The 2020 International Peace Delegation visited Turkey between 11th and 16th February 2020, having previously written to Abdulhamit Gül, the Minister of Justice for the Republic of Turkey, requesting to meet with him personally and also requesting his co-operation in arranging a visit to Imrali Prison to meet with Abdullah Öcalan. There was no response from the office of Abdulhamit Gül.
At the conclusion of their various meetings, the Delegation raised deep concern that the country is in a critical state, that human rights are being eroded at an alarming rate with enforced disappearances becoming more frequent, conditions in prisons deteriorating, detainees dying due to lack of medical care, politicians, journalists, judges, lawyers and people from the creative and cultural sector being held in arbitrary detention, often for many years, public servants on an ever-increasing scale forced out of their jobs, including teachers, medical staff and health workers. This hostile environment can no longer continue. Such heavy-handed action by the Turkish government is now trickling across and impacting the lives of all minorities and ordinary citizens. The Delegation is deeply concerned that the physical, mental health and well-being of future generations is being seriously damaged. The Delegation expressed further serious concern at the continued failure to address allegations of wide scale egregious violations of human rights in South East Turkey.
At a press conference at the Asrin Law Office, after meeting legal representatives for Abdullah Öcalan, the Delegation called for an immediate resumption of peace talks and for the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan to be lifted. They stated that he should be allowed to return to the negotiating table as this presents the best chance of ensuring a peaceful, political solution to the Kurdish Question and an end to atrocities and human rights abuses in the country.
The annual Peace Delegation reports have provided a base measure of human rights in Turkey over the last decade and have enabled a diverse group of high-profile academics, politicians, lawyers, journalists and trade unionists to visit and assess the situation. They are organised by International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan—Peace in Kurdistan” and consisted this year of Ogmundur Jonasson, former Justice Minister of Iceland and Associate member of the Council of Europe, Julie Ward, UK MEP until January 2020, Shavanah Taj, Leader of the Trade Union Congress in Wales, Felix Padel, sociologist and anthropologist affiliate of Oxford University, and Melanie Gingell, Barrister, Associate Tenant Doughty Street Chambers London and Patron of Peace in Kurdistan, London.
The delegation conducted meetings in Ankara with Ms Pervin Buldan Co-Chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and Hisyar Ozsoy Deputy Co-Chair of HDP, Leaders of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, Liberation Lawyers Association, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and the Confederal Trade Union of Public Workers. In Istanbul they met with lawyers from Asrin Law Office on 15th February, the 21st Anniversary of the kidnapping of Mr Öcalan in Kenya. They then met Eren Keskin, leading Human Rights Lawyer with representatives of the Saturday Mothers.
The delegation issued a public declaration at the Asrin Law Office concluding that: Imrali is a laboratory in oppression and democracy at the same time. Isolation and the lack of human rights in Imrali prison has a bearing on the condition of prisoners throughout the rest of the country. At the same time Imrali could become a laboratory for the exercise of human rights elsewhere in Turkey – and not only in Turkey because Abdullah Öcalan’s ideas are important for the solution of conflicts in the Middle East in particular and throughout the world in general.
We pledge our wholehearted solidarity with all those being oppressed within prisons and outside prison walls, victims of war and aggression and all those who are subjected to the abuse of human rights.
We pledge our support for the Kurdish struggle for human rights.
The Delegation will issue a full report.
International Initiative: “Freedom for Adullah Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan”:
Freedom for Öcalan Campaign http://www.freedomforocalan.org.uk
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign: https://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com
Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan: http://www.sskonline.org.uk/
Link to Briefing of the 2019 İmralı Peace Delegation: https://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com/2019/02/28/briefing-on-the-international-peace-delegation-to-imrali-11-16-february-2019/
Report of the 2017 İmralı Peace Delegation: https://westminsterjp.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/final-report-of-the-third-imrali-delegation-2017-docx.pdf
Verdict issued by Permanent People’s Tribunal on Turkey and the Kurds
Venice Commission opinions on Turkey:
2016 CPT report on İmralı: https://rm.coe.int/168079457a
2019 PACE Resolution on Turkey: http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-EN.asp?fileid=25425
Summary of Öcalan’s Roadmap to the Negotiations: http://www.freedom-for-ocalan.com/english/download/Abdullah_Ocalan_-_The_Road_Map_-_Summary.pdf
People’s Democratic Party (HDP): https://www.hdp.org.tr/en/
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey: http://en.tihv.org.tr/
Human Rights Association: http://www.ihd.org.tr/en/
Confederation of Public Employees Trade Union (KESK) http://en.kesk.org.tr/
Biographies for the International Peace Delegation to Imrali, 11-16 February 2020
- Julie Ward, MEP—was first elected a Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North West of England in 2014. She served on the Women’s Rights & Gender Equality Committee and was latterly Vice Chair of the Culture & Education Committee, as well as Co-President of the Anti-Racism & Diversity Intergroup, whilst also co-founding the Intergroup on Children’s Rights. Julie is a patron of Peace in Kurdistan. She led the Imrali Delegation in 2017 having made several previous visits to Ahmed and Nusayabin. Julie has been a strong voice in the campaign to stop the Ilisu dam, both in the European Parliament and on the ground in Hasankeyf. She led a women’s peace mission to Rojava in May 2018.
