Öcalan’s lawyers: CPT’s approach is not compatible with its duty to prevent conditions of torture

Lawyers have no information about the conditions of their clients on Imrali. The last lawyer visit took place in August 2019, and the last sign of life from Imrali was a brief phone call in March 2021. Since then, all contact has been severed.

The Istanbul-based Asrın Law Office, which represents Abdullah Öcalan and his three fellow prisoners, Hamili Yıldırım, Ömer Hayri Konar and Veysi Aktaş in the Turkish island prison Imrali, released a statement harshly criticizing the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which did not visit Imrali during its latest visit to Turkey.

The statement released by Asrın Law Office on Saturday includes the following:

"As the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) announced yesterday, a delegation was in Turkey between February 13 and 22, 2024 and visited some prisons. Imrali Island Prison was not listed among the prisons visited. Instead, the CPT emphasized that certain issues were discussed with the competent authorities, in particular regarding the contact of prisoners in Imrali F-Type High Security Prison with the outside world. As is understood, the CPT delegation did not visit Imrali Island Prison during this long stay in Turkey and did not meet Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, Mr. Veysi Aktaş, Mr. Hamili Yıldırım and Mr. Ömer Hayri Konar, from whom we have not received any news for 35 months. As before, the CPT has dealt with our clients' contacts with the outside world only by talking to the authorities.

This approach of the CPT is neither compatible with the prohibition of torture nor with its duty to prevent conditions of torture. While illegal disciplinary penalties and unlawful bans on lawyers imposed by execution judgeships are systematically imposed one after another, while the conditions of execution and 'judicial processes' are closed to the lawyer's review and supervision, while the right to defense has been completely suspended in İmralı, while all ties with the outside world, especially lawyer and family visits, have been severed for almost three years, while lawyers have no information about the conditions of detention and their health status, it is an unacceptable approach to raise the issue only in meetings with the authorities.

The CPT is also aware that Turkey has not complied for one and a half years with the United Nations Human Rights Committee's request to allow a lawyer to visit Imrali without delay. The limited addressing of our clients’ relations with the outside world means that conditions are left to the arbitrariness of the state and those in charge.

However, the long imprisonment and aggravated life imprisonment regime in İmralı, which has left 25 years behind, and the current conditions of absolute incommunicado are inhumane as a form of torture. However, the approaches of national and international authorities and institutions are contrary to the prohibition of torture and have eroded the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture.

Our information and requests regarding Mr. Öcalan and İmralı for the November-December-January period were conveyed to the CPT on February 15, 2024. The fact that the delegation was aware of the current developments while still in Turkey, that their last visit, whose report has not yet been released, was on September 22, 2022, and that the conditions in İmralı have worsened since then, including the earthquakes, necessitated a direct observation and examination in İmralı. However, they returned from Turkey without a new visit. This situation has led us to worry that the conditions of torture, unlawful and immoral isolation in İmralı will continue.

At this point, we expect the CPT to make its findings and observations on Imrali public, as none of its recommendations have been taken into account for years and the state has not made any improvements. We expect the CPT to play an active role instead of looking from the point of view of the state in order to put an end to the state of incommunicado, which is contrary to the prohibition of torture, and to ensure lawyer and family visits.”