Opening Press Conference at HDP Headquarters Ankara with Pervin Buldan, Julie Ward, Hişyar Özsoy, Melanie Gingell, Ögmundur Jónasson, Shavanah Taj and Felix Padel.
The İmralı Peace Delegation visited Turkey between 11th and 16th February 2020, witnessing and gathering evidence about the state of civil society and human rights in the country. The delegation sought to visit the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish freedom movement Abdullah Öcalan in order to assess his situation and conditions of detention. The annual delegation reports have provided a base measure of human rights in Turkey over the last decade and enabled a diverse group of academics, politicians, lawyers, faith leaders, journalists and trade unionists to visit various locations and assess the situation for themselves. The International Initiative organises the delegations with the primary purpose of keeping the cruel situation of Öcalan’s detention in the public eye, and as part of a wider campaign to highlight the need to reinstitute a peace process in Turkey.
The delegation this year consisted of Ögmundur Jónasson, former Justice Minister of Iceland and Honorary Associate of the Parliamentary Assembly 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. It held a series of meetings in Ankara with Ms Pervin Buldan Co-Chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and Hişyar Özsoy Deputy Co-Chair of HDP, Leaders of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, Liberationist Lawyers Association, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and the Confederal Trade Union of Public Workers. In İstanbul they met with lawyers from Asrın 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.
As in previous years, through the office of Julie Ward MEP, the delegation applied to the Turkish Minister of Justice, requesting a meeting with Abdullah Öcalan. The Minister of Justice did not respond to the request.
The isolation imposed on Öcalan is symbolic of the persistent repression of Kurdish people in Turkey which in turn is exacerbated by prejudice against their ethnic and linguistic identity, leading to their further marginalization with respect to their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The continued imprisonment of the elected members of the progressive and pro-Kurdish HDP, the country’s third largest party, and the persecution and harassment of its membership is another key example of this repression.
The delegation noted the recently enacted anti-terror law, which retains numerous aspects of the recent Emergency Decree, and its detrimental effect on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The law restricts fair trial guarantees, prolongs the duration of pretrial detention and allows for continued dismissals of public officials, because of alleged links to terrorist organizations. The delegation found that the counter-terrorism law is excessively broad and vague, as is the definition of “terrorism”. The law is frequently used for politically motivated prosecutions of political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists, particularly for alleged “membership of a terrorist organization”. As the lawyers at Asrın Law Office, who represent Öcalan, concluded, this law is “more political than legal”. The delegation was also particularly concerned by a new law (No. 6722), which granted counter-terrorism forces de facto immunity from prosecution for atrocities carried out in the course of their operations in the Kurdish majority south-east of Turkey.
The delegation took note of the UN Universal Periodic Review of Turkey in January 2020 where among many other matters it was recorded that a total of 44,690 people were in prison on “terrorism” related charges, including journalists, political activists, lawyers, academics (including those who signed a peace appeal in 2016), human rights defenders and others following the coup attempt, vastly exceeding the legitimate purpose of investigating those responsible and bringing them to justice.
Öcalan and political leadership
A wave of hunger strikes swept through Turkey as well as Europe, Iraqi Kurdistan and Canada in 2019 involving at the height of the campaign over five thousand prisoners and supporters. The central demand was that the complete illegal isolation of Öcalan be ended and that legal and family visits be reintroduced. There had been no legal visits since 2011 and no political visits since April 2015 when the Erdoğan government unilaterally ended the peace process.
Pervin Buldan, the Co-Chair of the HDP, explained that, “During the abortive coup of July 2016 helicopters could be seen flying over İmralı and there was great concern to know whether or not Öcalan was still alive. For quite some time we organised diverse activities and private meetings with the Ministry of Justice but we were not able to make any progress. We emphasised the importance and sensitivity of the issue for the Kurdish people but there was no meaningful response. The hunger strikes were a direct reaction to this lack of response. Leyla Güven MP and co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress, took the initiative. She ended up striking for over 200 days.”
Ms Buldan talked about the lack of political support from Europe. She said, “It was painful for us to witness the silence in Europe. Öcalan is a very important figure in relation to the peace process as well as victim of repression personally. The generalised silence in Europe is very painful… He has been pushing for negotiations and dialogue, the need for a political resolution. He looks for political models for co-existence but simultaneously a guarantee for Kurdish existence within that model.”
Eren Keskin, prominent human rights lawyer, said, “the isolation has been intense. I have been a human rights defender for 30 years and I have not seen a period where the violence of the state has been as openly legitimised as it now is. The 90s were a period of profound torture and violence but the state would deny it and try to hide it. Now they openly say ‘we did it’, even publicising their own violence on social media.” She went on to recount the experience of one of her clients who had not seen her son for many years and then being suddenly presented with an Instagram picture of an officer beheading him.
