"The Belgian PKK verdict should be a precedent in the EU"

The PKK is not a terrorist organisation, the Belgian Court of Cassation ruled on Tuesday. At a press conference in Brussels, politicians and parties to the proceedings have called for a new approach by the EU to the Kurdish question.

Following the final confirmation by the Belgian Court of Cassation that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is not a terrorist organisation, lawyers, MEPs and the Kurdish politicians Remzi Kartal and Zübeyir Aydar spoke on the issue at a press conference in Brussels today. The court decision has opened a gap in the criminalisation policy against the Kurdish movement, the participants commented.

The Court of Cassation in Brussels on Tuesday finally confirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals of March 2019, according to which the Kurdish Workers' Party is not a "terrorist organisation" but a party in an armed conflict. Two weeks ago, the Attorney General of the Brussels Court of Cassation had already made a recommendation to that effect.

The "terrorism argument" legitimizes repression of the opposition

The conference at the European Press Club was opened by Socialist MEP Andreas Schieder, Nikolaj Villiumsen of the GUE and François Alfonsi of the Green Group. Villiumsen said that the court decision should have consequences. He referred to the AKP regime's repression of the opposition in Turkey, in particular of the HDP, which is based on accusations of terrorism.

The "terrorism argument" has also been used for the invasion of Syria. However, the problem cannot be solved by force, Villiumsen said, calling on the Turkish government and the PKK to negotiate a political solution.

Andreas Schieder pointed that the problem was not terrorism, but the rights of a section of the people. He said that fighting for cultural, political and economic rights was legitimate.

Terrorist list prevents political solution

Afterwards, Villiumsen took the floor again and said that the listing of the PKK as a terrorist organisation was a mistake of the EU that prevented a solution of the Kurdish question. He remarked that the Belgian ruling could help to start a political process.

When asked by ANF how the statement of the Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin on the judgement should be assessed, Villiumsen said that it was a very unfortunate statement. Goffin had said on Wednesday that the court ruling did not change the attitude of the Belgian government, the PKK was still considered a terrorist organisation. Villiumsen announced that the ruling would also be discussed in the European Parliament.

Greens MEP François Alfonsi called the Brussels court decision a positive step against the criminalisation of the Kurdish movement. Now it is important to enforce the decision in all EU countries, he said.

Intervention in justice by Belgian Foreign Minister

Afterwards the four lawyers Jan Fermon, Joke Callewaert, Paul Bekaert and Luc Walleyn, who represented the Kurdish side, spoke about the legal process and its significance.

Paul Bekaert pointed out that the oppression by the terrorism accusation is not only directed against the PKK, but against all Kurds.

“Now the question is whether the Belgian government will respect the court decision. The Belgian judiciary has made a clear ruling, which should also have an impact on the EU terrorist list.”

Jan Fermon explained the course of the proceedings and referred to the Wikileaks documents, which made it public that the US Embassy had exerted pressure in this regard. The listing of the PKK as a terrorist organisation by the EU was also a political decision that had to be revised, said Fermon and called the statement of the Belgian Foreign Minister an "interference with justice".

Ready for a political solution

Most recently Remzi Kartal spoke as co-chairman of Kongra Gel and Zübeyir Aydar of the KNK (Kurdistan National Congress) Executive Council. The two Kurdish politicians were among the defendants in the trial in Belgium.

Kartal expressed the wish that the verdict would change the criminalisation policy in Europe directed against the Kurds: "The problem is not the PKK. The PKK is used as a pretext to attack the Kurdish people." He called on the EU to treat the Belgian court decision as a precedent and to find a new approach to the Kurdish question.

Zübeyir Aydar stressed that the EU terror list legitimises the Turkish state's arrests, torture and murders: "No one should continue to make themselves an accomplice to Erdoğan. In Europe, tens of thousands of people have been criminalised through the definition of the PKK as a terrorist organisation. We are a war party and stand up for the freedom of our people. We are ready to solve the problem peacefully through dialogue. I call on the Belgian Government and the EU to comply with the court ruling and remove the PKK from the terrorist list.”