Lawyers Without Borders Deputy Chair Etienne Lesage condemns Turkey’s isolation of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan as a ‘clear violation of the European Human Rights Convention.’ Meanwhile, the Freedom for Öcalan campaign calls for global participation in events planned for June.


ANF | Lawyer Lesage: Imrali is a state of lawlessness in every sense

The absolute isolation imposed on Abdullah Öcalan by Turkish authorities is a clear violation of the European Human Rights Convention, of which Turkey is a signatory, French lawyer Etienne Lesage, Deputy Chairman of Lawyers Without Borders and a member of the Paris Bar Association, said. Lawyers have consistently decried the isolation tactics imposed on Öcalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as inhumane and a form of torture contrary to international human rights law.

Öcalan has been detained on the Turkish prison island of Imrali since his capture in 1999, and held in absolute isolation for the last three years. Mr Öcalan’s last contact with the outside world was in March 2021, and although Europe’s anti-torture committee visited Imrali prison last year, the inspection report has been barred from publication by Turkish authorities. This was addressed by lawyers at a major European Parliament conference last week.

“The isolation [of Öcalan] is a cry to the European Convention on Human Rights. Türkiye [Turkey] has not only signed this agreement but is also a member of the Council of Europe. Therefore, Turkey’s practice is a clear violation of this agreement,” Lesage said, in a recent interview.

“Öcalan’s continued detention and isolation constitute inhuman and degrading treatment and are tantamount to torture in terms of international law,” the lawyer continued.

The Council of Europe has been criticised for failing to act against the torture of Öcalan, and its silence regarding the anti-torture committee’s inspection. The institution was bowing down to diplomatic pressure from the Turkish government, Lesage said.

Furtherly, Öcalan, having been detained for 25 years, has also been denied the ‘Right to Hope’, a legal requirement of a life sentence, the lawyer added.

A Global Freedom for Öcalan campaign has been running for decades, with a regular vigil held outside the Council of Europe to demand action against isolation. Re-launched with renewed impact in October, the campaign has seen initiatives calling for Öcalan’s release for renewed dialogue with the Turkish government, towards for a democratic resolution of the Kurdish issue.

The Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan Campaign Committee has extended a call to join the campaign events to take place 15-22 June.