HDP says Turkey must comply with ECtHR ruling on Öcalan and other prisoners

HDP Group Deputy Chair Meral Danış Beştaş said that the recent ruling of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Abdullah Öcalan is important for Turkey's political history and stressed that Turkey must comply with the ECtHR ruling.

On 29 July 2021, ÖHD (Association of Lawyers for Freedom), IHD (Human Rights Association), TIHV (Human Rights Foundation of Turkey), and TOHAV (Society and Law Research Foundation) petitioned the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers to place on the Council of Europe's urgent agenda the isolation imposed on Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan, Hayati Kaytan, Emin Gurban, and Civan Boltan which is in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, "Prohibition of Torture," states that "no one should be subjected to torture, cruel or degrading punishment or treatment." Turkey, as a member of the Council of Europe, is required to implement the ECHR, which it signed in 1950.

Kurdish leader Öcalan and other detainees in Imrali Prison are treated differently than detainees and convicts in other prisons in Turkey. They are prevented from having visits with family and lawyers, as well as from using their rights to use the telephone, fax, and correspondence. The current situation has gone beyond abuse and turned into systemic torture.

The most crucial part of the application to the Council of Europe is the demand for the fulfillment of the ECtHR provisions which are constantly violated by Turkey. This application was also debated during the meeting of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, held between 30 November and 2 December, and Turkey was given time until September 2022 in a statement issued at the end of the meeting.

In its 2014 decision, also known as “Öcalan-2”, the ECtHR ruled that the regulations regarding life imprisonment without parole were contrary to the prohibition of torture and added that legal regulations should be introduced accordingly. Following the meeting, the Committee of Ministers requested information about the steps taken by Turkey concerning the ECtHR's ‘right to hope’ ruling and urged Turkey to implement the decisions without further delay.

HDP Group Deputy Chair and lawyer Meral Danış Beştaş evaluated the latest decision of the Committee of Ministers for ANF which she said is a very important turning point in Turkey's political history. She recalled that Turkey is both a member of the Council of Europe and a party to the ECHR, saying, “Turkey has to comply with the ECtHR ruling both as a party to the convention and in accordance with Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution, which does not offer another option to the government in Turkey. The government wants to delay and adjourn it. If it does not implement the ruling, a process leading to expulsion from the Council of Europe membership will begin.”


Beştaş pointed to the aggravated isolation in Imrali prison at a time when the ‘right to hope’ is debated by the Committee of Ministers and underlined that there is no explanation or reason for the isolation in place. The HDP politician noted that the isolation on Imrali does not accord with the penal system, the Turkish Constitution and the international conventions, adding that isolation cannot be imposed on anyone and has no legal basis. She pointed out that there is a specific regulation in the law on criminal execution on how long those sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment can be kept in solitary confinement. “The isolation currently imposed on Abdullah Öcalan and three other prisoners is continuous torture. This type of isolation is much more serious because it remains systematic and continuous. These practices have nothing to do with the laws in any way. It is purely political,” she said. Beştaş emphasized that the recent ban on lawyer and family visitations is also unacceptable, saying that, it is an irrational decision to impose a ban on visitations since there are already arbitrary bans implemented in a systematic way. Beştaş held that the recent bans are aimed at legitimizing the isolation. “Yet, the ban on visitations cannot be justified,” she added.


Stating that the isolation in Imralı prison should be lifted immediately, and regulations should be introduced in domestic law to conform to the ECtHR's ‘right to hope’ ruling, Beştaş noted that an exact date should be set to free Abdullah Öcalan and all other prisoners sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment as part of this verdict. She emphasized that life imprisonment is considered an unacceptable punishment under international law and that the ECtHR ruling recognized this precisely. Beştaş remarked that the HDP would monitor the process until the end, adding that lawyers of the Asrın Law Office took care of both domestic and international law mechanisms and the HDP will continue to work in parliament for the necessary regulations to be made, she added.