Human rights defenders spoke in the first session of the 15th Kurdish Conference in the European Parliament. IHD officials spoke about the rights violations and stated that Turkey has lost the characteristic of a state with the rule of law.

The first panel discussion in the two-day 5th Kurdish Conference in the European Parliament was held on Wednesday under the title, “Turkey as a state deprived of the rule of law”.

Human rights defender Akin Birdal, IHD Istanbul Chapter Co-chair Gulseren Yoleri, IHD Co-chair Ozturk Turkdogan, Öcalan’s lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights (ELDH) Secretary General Thomas Schmidt and Permanent People’s Court Secretary General Gianni Tognoni spoke in the first panel discussion.

AKIN BIRDAL: TURKEY HAS TURNED INTO A PRISON

Session moderator human rights defender Akin Birdal pointed to the state of human rights in Turkey and the world. On the level of the Kurdish issue, Birdal said: “The Kurdish issue was a problem that would be resolved locally, but the insolubility has turned it into a regional problem, which turned into an international issue. Its spread through time is making the healing more difficult.”

Birdal gave examples of rights violations and fascist governments throughout the world and said: “The world has lost its balance.” Birdal added that Turkey has turned into a prison and that there are a total of 264.000 arrestees and convicts in Turkish prisons.

YOLERI: EVERYBODY IS UNDER RISK FOR TORTURE

IHD Istanbul Chapter Co-chair Gulseren Yoleri spoke about the rights violations in Turkey and said, “There has always been torture in Turkey, but it has reached a new level in recent years. We have heard accounts that it looked like they kept the classic tools of torture from the ‘80s and they are now using them again.” Yoleri stated that everybody in Turkey is at risk for being subjected to torture and pointing out the femicides, added that there is a severe hike in the murder rates and that government policies play a role in this hike. Yoleri added that there are 2 million working children in Turkey, most of them illegally. Yoleri said 53% of these minors have no access to education while Turkey is at the bottom for child poverty in Europe.

“TURKEY IS OUTSIDE THE LAW”

Yoleri said there are many issues like child marriages, children in prisons and the refugee issue and mentioning the government’s reaction to the ECHR ruling on Demirtas, said: “There is a serious lack of constitutionalism in Turkey.” Yoleri said Turkey has stepped outside of the law and listed a series of issues like unlawful arrests, the ban against Saturday Mothers’ demonstrations, pressure against freedom of expression and freedom of press, arrested journalists and long detention times.

TURKDOGAN: 800.000 PEOPLE HAVE FREEDOMS RESTRICTED

The third speaker was IHD Co-chair Ozturk Turkdogan started his speech with, “Resisting tyranny is always a right,” and continued with the state of prisons in Turkey. Turkdogan said the prisons have a capacity of 211.000 and there are currently 260.000 people in prisons, which results in prisoners waiting their turn to sleep in several prisons. Turkdogan also pointed out the number of people on parole, who are under constant risk of going back to prison, and said there are a total of 800.000 people who have their freedoms restricted: “This shows that there is a serious authoritarian administration.”

THERE IS NO CONSTITUTION, HUMAN RIGHTS HAVE BEEN INSTRUMENTALIZED

Turkdogan also mentioned Öcalan’s situation and said the isolation in Imrali has spread throughout Turkey, but the practice against Öcalan goes beyond isolation. Turkdogan spoke about the Type F prisons: “Turkey doesn’t comply with its own laws. The courts just watch. The country is no longer under rule of law, this is what we mean by a lack of constitution. If a country doesn’t comply with its own laws, there is a serious arbitrary practice there. Human rights have been instrumentalized.”

ISSUES IN OTHER PRISONS WON’T BE RESOLVED UNTIL IMRALI IS RESOLVED

Turkdogan mentioned imprisoned HDP MP Leyla Guven’s hunger strike to protest the isolation imposed upon Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan and said: “There is really nothing to say when a member of parliament goes on a hunger strike because a country doesn’t comply with its own laws.”

Turkdogan questioned why the Committee for the Prevention of Torture isn’t visiting Imrali: “We must point out the most severe instance of the problem. I don’t believe the issue in other prisons can be resolved if the Imrali issue isn’t resolved first.

LAWYER BILMEZ: THERE IS ABSOLUTE ISOLATION IN IMRALI

Second moderator Lawyer Heike Geisweid gave the next speech to Öcalan’s lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez from the Asrin Law Office, who said everything has gotten worse in Imrali: “Turkey is no longer a state with the rule of law, it doesn’t even have laws anymore.” Bilmez said everything that has happened is connected to the approach towards Öcalan: “The unlawfulness in Imrali started with the conspiracy in ’99.” Bilmez added that Öcalan’s capture conditions and the court wasn’t just or lawful. Bilmez said everything has gotten worse in Imrali and added that Öcalan hasn’t been allowed to meet with anybody for years. Bilmez said there is an absolute isolation in Imrali and added that they have no channels for communication.

Lawyer Bilmez asked European institutions to be braver: “If there is to be criticism of Turkey, it must be timely criticism. Otherwise, after the AKP and its leader finish building the system they want to build, it won’t matter what words are said.”

European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights (ELDH) Secretary General Thomas Schmidt said they want to send a strong signal to Turkey and the European Union. Pointing out the European Court of Justice ruling on the PKK, Schmidt said: “Why doesn’t the EU take this ruling into account?” Schmidt spoke about legal violations in Turkey.

Permanent People’s Court Secretary General Gianni Tognoni spoke about how the PPC works. Tognoni called Erdogan a dictator and stressed that autonomy for Kurds must be recognized: “Turkey has become a geopolitical issue for Europe. But nobody is making an issue for what is happening here.” (ANF, 5 Dec 2018)

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