On 22 November 2021, lawyers from the Asrın Law Office applied to the Sentencing Judges’ Office in Bursa, requesting “immediate visits” with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan as well as Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş, who are all detained under conditions of severe isolation in İmralı high security prison. The Judges’ Office responded to the lawyers’ application on the same day, revealing that two new bans had been imposed on Öcalan. They rejected the application for a lawyer’s visit citing a 6-month ban issued by the court against Öcalan on 12 October as the reason, and they also issued a decision refusing a family visit, indicating a decision from 18 August for a 3-month period of “deprivation of visiting rights” issued by the head office of Imrali Disciplinary Board, under the Penal Institution Directorate.
The severe isolation conditions imposed on Öcalan continue. No word is heard from the PKK leader, who has not been allowed to have contact with his family or lawyers, for the last year, and still more disciplinary punishments have been issued against him. After the ban on family visits ended on 18 November 2021 his family applied to the Chief Public Prosecution Office in Bursa for visits, but still received no response, so on 28 March the lawyers once again applied to the Sentencing Judges’ Office in Bursa, asking for all unlawful obstacles to family visits to be removed and a family visit to be held. Responding to the lawyers’ application on 29 March, the Judges’ Office rejected the application. They argued in their reasoning that a new disciplinary punishment had been imposed on Öcalan, so a meeting was not possible.
The president of the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Gülseren Yoleri spoke to MA, stating that the new disciplinary punishment issued to Öcalan had not been lawfully decided upon, saying, “It is a practice aimed at perpetuating the ongoing isolation in Imrali.”
Rules are being ignored
Yoleri expressed the view that the practices of isolation and penal execution in Imrali are tailored to the individual, pointing out that the imposition of conditions of isolation was implemented as soon as Öcalan had been handed over to Turkey, and that it was becoming gradually stricter. She remarked that reports released by Öcalan’s lawyers also drew attention to the rules of isolation and severe penal conditions, saying, “When we evaluate the rules of penal execution from a legal point of view, we find that this practice completely ignores them, showing that there is serious discrimination in terms of penal execution.”
Violation of Human Rights
Yoleri said, “Isolation is a form of torture in terms of human rights. This torture is being perpetrated against Öcalan. We know that the ban on visits and prohibition from seeing his family and lawyers is a form of isolation torture. The practice of prohibiting these communication rights is also aimed at severing the person’s ties with the outside world.”
She explained that the communication ban against Öcalan is arbitrary, saying, “When we look at basic human rights, there are certain inviolable rights. These are rights that may not be restricted even in wartime. In terms of the rights of the prisoner, it is not even possible to define a practice aimed at preventing the connection of the prisoner with the outside world for so long, and on such arbitrary grounds, within framework of the law.”
Isolation motivated by politics
Yoleri expressed her view that the practices in Imrali are directly motivated by politics rather than the law, and went on, “Basic human rights may not be used as a tool in politics. But in the situation currently facing us, we’re seeing that rather than the values of law and human rights, political need and criteria are being applied. We assess this as being unlawful and in contravention of human rights. This practice must end immediately.”
Yoleri remarked that the justifications for Öcalan’s disciplinary punishment are aimed at persuading international public opinion rather than along the lines of the needs of domestic public opinion, saying, “There is no other explanation for this prohibition decision. In this case, the unlawful decision having been insisted upon and persisted with for such a long time, we need to talk about a factor other than the implementation of the law. From the very beginning, the most important factor has been politics. Just as during the peace process visits were a matter of course and meetings with lawyers and the family were held with the permission of the state, so the same meetings were stopped when the peace process ended. Whether or not these meetings may be held is decided according to the political climate.”