Vigil in Strasbourg concluded: We will break the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan
Lawyers and politicians attending the vigil against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan in front of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg called for action.
In front of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, representatives of Kurdish and Turkish organisations, lawyers, parliamentarians, politicians in exile and media representatives demanded immediate contact with Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan who has been held totally incommunicado on the prison island of Imrali in Turkey for almost 24 years. The press conference in front of the Council of Europe building marked the end of a three-day vigil organised by the European umbrella organisation of Kurdish associations KCDK-E to call for measures to break the information and contact ban on Abdullah Öcalan. For about two years now there has been no sign of life from the Kurdish leader, who has been imprisoned in the Turkish island prison of Imrali since 1999. He is neither allowed to see his relatives nor lawyers, a clear violation of the ban on torture. But in the case of Öcalan, Europe is struggling with a consistent commitment to human rights and a responsible response to the injustice institutionalised on Imrali.
BENKHELIFA: IT FALLS TO US TO END THE ISOLATION OF ÖCALAN
At the press conference on Wednesday, Belgian lawyer Selma Benkhelifa pointed to the Council of Europe's obligation to verify compliance with court rulings in its member states. "This verification does not take place. Turkey does not comply with court decisions, but nothing changes. We have been told in the Council of Europe that we are right from a legal point of view, but that we have to win public opinion first in order for something to move. In my opinion, that is not right. I think it is a political decision by the Council of Europe. It means that they will not move until the media and the public in Europe come out in favour of ending the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan. So, it falls to us to end this isolation and to demand Abdullah Öcalan's release. This is very important because Öcalan is not just any prisoner. He is a symbolic figure of a people and also symbolically important beyond his people."
CALLEWAERT: COE MUST ENSURE IMPLEMENTATION OF ECTHR RULINGS
Speaking after, lawyer Joke Callewaert demanded that politicians abide by judicial decisions. Callewaert represents, among others, Kurdish politician Zübeyir Aydar and was one of the lawyers in the case in Belgium that ended in 2020 with the highest court confirming that the PKK is not a terrorist organisation but a party in an armed conflict. "On a legal level, we won, but politics does not comply. That is why colleagues have started an initiative to remove the PKK from the list of terrorist organisations. What we are demanding is only the implementation of judicial decisions. The European Court of Human Rights has twice ruled that the procedure against Abdullah Öcalan is illegal. In other words, he must not be completely isolated on Imrali. However, Turkey is not abiding by these rulings. We are here today because we demand that the Council of Europe implements the judgments handed down by the Human Rights Court and ensures their implementation," said the Belgian lawyer.
AYDAR: ÖCALAN'S FREEDOM IS OUR FREEDOM
Zübeyir Aydar, a member of the Executive Council of the KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union), noted that Abdullah Öcalan has been held on a prison island for 24 years and there has been no sign of life from him since March 2021. Aydar continued: "As representatives of Kurdish institutions, we are standing with our friends in front of the Council of Europe to make our voices heard. Meetings are held in the Council of Europe, where HDP MPs, lawyers of Öcalan and the international initiative 'Freedom for Öcalan' are holding talks. People in all parts of Kurdistan and in Europe are on their feet. An international delegation of lawyers has travelled to Turkey to discuss the issue with institutions there. Here in front of the Council of Europe, a continuous vigil for Öcalan's freedom has been taking place for eleven years. With this campaign we want to break the isolation. The freedom of Abdullah Öcalan is our freedom."
KOÇ: WE WANT A SIGN OF LIFE FROM ÖCALAN
Yüksel Koç, Co-Chair of the KCDK-E, called on the Council of Europe and the CPT to act, saying: "We want a sign of life from Abdullah Öcalan. The isolation must end, and the Council of Europe has a responsibility to do so. We will continue our actions until we have heard from Leader Öcalan.”
GLYNN: ISOLATION GETTING HEAVIER
Journalist Sara Glynn said that the captivity of Öcalan and ignorance of human rights marked its 24th year, denouncing the ongoing anti-democratic practice. “The isolation executed on Imrali is getting heavier every passing year,” Glynn said, criticizing the judicial process in Turkey and saluting the international solidarity with Öcalan.
GAVAN: ÖCALAN IS THE TRUE FACE OF HUMANITY
Irish MP Paul Gavan of Sinn Féin defined the Kurds fighting for Öcalan’s freedom in Strasbourg as the “most combative people speaking for democracy and human rights.” MP Gavan continued, “Öcalan is the true face of humanity and democracy. His isolation is the isolation of democracy. We will continue calling for justice and try to make Ireland take action on the matter. Europe has failed in human rights. As Sinn Féin, we will continue our support.”
CHOUMAN: ARAB WOMEN INSPIRED BY ÖCALAN'S IDEAS
Sawsan Chouman of the international women's initiative "Freedom for Öcalan" expressed that their goal was to demand Öcalan’s freedom and remove the obstacles before it. “We want to make Öcalan’s philosophy heard. Öcalan’s ideas on women’s freedom are of great importance to us. As Arab women, we were inspired by his ideas. Öcalan is the leader of all peoples. I salute your resistance and your leader,” Chouman said.
RESTREPO: KURDISH WOMEN SET AN EXAMPLE
Colombian lawyer Diana Restrepo stated that her people have been through the very same repression experienced by the Kurdish people. “Kurdish women set an example to the imprisoned women in Colombia. The Kurdish people’s struggle and Öcalan’s philosophy is decisive for us,” Restrepo said, adding that the Kurdish people receive support worldwide.