From the International Peace Delegation to Imrali:
February 15th 2022 marks 23 years since the abduction and imprisonment of Kurdish political leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Every year since his incarceration a peace delegation has visited Turkey to demand access to Öcalan on his island prison Imrali. This year the biggest international peace delegation to date, organized by the International initiative, Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan, Peace in Kurdistan, British trade unions and Peace in Kurdistan, has just completed a two day virtual fact-finding mission in Turkey assessing the ongoing 23 year aggravated solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, recognized leader of the Kurdish people.
The delegation met with political representatives, human rights organizations, women's organisations, prisoners associations and their families, and lawyers including lawyers of the Asrin law office, who are representing Abdullah Öcalan, with whom contact has been denied in breach of international law.
The delegation found
1) The isolation regime at Imrali island, where Abdullah Öcalan has been kept imprisoned for 23 years in breach of international law and human rights conventions, is now being introduced throughout the prison system in Turkey. Isolation F-type prisons are being built, and within present prison walls isolation of political prisoners is becoming common practice as well as the imposition of severe disciplinary sanctions.
2) Under these conditions political prisoners are being mistreated and tortured, elderly people and individuals with serious illnesses are denied medical treatment.
3) Rape and sexual abuse committed by village guards and military or prison personnel is common practice in a system that guarantees impunity to perpetrators.
4) Freedom of speech is non-existent in Turkey and thousands of people are constantly being persecuted, arrested, kept in pre-trial confinement for long periods and then given heavy prison sentences based on political whim. Those who do not agree that they regret their “wrong-doings”, or show “good manners” face aggravated punishment.
5) Abdullah Öcalan’s right to legal defence has been violated. His lawyers have confirmed that there has been no communication with him since 25.3.2021.
The Turkish authorities have deepened the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan after the Council of Europe´s Commission against Torture (CPT), declared in August 2020that “solitary confinement” as practiced on İmralı Island was “not acceptable” and that steps to improve this situation should be taken “without further delay.” The Turkish government responded with bans on further visits, whether with family or lawyers, and the prohibition of telephone contact, thus further aggravating the isolation conditions. We call on the CPT to follow up on their declarations that Turkey respect international law, and for them to demand to meet directly with Ocalan and his lawyers.
The delegation is deeply concerned by the failure of the Turkish authorities to comply with the recommendations of international human rights bodies, and even more so by the silence of international bodies, and in particular by the fact that the CPT delegation visiting Turkey in 2021 did not visit Imrali or even provide any information about Öcalan´s state of health.
After all these years, despite the torture that he endures, Öcalan’s message remains one of conciliation as he continuously insists on peace and democracy. His presence at a negotiating table is essential for peace in the region.
We appeal to all institutions worldwide responsible for international conventions on human rights and the rule of law to demand that the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan be ended without delay.
The time has come for the world to shoulder its responsibility.
- Andrea Kocsondi, Member of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) Executive, UK.
- Barbara Spinelli,Co-president of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights.
- Christine Blower, former General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Britain.
- Clare Baker, International officer for the British union, Unite.
- Claire Jones, General Secretary of the Society of Union Employees (SUE) in the UK.
- Dimitri Roussopoulos, Publisher and editor, ecologist writer, and community organizer.
- Doug Nicholls, leader of the General Federation of Trade Unions, UK.
- Federico Venturini, Research Associate at the University of Udine (Italy).
- Kariane Westrheim, Professor of Educational Science at the University of Bergen, Chair of EUTCC, Norway.
- Laura Quagliuolo, Italian editor and writer.
- Mahmoud Patel, Academic, legal scholar and human rights activist, South Africa.
- Margaret OwenOBE, Barrister in the UK.
- Melanie Gingell, Barrister and a lecturer on International Human Rights Law.
- Radha D’Souza, Professor of Law, barrister and writer, currently teaching law at the University of Westminster in the UK.
- Şerife Ceren Uysal, Co-Secretary General of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights.
- Shavanah Taj, General Secretary, TUC, Wales.
- Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Scholar of sociology at the University of Cambridge.
- Ögmundur Jónasson, former Icelandic Minister of Justice.