Laura Castel: Turkish authorities is using Ocalan as a political weapon

  • 15:50 18 December 2023
  • News
Melek Avcı
ANKARA - Laura Castel, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly and Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe, stated that they continue to submit the reports of their visit to Turkey in May to the authorities and said, “Turkish authorities use Mr. Öcalan as a political weapon and Imrali as a laboratory of the worst prison practices. Being neutral in the face of violations of rights and freedoms is equivalent to supporting the perpetrator.”
A campaign was launched in 74 centers around the world on October 10 for the physical freedom of PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan, who was kept under severe isolation conditions in İmralı and has not been heard from for 33 months, and for the political solution to the Kurdish problem. While reading days and international diplomacy are being carried out, hunger strikes, justice and Justice Watches in prison continue. This year, protests centered on breaking the isolation and physical freedom have spread all over the world. In the face of all these efforts, the silence of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and international institutions that have a role and mission in isolation continues.
Laura Castel, Vice President of the Left Group of the Council of Europe, Representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and member of the Monitoring Committee, who is in the International İmralı Peace Delegation, explained the process and the steps they took after their visit to Turkey in May.
'Our focus is isolation and political prisoners'
Stating that they conveyed the findings they collected during their visit to Turkey last May at the press conference held in Iceland, Laura stated that they did all this work to restart the peace process. Laura said, “Last May, I took part of the International Imrali peace delegation for undertaking a fact-finding mission on human rights to Turkey, and we presented our findings at a press conference in Reykjavík, coinciding with the 4th Council of Europe Summit. The mission, organized by the International Initiative “Freedom for Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan”, was in the tradition of former delegations and organized in support of the reopening of the peace process. It should be noted that our main focus was on political prisoners and conditions to which they are subjected.”
'Mr. Öcalan should be released for peace'
Noting that Imrali was the place pointed out for the democratic solution of the Kurdish problem in all the meetings, Laura underlined that the physical freedom of the PKK Leader is essential for peace. Laura, “We can affirm that it was the clear understanding of all those we met, representatives of human rights organisations and political representatives alike, that there could be no democratisation in Turkey if the Kurdish question is not resolved, and that an absolute precondition for a peace process to be resumed is that the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan on Imrali Island prison must be ended and he must be released.”
'There have been no human rights since the Imrali process started'
Laura stated that this ongoing isolation system has spread to every area in Turkey and she added, “It is evident from our perspective, that the isolation prison regime on Imrali has been introduced throughout Turkey, thus serving as a model for the entire prison system in the country. Indeed, Öcalan is a unique case. There have been more than 20 years with no law and human rights, ever since the Imrali process began. No communication has been with Öcalan for 25 months. So, the lawyers and the family have no idea if he is well or not. All petitions to visit him have been declined.
Mr. Öcalan is Turkey's political weapon, İmralı is its laboratory
Further, the isolation regime has risen to torture level, and the Turkish authorities is using Öcalan as a political weapon and Imrali as a laboratory of the worst prison practices, which are then applied to the rest of the prisons. This form of “incommunicado imprisonment” requires condemnation from human rights bodies such as the Council of Europe and the UN. No other regime that we know of, has implemented long-term stoppage of letters, phone calls, visits or any other form of outside communication. Not even in Guantanamo, or Robben Island or in the H-Blocks of Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1080s.”
'International neutrality supports the perpetrator'
Referring to the international silence against this unprecedented isolation system, Laura stated that the silence is "support for the perpetrator". “In our conclusions we declared, to the Council of Europe and its organisms, that neutrality in the face of violations of rights and freedoms is equivalent backing the perpetrator, so we called for restarting the peace process. Opposing dialogue and negotiation for a democratic solution and peace is the political choice of those who profit from the continuation of conflict, polarization, and war. But this choice comes at the price of grave consequences, plunging the country into multiple crises, which can only be overcome by returning to a democratic solution to the Kurdish question. And this requires abolishing the isolation system and allowing Mr. Öcalan to play his part in guaranteeing a democratic solution and building peace. The Turkish authorities must start respecting universal principles of law and abandon their policy of isolation and torture in Imrali Prison. In this sense, the members of the mission called on the Council of Europe to call for a resumption of peaceful political negotiations between the Turkish authorities and the Kurdish movement. To do this, it is paramount to release Abdullah Öcalan from Imrali Prison and to let him lead the negotiation on behalf of Kurdish party” Laura said.
Two questions to the EC regarding the isolation
Pointing out that she sent two written questions to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe against the isolation, Laura stated that the committee left the questions unanswered, citing 'lack of consensus on this issue'. Laura continued: I tabled two written questions addressed to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on complete isolation of prisoners, asking how does the Committee address the fact that Abdullah Öcalan and the three other prisoners on the İmralı Island Prison have not had any contact with family, lawyers and the outside world since 25 March 2021, taking account that a situation in which a prisoner subjected to such a strict regime of isolation, constitutes a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Reason: No consensus 
Further, I asked on aggravated life imprisonment as an ongoing violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, asking that over the past nine years since the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, what initiatives has the Committee of Ministers taken to ensure that Turkey complies with these judgments of the Court? But unfortunately the committee said they could not answer the questions because there was no consensus. But the positive side of this is that they had to discuss this issue in the council of ministers.”