- Ögmundur Jonasson—born in Iceland 1948, is an historian from the University of Edinburgh, was editor of foreign news at Icelandic State TV until he became chairman of the Federation of State and Municipal Employees in Iceland 1988 – 2009. During this period he sat on the Executive board of Nordic, European and international trade union organizations, including the PSI (Public Services International). He was a Member of the Icelandic Parliament 1995-2016 and was Minister of Health, Minister of Justice and Minister of Interior in the Icelandic government in the period 2009-2013. In the period 2013-16 he was chairman of the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee of the Parliament of Iceland. At present he is a member of the European Commission against Race and Intolerance and Honorary Associate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He is on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin. Most of his working life he has been part-time lecturer in history at the University of Iceland and is a prolific writer and commentator. He has led the 2019 International Peace Delegation to Imrali.
- Shavanah Taj—is the acting General Secretary for Wales TUC, having been seconded from PCS Union where she served as a trade union official for 18 years. She is a patron for Show Racism the Red Card Wales, a trustee for a women’s organisation, the Henna Foundation that supports victims and survivors of domestic abuse/honour based violence as well as serving as a trustee for Fio, a grassroots theatre group that actively encourages young and diverse working class people to get engaged in the arts and culture sector. She has supported many international solidarity campaigns, including having served as an NEC member for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Last year she worked with friends across the labour social justice movement, including the People’s Assembly, to lobby the Welsh Assembly, Labour and Plaid party representatives to support a motion, criticising the treatment of Abdullah Öcalan, calling for an ending to solitary confinement of a political prisoner, stating the imprisonment was “under conditions which are understood to contravene the Turkish state’s legal obligations in relations to human rights”. Assembly politicians argued it was incumbent upon on the National Assembly and Welsh Government to recognise and support the part that a local man – Imam Sis, a hunger striker was playing in an international struggle. The motion was passed and Wales became the first nation worldwide, through its government and Parliament to show its solidarity with the Kurdish hunger strikers.
- Felix Padel—is an anthropologist and writer, originally from London, who has spent most of his working life in India, engaging with indigenous and environmental issues. Studied at Oxford and Delhi Universities. Among many published works, his 3 main books are: “Sacrificing people: Invasions of a tribal landscape” (1995/2010), “Out of this earth: East India Adivasis and the aluminium cartel” (with S Das, 2010), “Ecology, economy: Quest for a socially informed connection” (with A Dandekar and J Unni, 2013). Among several positions at academic institutions in India he was professor of rural management at the Indian Institute of Health Management Research, Jaipur, 2012-14. He is affiliated to the Anthropology Institute, Oxford University, and Research Associate at the Centre for World Environment History, Sussex University. He is a patron of Peace in Kurdistan since it was founded in 1994 and worked with the organisation on many of its campaigns, in particular the Ilisu Dam Campaign and Save Hasankeyf.
Melanie Gingell—practiced at the British Bar for 20 years. She is now an associate tenant at Doughty Street Chambers in London. She is a visiting fellow at London Southbank University where she lectures on International Human Rights Law and Feminist Legal Theory. She is on the Advisory Board of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights in Beirut. She has conducted field missions and trial observations in Europe, the Middle East and South America for many different organizations. She served two consecutive terms as a member of the executive committee of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales. Melanie has attended and reported on a series of hearings in the current trial of Kurdish lawyers at the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court on behalf of the UK Bar Human Rights Committee. She is a patron and member of steering committee o