Furthermore, the lawyers cannot visit him, the family cannot visit him,” he said, referring to the restrictions that are in place at Imrali.
Kalkan criticised the silence of the European governments and institutions in the face of the dire violations of rights taking place in Imralı Prison that have reached a level of “hostage taking.”
“Such a unique system of hostage taking is applied here. No laws are abided by here, but Europe calls this law. There is no reaction from the European institutions, from the Council of Europe, from the CPT. This situation has nothing to do with the laws. It is politics, from bottom to top. These are mutual interests speaking.”
Kalkan concluded that if the people who sincerely demand the physical freedom of Abdullah Öcalan investigate matters further, they will find many other creative ways to raise the struggle for this cause.
“European law is mostly based on adjective law: the portion of the law that deals with the rules of civil procedure. So, if people of law conduct further research, they will find more gaps in procedure,” he said.
“The struggle that aims to attain the physical freedom of leader Apo should be enhanced in all areas. Ideological, political, organisational, social and cultural and legal struggles should be undertaken at all levels.”