The HDP’s vigil for justice and peace

Since 21 December, MPs from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have been holding a daily vigil in Ankara to call for the end of Öcalan’s isolation and the reopening of peace negotiations. They have also made their own application to visit Öcalan in prison. (Questions in parliament are simply met with a denial that isolation exists.)

The MPs point out that the isolation of the İmralı prisoners not only constitutes torture and denial of human rights, but also blocks the way to a democratic and peaceful future for the whole of Turkey. They explain, ‘The most important actor for solving the Kurdish problem is Mr Öcalan. Interviews with Mr Öcalan during the [2013-2015] Resolution Process demonstrated that the way to ensure peace – to establish a common life in the Middle East and a democratic and equal life for the peoples of Turkey – passes through an honourable and democratic solution to the Kurdish question. The only way to do this is to restart negotiations…’

The MPs observe that the mentality that produced the isolation in İmralı has been imposed on the whole of society, and especially as hostility towards the Kurds, which is felt in every moment of life. The vigil was planned to be outside the Ministry of Justice, but the Turkish authorities have proved the MPs’ point about government authoritarianism by putting obstacles in their path. On the first day, they were prevented from marching from Parliament; on the second, the press was kept away from attending their statement; and since 26 December, they have been prevented from reaching the ministry and have given their statements outside the gate of the Parliamentary Assembly.

The MPs are making an appeal to democratic forces, but they can expect little support from Turkey’s main opposition coalition, whose ethnic nationalist elements forestall any engagement with the HDP, let alone with Öcalan’s case – even though the rule of law and human rights are meant to be universal.

Internationally, though, Öcalan’s isolation is getting a growing response from the legal profession. Organisations of lawyers from a range of European countries have made a written call for Turkey to comply with the demands of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT); and also for the CPT and the Council of Europe to make full use of existing mechanisms to put pressure on Turkey to do so. They write ‘We call on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to discuss the Turkish government’s persistent refusal to follow the CPT’s recommendations and to take the necessary steps. In the face of the Turkish government’s repeated refusal to comply with the CPT’s recommendations, we urge the CPT to take advantage of Article 10 of the Convention and issue a statement outlining the main abuses and their impact on the health of prisoners in Imrali.’