The U.K.-based Trade Union Campaign for Abdullah Ocalan was joined by members of the Kurdish community and over 40 trade unions, local governments, NGOs and others for a press conference in front of the European Parliament demanding international action on the case of jailed Kurdish political leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Turkish authorities have prevented Ocalan from communicating with the outside world for over two years. For the millions of Kurds who view him as their political representative, as well as their international allies, this situation has raised serious fears for his health and safety.

“We are here to say, yet again, that Ocalan’s treatment and isolation breaks international law on human rights. No-one should be treated in this way. We are here to remind European politicians, 100 years after the Treaty of Lausanne divided the Kurds among hostile nation states, that democracy and freedom in Turkey and the Middle East are not possible without a peaceful solution to the Kurdish Question, and that Ocalan holds the key to that solution,” conference moderator Sarah Glynn said to introduce the event.

Speakers representing unions, local governments, and social movements across Europe called on Turkish authorities to abide by domestic and international law and allow Ocalan to meet with his lawyers and relatives; on European institutions to provide more information about his case and hold Turkey accountable for its failures to abide by these shared legal standards; and on the international community to work towards Ocalan’s release under conditions that allow him to play a role in negotiations to find a lasting, just, and democratic political solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey.


Please find below this message:

  1. The list of speakers and supporters of the press conference
  2. Our background paper, including the specific demands of the participants.

Thank you for your kind interest.


Kurdistan National Congress – KNK
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PRESS RELEASE: Over 40 Unions, Parties, Experts Demand Action for the Security and Well-Being of Kurdish Political Leader Abdullah Ocalan

The undersigned trade unions, organisations and individuals support the call for information about the wellbeing and conditions of Kurdish political leader Mr Abdullah Ocalan, and urge people to attend the press conference called by the UK based trade union campaign ‘Freedom for Ocalan’ in front of the European Parliament at 11am on 26th July 2023.

Mr. Ocalan has been prevented from communicating with the outside world for 28 months. The Government of Turkey prevents him from meeting with his relatives and his legal team in violation of international law. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has regularly criticized Turkish authorities for these violations—but has not yet released adequate
information on its September 2022 visit to the maximum-security prison on Imrali Island where Mr. Ocalan is held.

The press briefing will highlight the completely inadequate position of European governments, European Union (EU) human rights organizations, and the Council of Europe in this context. Their failure to act makes them complicit in the violation of Mr. Ocalan’s rights and the broader negative impacts of his isolation on efforts to find a peaceful resolution to Turkey’s Kurdish question. It will  also propose concrete actions that Turkey, European governments and institutions, and the international community as a whole can take to address this situation.



The Isolation of Abdullah Ocalan and International Law — Background Note to Accompany the Emergency Press Briefing on the Security and Well-Being of Mr. Abdullah Ocalan

In February 1999, Kurdish political leader Mr. Abdullah Ocalan was abducted from Kenya by Turkish security forces. He was on
his way to South Africa, where President Nelson Mandela had granted him political asylum.

Since then, Mr. Ocalan has been held in a maximum-security prison on Imrali Island. For many years, he was the sole prisoner
there. Today, there are three others.

Mr. Ocalan has effectively been held in total isolation for the majority of his time in prison. He is regularly denied contact with his relatives and legal team for months or even years at a time, in violation of applicable domestic and international law. The only exception to this policy was the period between 2013 and 2015, during which the Turkish state engaged in negotiations with the Kurdish political movement to find a political solution to Turkey’s decades-old Kurdish conflict.

As of today, it has been 28 months since Mr. Ocalan’s last contact with the outside world—a brief phone call in March 20211. The last time his relatives were allowed to visit him was in March 2020, and the last time his lawyers were able to visit was in August 2019. His last in-person meeting with one of the other three prisoners on Imrali took place in March 2020.

On July 8, 2023, it was reported that Mr. Ocalan had received threatening anonymous letters via the Imrali prison administration2. These letters allegedly included death threats. We are even more concerned for his security and well-being following these extremely serious allegations.

On July 18, 2023, it was reported that a new “disciplinary sanction” was imposed on Mr. Ocalan and the other prisoners on Imrali3. So-called “disciplinary sanctions” are not based on any applicable Turkish or European legal framework. These are politicized measures intended to prolong the policy of isolation. For example, one such disciplinary sanction was reportedly imposed because Mr. Ocalan had spoken too loudly with other prisoners.

These facts suggest that the Government of Turkey may be in violation of multiple key international legal frameworks. The United Nations ‘Mandela Rules’ include the following criteria concerning the definition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments. We are extremely concerned that these rules are being violated.

Read the full text in the pdf document available for download above.

Background Note to Accompany the Emergency Press Briefing on the Security and Well-Being of Mr. Abdullah Ocalan