Belgium Court of Appeal sets an important precedent
The PKK is ‘party to an armed conflict’ and so is not a ‘terrorist organisation’
De-list the PKK
Organised by CAMPACC, Peace in Kurdistan and The Centre for Kurdish Progress
Monday 20 November, 7 – 9pm, Committee Room 4, Houses of Lords, Westminster
This event will be kindly hosted by Lord Glasman and chaired by Melanie Gingell barrister and associate tenant at Doughty Street Chambers
Speakers include Jan Fermon, Belgium lawyer and Acting Secretary General of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Alastair Lyon, BirnbergPeirce Solicitors and Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC).
For more than two decades, Western governments have been persecuting Kurdish communities, attempting to silence their support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Key instruments in this persecution have been anti-terror powers which authorise various executive punishments without trial, as well as prosecution for vague crimes of association. This legislative ban on the PKK operates at both national and international levels, e.g. the EU and UN.
In September 2017, responding to a Belgian prosecution case against Kurdish individuals residing in Belgium, the Court of Appeals in Brussels ruled that the PKK is not a terrorist organisation. Among the reasons given for the Court’s decision, it was stated that the PKK has been engaged in ‘a prolonged armed conflict’ with the Turkish state, while respecting the rules of international humanitarian law. Therefore the PKK can be exempted from ‘terrorist’ status under Belgian law, which has such an exemption. The prosecution case presented evidence of defendants wearing military apparel. This was used by the defence to present the PKK as being engaged in a war.
The Court’s initiative by making this judgement can help the international campaign to stop the war against the Kurds and to lift the ban on the PKK. This campaign has also gained impetus from the Kurdish-led experiment in democratic confederalism in the Middle East. This meeting will discuss the implications for the campaign here.
Jan Fermon is a lawyer at the bar of Brussels (Belgium) since 1989. He is the acting Secretary General of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. He is specialised in criminal law, international law and human rights. He assisted political activists and movements that were criminalised either in their homelands or in Belgium and other European countries. He acted as a trial observer on behalf of several international organisations amongst others in trials against political activists in Turkey. He is the author of a book (with Prof. Ties Prakken) on Political Defence (in Dutch). In a recent trial in Belgium against 42 alleged PKK members and leaders he pleaded with success that the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds should be ruled by international humanitarian law and not by national anti-terrorist laws.”
Melanie Gingell is a barrister and human rights activist. She is an associate tenant at Doughty Street Chambers in London, a visiting fellow in international human rights law at London Southbank University and a campaigns coordinator at Peace in Kurdistan. She worked in the field of family and criminal law for many years often representing victims of gender-based violence. She is a member of the advisory board of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and a member of the executive of the Bar Human Rights Committee, which has led her to be involved in research projects and trial observations in the Middle East and beyond.
Les Levidow helped to set up the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), initially to oppose the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000, through networks of several migrant communities opposing its bans on national liberation movements such as the PKK. CAMPACC later opposed all subsequent anti-terror legislation, especially its executive powers of punishment without trial. Previously he was involved in other UK campaigns against criminalisation, e.g. the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 targeting the Irish. He has opposed the Zionist Occupation of Palestine through various campaigns since the 1980s. He is also an academic researcher.
Alastair Lyon is a solicitor at Birnberg Peirce, a long established firm dedicated to upholding civil rights and liberties. Over many years he has represented activists fighting for the Kurdish cause, including those sought for extradition by the Turkish authorities and those arrested by the authorities in this country for domestic prosecution. Most recently, he has been assisting those detained on their return from assisting the YPG in Rojava, including Josh Walker, a young Welshman prosecuted at Birmingham Crown Court under anti terrorism legislation.
For information contact:
Peace in Kurdistan: www.peaceinkurdistancampaign.com
firstname.lastname@example.org 07846 666804