‘If the CoE’s norms do not exist only on paper, it must do what is necessary’

"If the legal norms and values of the Council of Europe do not exist only on paper, it must do what is necessary to ensure that they are implemented," said lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez of Abdullah Öcalan's defense team.

New disciplinary sanctions have been imposed on Abdullah Öcalan and his fellow prisoners Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş in Imrali. They will not be allowed to receive visits from their legal counsel for six months, and family visits have been banned for three months. The ban was made public by the rejection of an urgent request for permission to visit submitted by Asrin's Law Office to various authorities.

The lawyers from the Asrin Law Office, which represents Öcalan and his fellow prisoners, have had no sign of life from their clients for eight months. The last contact with Abdullah Öcalan was a brief telephone conversation with his brother Mehmet Öcalan last March. Attorney Ibrahim Bilmez has commented to ANF on the systematic violation of his clients' rights.

Urgent need for talks

Bilmez stated that in the request filed with the office of the Execution Judge in Bursa on Nov. 22, the law office stated that there was an urgent need for talks because of the lack of information about the health condition and legal situation of its clients. "Our request was answered at lightning speed on the same day. Through the enforcement court, we have become aware that a six-month ban on contact with lawyers has been imposed. We do not know the reasoning," he said.

According to Bilmez, the visit ban was ordered as early as October 12, and the defense team was not informed at that time. He continued: "In the past, we could find out the reasons for such orders when our clients on Imrali appealed against them. This time, neither Mr. Öcalan nor our other clients appealed. This is clear from the response to our request. Presumably, they no longer consider it necessary to appeal these decisions out of protest. As lawyers, we will, of course, continue to follow the legal process anyway."

CPT does not follow up on its own recommendations

Lawyer Bilmez referred to the Imrali report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of 2019, which states that the Turkish state constantly imposes disciplinary sanctions on the detainees at Imrali with pretextual justifications and that this procedure is not credible. The fact that Turkey insists on continuing the isolation of Imrali prisoners using the same method despite recommendations to the contrary by the Council of Europe's committee is also due to the CPT, Bilmez said and continued, "The CPT does not stand behind the decisions it has made itself. Or it does not monitor whether its recommendations are implemented. Conditions are getting worse and Turkey seems to want to challenge the CPT and the whole European system." Normally, a country that does not comply with the recommendations of the CPT is condemned internationally. In the case of Imrali, it has not yet come to that. We will appeal to the CPT again regarding the latest visitation ban.”

Bilmez emphasized that the legal team is very concerned and that is why they filed the request for an urgent meeting. Other requests were submitted to the Ministry of Justice, the General Directorate of Penitentiary and Detention and the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission. On Friday, the lawyers had turned to international human rights organizations and civil law associations to take practical steps to lift the isolation on Imrali.

Imrali, the unresolved Kurdish question and the atmosphere in Turkey

The current political atmosphere in Turkey cannot be viewed independently of the situation on Imrali, Bilmez stressed and added: "The fact that the country is moving so quickly away from the principle of the rule of law always has to do with the lawlessness on Imrali. The isolation on Imrali is synonymous with the unresolved Kurdish question. The failure to resolve the Kurdish question means that Turkey is moving further and further away from democracy and a situation like the current one is emerging. Both what is happening on Imrali and the continued lack of rights in Turkey are unfortunately now seen by people as normal. This is, of course, fundamentally wrong. A democratic reaction to it must be shown. Otherwise, with each new day, it will be someone else's turn."

Debate in the Council of Europe

In the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the rights violations in the case of Abdullah Öcalan will be discussed starting today. Ibrahim Bilmez expects the issue to be dealt with seriously because the deviation from the norms of the rule of law in Turkey has reached an extreme level: "If the Council of Europe's legal norms and values do not exist only on paper, it must do what is necessary to ensure that they are implemented. On the agenda is aggravated life imprisonment. We expect the Committee of Ministers to show its will. Our concern continues to grow every day. We will continue our initiatives and demand that the lawlessness finally be ended."