Öcalan’s lawyers urge Turkish authorities to comply with the Council of Europe decisions

Following a decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning İmralı prison, the Asrın Law Office has urged Turkish authorities to comply with the decision as soon as possible.

The Asrın Law Office, which advocates Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan and three other prisoners on Imralı, has released a written statement to address the decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning İmralı prison. “The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe announced the results of a meeting during which the non-implementation of the European Court of Human Rights' decision on the violation of the “Right to Hope” concerning Öcalan dated 18 March 2014 was debated,” the statement said.

The statement continued:

“On March 18, 2014, the ECtHR determined that the regulations stating that an aggravated life imprisonment should last lifetime were contrary to the prohibition of torture and ruled that legal regulations should be introduced to deal with it. After this judgement, the ECtHR ruled that similar violations were observed in the cases Kaytan versus Turkey, Gurban versus Turkey and Boltan versus Turkey. Afterwards, 4 files were monitored by the Committee of Ministers and Turkey was expected to fulfil the requirements concerning the decisions.

We consider it important that the Committee brought the file onto its agenda despite a long period of time. As is known, apart from the applications that have been pending for years, there were also applications in 2021 made by the Lawyers Association for Freedom, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, the Human Rights Association and the Foundation for Studies on Society and Law.

As a result of its meetings on 30 November-2 December 2021, the Committee stated that it would not make any recommendations on the grounds that the detention conditions of Mr. Öcalan were addressed in another application to the ECtHR and that his case was monitored by the CPT.

Concerning the right to hope, the Committee has determined that the requirements of the decision have not been fulfilled in any way so far and added that legislative and other adequate measures should be adopted without further delay to secure a mechanism that would allow the review of any aggravated life imprisonment sentence after a certain minimum term with a possibility of the release of the life prisoner on penological grounds.

The Committee expressed concern that the authorities have not provided pertinent information on the measures envisaged to remedy the violations found in these judgments and urged them to adopt without further delay the measures required to bring the current legislative framework into compliance with the standards set out by the ECHR. It is understood that the Committee has encouraged Turkey further to draw inspiration in this respect on the good examples of reforms adopted in other member States; has requested also information on the number of persons presently detained and sentenced to serve an irreducible life sentence without possibility for review on penological ground.

The rulings of the ECtHR and the conclusions and requests of the Committee put forward during the meeting should be fulfilled by Turkey as soon as possible and aggravated life imprisonment should be reviewed in accordance with human dignity.

It is very important that aggravated life imprisonment, implemented for the first time in Turkey with Öcalan’s case and considered by the ECtHR as contrary to the prohibition of torture, was debated by the Committee of Ministers. Although the exact number of prisoners who received aggravated life imprisonment in Turkey is not known, some argue that there are thousands. This is a very important fact that exposes the spread of the Imrali isolation and torture system.

Our efforts will continue together with other legal and human rights institutions to abolish this torture-based penal system which was first adopted in the Öcalan case and is widely practiced in contemporary Turkey. We urge all the public to be sensitive and raise awareness over the issue.”