Peoples’ Tribunal verdict: A historic day for justice and truth

Participants found Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal verdict historic and a base to build upon.

The decision of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) over crimes committed by the Turkish state against the Kurdish people have been disclosed on Thursday at the European Parliament.

The PPT found Turkey guilty of violating international laws on a number of cases. The ruling has been said to be “historic and very important” by many participants.

Renée Le Mignot, co-chairman of the Peoples Brotherhood Initiative Against Racism (MRAP), and Marie-Christine Vergat, Member of the United Left Group of the European Parliament, moderated the conference, which was attended by a large number of non-governmental organizations, political parties and well-known personalities.

President of the Court Philippe Texier read the summary of the judgment. "We wrote a letter to the Turkish embassy, ​​but we did not receive any response. - he said - They had the possibility of defending themselves, but they preferred not to do so”.

Texier: PKK is no terrorist

Texier noted that the Peoples’ Tribunal had heard witnesses at the two-day hearings in Paris claiming that massacres and sieges were aimed specifically at civilians. He cited the cases of Cizre, Sur, Sirnak and Nusaybin.

Texier said that “the right of people to self-determination has been constantly denied” and added that considering from a legal point of view the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state, to call the PKK "terrorist” is not correct “as the PKK is carrying out an armed struggle. And this is within the frame of the Geneva Convention".

Texier added: “The Turkish state ultimately tried to exclude the Kurdish people from all decision-making mechanisms and integrate them into Turkish society by using force. We can talk about the mass killings of the Kurdish people. From a legal point of view, we see that the Turkish state is guilty. But on the other hand, the state is also guilty of other offenses that we can define as criminal. Especially in the '90s we saw targeted murders and forced evictions”.

Explaining the verdict Texier said, “On the one hand, we found the Turkish state guilty of violating the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination (...). We found Turkey guilty of war crimes. We saw that the Kurdish people were physically eliminated, we saw murders and kidnappings. These happened both in Turkey and outside Turkey (...) We saw also that all these policies were conducted in a deliberate way by the Turkish state”.

Texier said that the recommendation ultimately found Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and General Adem Huduti directly responsible. The President of the Court requested the removal of the State of Emergency (OHAL), restoration of the rule of law, immediate end of all military operations, return to the settlement process, recognition of Kurdish identity and self-determination.

Julie Ward of the European Parliament's Socialist and Democratic Progressive Alliance Group, recalled the murder of three Kurdish revolutionary women, Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez, in Paris and said: “The Turkish state is violently attacking women rights”.

Ward, who emphasized the decisive struggles of women, said that as a feminist she finds herself very close to the Kurdish women’s struggle. “We need to strengthen this struggle further”.

Spinelli: People were burned alive in Cizre

Barbara Spinelli of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy, one of the associations promoting the Session of the PPT in Paris, said that very serious crimes were committed against humanity in Kurdish cities. Spinelli, who have been prohibited entry to Turkey since March 2017, said: “People were burned alive in Cizre”.

Noting that the Turkish state did not fulfill its international responsibilities, Spinelli pointed to the court's decision and stated that they would do everything in their hands to make it visible. Spinelli underlined that they wanted to expand solidarity on the international scene.

Ferho: Turkey is committed a crime every passing minute

Derwish Ferho of the Kurdish Institute of Brussels, one of the witnesses heard in Paris by the PPT said: “The Turkish state is committing new crimes every day, every hour, every minute”.

Reminding the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed throughout history, Ferho added: “Massacre and plunder have been going on for 100 years. The decision of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal is very important”.

Şakar: Turkey has a history of impunity

Mahmut Şakar, a lawyer of the International Society for Human Rights and Democracy MAF-DAD stated that “Turkey has a history of impunity”.

Drawing attention to the situation of Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan, Mahmut Şakar noted that international law was as closed as domestic law. The lawyer added that Europe is also responsible for the crimes committed against the Kurdish people and demanded an end to criminalization policies and an open rejection of the isolation regime imposed on Öcalan.

Zimmer: You are not alone

Gabi Zimmer of the United Left Group said that the PPT has given a strong contribution and said: “Pride was given back to the Kurdish people".

Zimmer lamented that Turkey did not accept to participate to the Tribunal, but said that European governments and international institutions should give join efforts to push Turkey to resume to the solution process of the Kurdish Question.

Zimmer told the Kurdish people: “You are not alone”.

Cyprus European Member of Parliament, Costas Mavrides of the Progressive Alliance of the Socialist and Democrats said he “appeals to the conscience of all mankind” after the decision of the PPT”.

Mavrides, who said that the Turkish state denied the basic principles of the state of law, protested against the financial assistance provided by the European Union to the Turkish state. He added that Turkey is actually allowed by the EU to blackmail it.

Mavrides said: “As long as the flowers in the mountains of Kurdistan open, the struggle for mankind will continue”.

Kariane Westrheim, from the European Union Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) stated that the verdict is “very important for us. It is a very important day for all of us. The PPT decisions and suggestions add energy to our work and motivate us more”.

Westrheim reminded Mehmet Tunç, from Cizre, who was killed a few days after he sent a letter to the European Union asking for help. Hundreds of Kurds were killed with him in Cizre. “We are all guilty, - said Westrheim adding - the PKK needs to be removed from the list of terrorist organizations in order to resume peace talks”.

She insisted: “We immediately need a political peace process. The role of Abdullah Öcalan should be recognized because without him there can be no solution”.

Simon Dubbins of the Freedom for Öcalan Campaign stated that the court decision will take an important place in history. Dubbins recalled the silence of the international community during the occupation of Afrin by the Turkish state.

Drawing attention to Öcalan's situation, Dubbins said: "Next year Öcalan will be 70, and he will start his 20th year of prison in the worst conditions. He is in complete isolation. He is a true political leader, a political thinker. Like Mandela, he has worked for peace, justice throughout his life. In July we will hold a trade union festival where 200,000 people attend. This year festival will be dedicated to the freedom for Öcalan”.

NAPO Secretary General Ian Lawrence, who supported the Freedom for Öcalan Campaign, said that they will take the PPT decision to the British government.

Margaret Owen, international human rights lawyer, made the final speech of the conference. Owen, who is also one of the executives of the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, said: “This is a very important day in history” and dedicated part of her speech to the conditions in which prisoners are held in Turkey. “Turkish jails, - she said - are like concentration camps”.

She ended her speech by asking for the release of Abdullah Öcalan.

The conference ended with the submission and approval of a five-point document.

Accepting the verdict by the PPT, the conference asked for an immediate cessation of Turkish military operation in Syria and the withdrawal of Turkish troops. The conference asked for the resumption of a peace process in Turkey.