International lawyers to join protest outside the Council of Europe

Council of Europe building

From 23-25 January, Kurds and their friends will again be holding a protest outside the Council of Europe. We will be back, despite single digit temperatures, because, when it comes to Abdullah Öcalan, the Council and its Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) are failing in their fundamental purpose – the defence of Human rights. Protestors will gather opposite the Council Building between 10.00 and 14.00 each of the three days, and on Wednesday they will be joined by four lawyers from different parts of Europe who will make a press statement at noon.

Since the last session of the Council of Europe – they meet every three months – we have learnt that the long-demanded delegation from the CPT that visited İmralı prison in September may not have actually met Öcalan. If this is the case, Öcalan will have had no contact with the outside world since March 2021. The CPT refuses to give any information about their visit, so fears for Öcalan’s safety and health are even greater now than they were before September.

The protestors are calling on the CPT and the Council of Europe, not to allow themselves to become complicit in Turkish government oppression. They argue that, if the CPT is serious about preventing torture, they must break their silence on Abdullah Öcalan.

Their statement about the protests explains:

‘On a human level, isolation is a form of torture and is forbidden by both Turkish and international law. The mistreatment of Öcalan has also become a model for the mistreatment of other political prisoners and infects the entire Turkish judicial system, with devastating consequences for society as a whole.

‘Öcalan is recognised as their leader by millions of Kurds. Kurds want to be able to live in peace and dignity. Öcalan is key to any future negotiations for justice, peace, and democracy in Turkey, like Mandela was in South Africa.

‘Öcalan’s writings have opened new possibilities for sustainable living, women’s liberation, and inclusive democracy. An important political philosopher is being excluded from contributing to the central debates of our times.

‘The Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, was established to ensure democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Turkey’s treatment of Öcalan – and indeed of human rights more generally – is putting the Council to the test: a test that, so far, it is sadly failing.

‘In light of the illegal isolation, the CPT must tell Öcalan’s lawyers whether or not they met with him in September 2022, and what they know of his health and wellbeing.

‘The Council’s Committee of Ministers must put pressure on Turkey to act on the instructions of the CPT and comply with international human rights law, including

allowing Öcalan’s lawyers to meet with him immediately and regularly.

‘Council members, and the wider public, can help build this pressure by informing the world of what is happening and highlighting demands for ending Öcalan’s isolation and for new negotiations for a just, peaceful, and democratic settlement – in the name of humanity, peace, and a better future.’