Lawyer Uysal: We are worried about Abdullah Öcalan's health

Lawyer Newroz Uysal said: "We're even wondering if he's in Imrali. The decision of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers will have an impact on the Turkish government's attitude."

Newroz Uysal, one of Abdullah Öcalan's lawyers, was asked by ANHA to comment on " the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. What does it mean that they held a meeting within the framework of your application?" 

She replied: “Mr. Öcalan's lawyers appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which delivered the same decision in two separate applications. The decision was made in March of this year. There is a provision in these judgements that states that life sentences are harsh in Turkey and that people found guilty of crimes against the state would be imprisoned until they die. It was deemed a violation of human rights under the terms of the ECHR agreement in Turkey, and the Turkish state was fined as a result.

The purpose of the establishment of this commission is whether there is a need for the state in court decisions. Or, what kind of progress and efforts have been made in the state as a result of the decision, and whether the requirements of this decision have been fulfilled or not. The committee is following these developments.

The decision on Mr. Öcalan came before this committee after 2014. In addition to Mr. Öcalan, there are three other people in the decision by the ECtHR. Today, thousands of people in Turkey face heavy life sentences. This needs to be eliminated. 7 years later, the European Committee of Ministers decided to discuss the issue for the first time at its first meeting. That's why this meeting is extremely important."

'They don’t make changes in regulations so that Mr. Öcalan cannot be free’

Asked whether "this decision holds promise for those who have been sentenced? And how do you define this decision?" Uysal said: "There is no procedure in Turkish law to investigate heavy life sentences.  This is a case concerning preventing ill-treatment. This recognition of a violation should not give the applicants any hope of release. However, national representatives should establish an investigation mechanism that complies with the standards set by the court.

We call this decision the ‘right to hope’. Someone in prison must have hope that one day they will be free and able to enter society. There is no such thing as being in prison until death in life sentences. There should be a mechanism by which the person can follow up on whether he or she needs freedom. This is referred to as the right to hope. Someone who is incarcerated must have hope that one day they will be released and allowed to be reintegrated into society. There is no such thing as serving a life sentence in prison till death. There should be a process in place for the individual to determine whether or not he or she requires freedom.

According to the courts, this system should be available in all states. However, the Turkish government refused to accept this for severe life sentences. What's the reason for this? When he was taken prisoner as a result of the conspiracy, Mr. Öcalan was sentenced to death. The death sentence, which the Turkish state had not implemented for a long time and was finally abolished after Mr. Öcalan, was long debated in the Council of Europe. According to the Council of Europe, the Turkish government was forced to alter the verdict and impose a harsh life sentence.

There were disputes in the Turkish parliament at the time, and several party deputies said that they would not accept Öcalan's death. 'We will not kill him, but we will execute him every day,' stated someone else. The goal of this sentence is to last until Mr. Öcalan dies, not to give anyone hope of freedom. However, this punishment was not only given to Mr. Öcalan but also to thousands of others today."

Lawyer Uysal added: "The state does not make changes in the regulations so that Mr. Öcalan is not free. Because it thinks that if it makes changes, Mr. Öcalan can benefit from this. Mr. Öcalan poses no threat to the Turkish state, the Kurdish or Turkish people. Just the opposite,  Mr. Öcalan, represents a spark of hope for society. He is the most important interlocutor for social harmony. Mr. Öcalan will be released when all of these factors are considered and a direct objective evaluation is made."

Lawyer Uysal continued: "Our fundamental request is that the law and constitution be changed in accordance with the Council of Europe or international standards, rather than the Turkish state mentality."

Will the committee decision bring any results?

The ECHR concluded with Mr. Öcalan's case that there was no infringement of Article 3 of the Convention regarding detention conditions for the period after 17 November 2009. On this point lawyer Uysal said: "The right to life, inhuman treatment, and torture are all addressed by Article 3 of the Convention. This article may not be violated in any form, and no justification may be made for doing so. We assert unambiguously that this article has been obviously and unmistakably violated for 7 years, but the Committee has not put it on its agenda for 7 years.

The modifications to Mr. Öcalan's aggravated life sentence should look like this. This penalty is being meted out to tens of thousands of people. The Committee sees this as a global issue, not a personal one regarding Mr. Öcalan, and wants the constitution altered. The Turkish government, on the other hand, wishes to see the process continue."

Regarding whether the committee's decision will yield results, Uysal said: "The Turkish government deceives the Committee by claiming that they won’t do what is requested. The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers gathers every three months. In other words, the Committee allowed Turkey three sessions to implement adjustments. The inconsistency here is: why did the committee not place this issue on its agenda for 7 years, and why did it purposefully delay the decision? This is what is important to us. The Committee will discuss this conclusion during its remaining three meetings. Each decision made at the meetings will have the consequence of changing the Turkish state's attitude and laws.

As a result, we'll have to wait until the March meeting to see what happens. (...) This appears to be a process that will take time to resolve. Because the Turkish government needs to modify the legislation, and the law is modified in parliament in accordance with Turkish laws. Today, the AKP and MHP are leading a war coalition in parliament against the Kurds. At the same time, they have a dubious record when it comes to human rights, not only for Kurds, but in general. We demand a fair exchange in accordance with norms."

Uysal explained what kind of process would start if the Turkish state does not fulfill the decisions given as follows: "A member state of the Council of Europe is required to follow the ECHR's judgements. If it does not, the committee will warn that state and give it some time. Finally, the state in question must comply with the judgement. If this state continues to refuse to comply with the decision and it is established that the decision will not be followed, the case is referred to the Council of Europe, and sanctions are imposed on the state in question.

Membership has been revoked in some cases. The committee, however, does not use this method against the Turkish government. This committee is primarily political and does not make decisions exclusively on the basis of the law. When states are at peace with one another, they hold each other accountable. However, if they disagree politically, they make decisions that are detrimental to one another. Regrettably, they do not adhere to any significant method. It's a political European strategy."

Lawyer Uysal, stating that they are concerned about the health and safety of Abdullah Öcalan, said: "This scenario has now progressed to the point where it is questionable whether Mr. Öcalan is still in İmralı. We can only obtain information from Mr. Öcalan in an emergency. Unfortunately, his discipline sentence is renewed every 6 months. This 22-year process has demonstrated that reactions to Mr. Öcalan's isolation and protection have opened doors."