After the Council of Europe announced their decisions following the Committee of Minister’s meetings on 30 November-2 December, commentators who have been waiting for this decision began to discuss how to evaluate the decisions, especially the decision regarding the Gurban Group case.
In relation to the ECtHR rulings on the aggravated life sentences, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers announced that violations against Abdullah Öcalan and other political prisoners require an adoption of measures by Turkey and expressed concern over the lack of any progress made on such measures setting a deadline for a progress report as September 2022. There was however, notably little or no recognition of the ‘concept of isolation’.
The Gurban Group case against Turkey includes the cases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and three other political prisoners, Hayati Kaytan, Emin Gurban and Civan Boltan, who are all behind bars as prisoners with aggravated life imprisonment sentences.
Regarding the Gurban Group case, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2014 ruled that the execution of the aggravated life imprisonment sentence in Turkey was against the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) is among the four NGOs which brought the Gurban Group case onto the agenda of the last meeting of the Council of Europe. IHD’s co-chair and a prominent human rights activist, lawyer Öztürk Türkdoğan, explained to Medya News how to make sense of CoE’s decision on Gurban Group case.
The decision lacks recognition and reference to the “concept of isolation” in Öcalan’s case, Türkdoğan suggested.
“In terms of individual measures, the Committee of Ministers mostly referred to the visit on Imralı Island by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and. Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the CPT. The lack of referring to the concept of isolation in terms of the individual measures is open to criticism by us,” he said.
‘An urgent visit to Imralı by the CPT is needed’
He underlined the importance that the CPT has been shown as an “address” of monitoring the conditions of detention in Imralı Prison, where Öcalan has been jailed since 1999.
“I believe an urgent visit by the CPT is much needed,” he said, especially after this decision is now made public.
“Showing the CPT as the address shows that the CPT has to visit Imralı Island as soon as possible, because there are many concerns regarding the issue of isolation since lawyers and family members have not been able to visit Imralı for a long time.”
This is not about only Öcalan now, but thousands of prisoners
Türkdoğan says that this decision is not only about Öcalan and three other prisoners of the Gurban Group anymore, but it has turned into a process that is related to thousands of prisoners.
“This is a process that has now begun. This Group decision is not a matter of four people now, it has been carried to a point that it relates to the conditions of thousands of people,” he said.
From now on, CoE will monitor Turkey on a regular basis
Another meaning of this decision regarding the Gurban Group case, Türkdoğan explained: “From now on, this group decision will be monitored on a routine basis annually until the ECtHR rulings are applied.”
What if Turkey fails to take the necessary measures before the deadline of September 2022?
Türkdoğan replies, “Then the Committee of Ministers may reduce the deadline of their next decision. For example, after their next meeting they may not give a deadline of this length, but may give Turkey a shorter time, such as three months.”
The main subject of their application to the CoE was the aggravated life sentence, he noted, saying that the Council demanded from Turkey information with regard to the data related to the prisoners of this sentence
“In terms of the general measures the Committee demands reliable information, stating and criticising the fact that the Committee has not been informed on how many people are behind bars convicted with aggravated life in prison sentence,” he said.
A late, but positive development
Hişyar Özsoy, Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) co-spokesperson for Foreign Relations, shared his initial views with Medya News on the CoE decision on the Gurban Group.
Emphasising the ECtHR’s 2014 decision on Öcalan and other prisoners of Gurban Group case, Özsoy said: “This review has come very late. It has been more than seven years that the European Court of Human Rights decision was taken and the government of Turkey and the Turkish authorities have been refusing to implement these decisions of the Court, which is a legally binding ruling.”
Even though these decisions came much later than expected, Özsoy believes that they mark a politically positive step.
“Let us hope that the Committee of Ministers will be consistent in their insistence on the implementation of these decisions. It is late but it is a positive development,” he said.
“We evaluate it positively now that the Committee of Ministers will be regularly monitoring the implementation of the Court decisions. The Committee gave the Turkish authorities a specific deadline to write a report on the implementation of this decision.”
Council of Europe-Turkey relations will become more ‘intense’
The report that Turkey is asked to prepare, Özsoy explained, “Should also include a component of how to implement this decision, a road map for the implementations.”
Özsoy stated that all decisions regarding cases in Turkey, including the decisions in relation to Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş, addresses one certain political fact about the relations of Turkey and the Council of Europe: “It seems that in all of these decisions there will be a lot of intense relations between the Turkish government and Council of Europe authorities.”
“The problem is,” he concluded, “being a member of the Council of Europe and a signatory of European Convention of Human Rights, Turkey needs to implement the binding decisions of the Court, but they are simply just not doing this. This is totally unacceptable.”