Altamira Ana Guelbenzu: Öcalan must be free for democratization

  • 11:29 18 June 2023
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ANKARA - Lawyer Altamira Ana Guelbenzu, one of the participants of the "Rights and Freedoms in Turkey: Law, Prisons and Kurdish Question" conference held at the EP, drew attention to the plight of PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan and underlined that the isolation is a form of torture and that the CPT and European institutions should take action. She said, “Ocalan's freedom is inevitable for a peaceful and political solution to the Kurdish problem and for the democratization of Turkey. It is not possible for Turkey to join the EU without solving the Kurdish problem”. 
In the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg, France, the European Union of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH) and the International Law and Democracy Association (MAF-DAD) and the Left Party (Die Linke), Socialists and Democrats A conference titled “Rights and Freedoms in Turkey: Law, Prisons and the Kurdish Question” was held in cooperation with the Alliance (S&D).
At the conference, it was discussed that Turkey did not implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the Kurdish question and in this context, the absolute isolation on PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan has deepened and spread to the whole society. However, politicized judicial mechanisms, pressure on the press and the silence of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) formed another agenda of the conference sessions. Lawyer Altamira Ana Guelbenzu, one of the conference participants and also in the international isolation delegation, talked about the evaluations made and their reflections on the absolute isolation and the Kurdish issue.
'Europe needed to hear about the current situation on the Kurdish issue'
Altamira said that the main reason for holding the "Rights and Freedoms in Turkey: Law, Prisons and Kurdish Question" conference in the European Parliament was to announce Turkey's violations of rights against Kurds. Altamira said, “This conference was needed because Europe and International institutions must hear about the currently situation of Turkey related to rights and freedom, specially with Kurdish issue. Is imperative that Europe institutions puts pressure on Turkey to improve the situation of political prisoners in Turkey and to remedy the unlawful situation.”
Isolation system over all social opposition
Stating that they held 3 separate sessions at the conference, Altemira stated that how the politicized judiciary affected the whole society came to the fore in the sessions. Altamira stated: “We had 3 panels with international experts talking about the judicialization of politics,about Prisons, isolation and judiciary and also about the democratic perspective of Turkey. In all the panels has been shown the anti-democratic tools of the Turkish Government. We must stress out how, the lack of rights and freedom in Turkey and isolation system affects not only Abdullah Öcalan and political prisoner's but affects to the social entire opposition. There is an extreme situation of repression and also we heard about human rights violations against women, LGTB +, lawyers, journalists. Since the Coup attempt the situation is being worse.”
'Constructed prisons prove the direction of the judicial system'
 Stating that there are serious problems in the impartiality of the judicial system in Turkey, Altamira said that new prisons are being built with the increase of political prisoners. Altamira added,” There is an important lack of impartiality in the judicial system in Turkey. Since the Coup attempt the number of arrests a is increasing every day. The Government is building new Prision's and this evidence in which direction the Government and the judicial system is going. Related to the criminal law system, the judicial proceedings against rights defenders shows that decisions such as arrest, detention, detention without any concrete evidence , investigations and prosecutions, and sentencing decisions are made against rights defenders only because of their lawful and legitimate advocacy activities. Is an extreme situation also with the criminalization of lawyers for the practice of their profession and linked them, without poof, to the crimes against their clients. As an example we can see what have happend the morning hours of 25th April 2023, when 3.500 police officers detained 191 people, including 25 lawyers, artists and journalists.”
'Imrali is a test for international institutions'
 Stating that the unlawfulness in the Imrali system is a test for democracy and international institutions in Turkey, Altamira stated that even the CPT's recommendations were not implemented. Altamira said: “The approach of Imrali Prision and the legal and political practices in the prison is a test of democracy and protection of human rights in Turkey. The non-publication of the CPT´s report of the last visit of September 2022 supposed the lack of international eyes over the harmful policies applied and the silence and ignorance of the international community. The Turkish Government didn´t implemented the recommendations of the CPT of the last report of 2019. So the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe must discuss next steps .”
'This isolation is unacceptable: the right to hope is being revoked'
And added, “There are also the previous recommendations of the CPT and the European Court of Human Rights (Ocalan No 2.) This will include allowing prisoners to associate, the right of access to lawyers and family, effective legal remedies to challenge prision conditions, and abolishing the aggravated life sentence with contravenes Article 3 ECHR. And also, according to the European Convention on Human Rights, prisoners must have the prospect of a life in freedom. In the case of Mr. Öcalan, Turkey is invalidating the “right to hope”. He has been suffered a totally isolation system almost since 1999. The last sign of life from Mr. Öcalan was a phone call with his brother on 25 March 2021, this is unacceptable in international human rights standards.”
'Mr. Öcalan's freedom is inevitable for a solution'
Underlining that the solution to the current Kurdish problem passes through İmralı, Altamira said that it is not possible for Turkey to join the European Union that she dreams of before the problem is resolved. Altamira stated that in the newly formed table after the elections, international institutions should now be a party in the solution process of this problem and be included in it, and said: “The Kurdish question is totally affected by the isolation imposed to Mr. Öcalan. Öcalan´s freedom is inevitable for a peaceful and political solution of the Kurdish issue and the democratisation of Turkey. It would not be possible for Turkey to join to the EU without solving the Kurdish question. With this new scenery after the elections, Europe and the International community must take part in this and not only condemn but effectively push for a solution. Isolation is a form of torture and the CPT and European Institutions have to ensure that the situation in Imrali Prision changes and end this practice of absolute isolation.”