PKK case heard in CJEU

The case to remove the PKK from the European Union terror list was heard on Monday in the Court of Justice of the European Union. The verdict is expected to be announced in 6 to 9 months.

The case filed in the CJEU to remove the PKK from the European Union terror list was heard in Luxembourg on Monday. The verdict in the case is expected to be announced in 6 to 9 months. The panel of judges said, “Looking at the last decade, the PKK hasn’t carried out any visible ‘terrorist’ actions, but there is an insistence that it remain on this list,” while PKK’s defense lawyers said, “The hearing was positive, the verdict may be overturned.”

PKK has been on the EU list of terrorist organizations since 2002. The Prakken d’Oliveira legal bureau acting in the name of PKK administrators Murat Karayılan and Duran Kalkan had previously objected to the list, which is renewed every 6 months, and later a case was filed with the Court of Justice of the European Union. The case filed on May 1, 2014 with the demand to overturn the verdict to put the PKK on the ‘terror list’ was heard yesterday, following a 4-year long fight for justice and long standing correspondence.

The hearing started yesterday in the Court of Justice of the European Union, and lawyers Marieke Van Eik and Tamara Buruma presented their defense representing the PKK administrators. The European Council, the European Commission, the UK and France joined the case to demand the PKK remain on the list.


The panel of judges gave the first defense to the plaintiff’s counsel, who stated that the PKK should be removed from the ‘terror list’ as what has been experienced is not ‘terrorist actions’ but rather a ‘war’, and casualties have occurred due to said war. Lawyers stressed that the PKK had been put on the list on Turkey’s demand, and that the close to 70 allegations were based on articles on the Turkish media, they haven’t been investigated or clarified and only remained as claims.


 “It is clear how neutral Turkish press is,” said the lawyers, and added that several massacres committed by the state have been attributed to the PKK. “Despite the PKK condemning certain incidents, it is made to look like the PKK committed them. Looking at the incidents with civilian casualties, it can be seen that they were done to put the PKK in a difficult position,” said the defense lawyers and stated that the PKK complies with international laws and doesn’t go beyond the rules of war.

The lawyers stressed that Turkey has been fighting the PKK under the guise of “terrorism”, which has terrorized an entire people, and added that the Turkish state has been the one to cause civilian casualties.


Following the PKK administrators’ lawyers’ defense, the Council of Europe and European Commission officials took the stand. Both institutions argued that the PKK continues its actions and should remain on the terror list. The UK and France also stressed the need to have the PKK remain on the terror list.


After the defenses, lawyers answered questions by the panel of judges. When asked, “The European terror list is renewed every 6 months. Looking at the last decade, why do you insist on the PKK remaining on the list despite not having committed a visible terrorist act?” lawyers who argued the PKK should remain on the list had a hard time answering and attempted to defend their position through reiterating past actions.

The lawyers stated that their states had issued verdicts classifying the PKK as a terrorist organization and showed verdicts by France, the UK and the US as examples, but the panel said they don’t consider verdicts by states to be sufficient, and were asking the council what they thought on the matter. The lawyers tried to argue that “Even though the PKK doesn’t commit terrorist acts, there is a potential.”


Lawyers for the PKK administrators stated that the actions the PKK has carried out cannot be classified as terrorism, and that the PKK’s actions are targeted at military forces. Lawyers said, “It is not correct to explain acts between two military forces with terrorism,” and added that all of the PKK’s actions have been within the framework of self defense. They stated that the PKK, which has also sat down for peace talks with Turkey, is engaged in a national struggle, and that both Turkey and international powers have engaged with the PKK as interlocutors. Lawyers also underlined that, “The PKK cannot be classified as a terrorist organization due to their fight against terrorist ISIS. The court should take this into consideration.”


Lawyers Marieke Van Eik and Tamara Buruma spoke to the ANF after the hearing and said, “The hearing was very positive, all the arguments we posed were discussed. The most important thing in this case is the discussion of whether there is or isn’t a right to utilize armed struggle against an oppressive regime.”

Lawyers said they explained to the court that the PKK’s actions can’t be explained with “terrorism” and continued: “Legally, we posed a good argument to have the verdict assessed well and a good verdict to be issued. One of the judges in particular asked the Council lawyer whether they had any efforts to determine whether the PKK had the potential and intent to commit terrorist acts. It was an important question. The Council says the PKK ban is due to a verdict issued in the UK in 2001. We talked about how a lot has changed since 2001, and especially talked about the peace process. We talked about the fight against ISIS, and stated that their reasoning is invalid.


We think two verdicts will be overturned after this hearing. The first is the verdict to put the PKK on the list in 2014. And the Council considered even military clashes as terrorist acts when listing the reasons in 2015. But the impression we have is that the judges don’t think in this line. They posed a view opposite to the views of the Council of Europe.


We stressed that the PKK has been very sensitive towards civilians, and have strived to carry out their actions without affecting civilians. We stressed that they have taken precautions to avoid civilian casualties. We stressed that the occasional deficiencies in the organizations won’t put the onus on the organization, and that an organization can’t be punished for the acts of an individual. We also stated that it should be taken into consideration that the PKK has punished those who aren’t sensitive to civilians.


If the verdict to come out of this court comes with good justification, it will create important outcomes. All states in Europe need to comply with the verdict. All verdicts by national courts since 2014 will be overturned. The wronged will get their rights back.

Of course Kurds shouldn’t rely entirely on the outcome of this case. They should continue with the lobbying efforts to have the PKKK removed from the terror list.”

The Court of Justice of the European Union is expected to announce the verdict on whether to remove the PKK from the EU terror list in 6 to 9 months.