Kurds launch vigil in front of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg

Kurds have launched a vigil in front of the Council of Europe as the Committee of Ministers meeting continues. The vigil will last 17 days.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers is holding its quarterly meeting to oversee the execution of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg from 30 November to 2 December. The Committee of Ministers oversees the execution of judgments on the basis of information provided by national authorities, applicants, NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other interested parties.

For the first time in seven years, the Turkish state, which did not execute the 2014 ECtHR ruling for the review of the life sentence for Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, is on the agenda of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. The ECtHR ruling stated that it is contrary to the right to hope stipulated in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights that Abdullah Öcalan, Hayati Kaytan, Emin Gurban and Civan Boltan are in aggravated life imprisonment without the possibility of parole suspension.

As part of the “Time for Freedom” campaign launched over a year ago, the Freedom for Öcalan Initiative launched a vigil in front of the Council of Europe under the motto “Freedom Will Prevail, Take Action for Öcalan”.

Kurdish activists gathered at the scene starting from the early morning hours and launched the vigil which is set to last 17 days. The action was taken over by as many as a hundred activists of the Democratic Kurdish Community Center in Switzerland (CDK-S) on its first day.

“Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish people, has been detained in Imrali Prison since 15 February 1999,” read a huge banner unfurled by the activists who also displayed images of Öcalan and banners calling for European institutions to “take action”.

CDK-S co-chairs Selma Sürer ve İsmail Kardaş made a press statement in Kurdish and Turkish.

Pointing to the strict isolation imposed on Öcalan for 23 years, Sürer stated that the Turkish state, encouraged by the silence of European institutions, persisted with isolation.

Sürer remarked that the Turkish state does not respect international laws and commits yet another crime today by using chemical weapons against the guerrillas.

İsmail Kardaş pointed out that the aggravated isolation ongoing on Imrali has no legal and humane basis. Criticizing the international silence, he stressed that they would remain on the streets in response to the crimes committed by the Turkish state.

Kardaş also appealed to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to put pressure on Turkey for the ECtHR rulings to be implemented immediately.

Following the press statement, the activists blocked the road and marched to the Council of Europe building where they blocked the entrance and chanted slogans protesting the international silence.

After 10 minutes of sit-in, the group returned to the tent of vigil.

Representatives of Kurdish institutions, politicians, members of women and youth organizations from different countries will take over the vigil every day until it has been concluded on December 17.

In the meantime, the vigil will be suspended for a day on December 2, tomorrow, due to a one-day ban on activities due to French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the Council of Europe.

The vigil will resume on December 3 with the participation of the Kurdish cultural movement TEV-ÇAND members.