She went on to emphasise that freedom of expression is under greater pressure than ever before. “Outside these walls you cannot say ‘Freedom for Öcalan’.”
The hunger strike was successful in that the government conceded the principle of visits but later rescinded this concession, allowing only five legal visits and three family visits to take place. Thereafter complete isolation was suddenly and arbitrarily re-imposed. Lawyers representing Öcalan told the delegation that since August 2019 there had been no contact with him, and no news about his condition.
The lawyers described the physical and psychological condition of Öcalan when they visited in August 2019: his spirit intact, and his energy high. They said he sent his greetings to all struggling for his freedom and for an increase in the dissemination of information about him. He expressed his respect and love for the hunger strikers but underlined that he wanted them alive and healthy… He wanted to explain his position, his stand as not being conditional but as an historical one leading to the future, a vision related to the Kurdish Question.
“My agenda is peaceful and for a democratic solution not only to the Kurdish question but also for the broader region.” He concluded, “My position is the same as in 2013 at the beginning of the dialogue; if they are serious about a solution, I am here and ready.”
The lawyers further explained that in 1999 Öcalan had instructed the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, to leave the border area and for peace groups to assemble, but it was at this time that the PKK was listed as a terrorist organisation, during a time of peace. The European system and the United States followed suit and the strategy of listing the PKK as a terrorist organisation was complete.
The Belgian Court Decision
On 28th January 2020 the Belgian Court of Cassation held that the PKK should not be categorised as a terrorist organisation but as a legitimate party to a conflict. It should therefore be subject to International Humanitarian Law and not to anti-terror legislation. Asrın lawyers believe that there is scope now to bring similar cases in other countries, including Britain.
Jan Fermon, the Belgian lawyer who led the successful defence of Kurdish activists said: “This is a final verdict which is of great importance in the discussion on the PKK ongoing for a long time. I find the verdict is consistent with international law. It is a fair ruling. I hope it will contribute to a political solution to the Kurdish question at the European level. The court ruling has opened a new door on the side of Europe. It has paved the way for a profound concentration on a political solution.”
The People’s Democratic Party (HDP)
The delegation visited the HDP headquarters in Ankara and met with Pervin Buldan the co-chair and Hişyar Özsoy MP, vice co-chair. They discussed the deep psychological effect of the continued isolation of the Kurdish movement as exemplified by the aggravated isolation of Öcalan. The delegation was told that the Asrın lawyers had passed on Öcalan’s analysis of the HDP during their visit in August 2020. He sees the HDP “as a third way, an umbrella structure for all the oppressed, all of those who are ‘otherfied’. In the beginning there were people who regarded it with doubt, those who were still nationalist in outlook. But the importance of the HDP was clear with the unprecedented electoral success in 2015.” In 2015 the HDP won 13% of the vote and 80 HDP MPs were elected, passing the threshold for representation in the National Assembly and causing the ruling AKP to lose its parliamentary majority. The share of the vote was reduced to 10% in the following snap election of November 2015, but nevertheless represented a hugely important breakthrough for a pro-Kurdish party.
On 20 May 2016 the National Assembly passed a constitutional amendment whereby parliamentary immunity was lifted in all cases where requests for the lifting of immunity had been made to the National Assembly prior to the date of the amendment’s adoption. This affected a total of 154 members of the National Assembly, including 55 from the HDP. On various dates, 14 HDP members of parliament, including Mr Demirtaş, were placed in pre-trial detention as the subject of criminal investigations.
The indictment against Demirtaş originally consisted of thirty-one sets of charges or ‘files’ which were joined as 2016/24950. The indictment ran to some 501 pages. More allegations were joined even at late stages of the proceedings. The evidence largely came from the text of speeches delivered by Mr Demirtaş in public, in his position as co-chair of the HDP. The lower chamber of the ECtHR held, by six votes to one, that there had been a violation of Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) in conjunction with Article 5 § 3. It found that it had been established beyond reasonable doubt that the extensions of Mr Demirtaş’s detention, especially during two crucial campaigns, namely the referendum and the presidential election, had pursued the predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which was at the very core of the concept of a democratic society.
Since then, the crackdown against the HDP has continued in full throttle. See the full comments on the HDP in the 2017 delegation report.
Pervin Buldan confirmed that the founding co-chairs of the HDP Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ remain in prison as of February 2020, along with approximately 5,000 administrators and activists of the HDP, and several dozen elected mayors. Lawyers for Demirtaş continued the challenge to his detention in the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR in 2019 and a decision is expected in March 2020. Buldan said that the HDP would be ready to pressure the government if they do not implement the expected positive ruling.
In the south-east of Turkey, local democracy has effectively been suspended as the government expands a campaign to replace democratically elected mayors with government appointees or ‘Guardians’. The government is now in control of 94 municipalities won in the 2014 local elections by the HDP’s sister party, the Democratic Regions Party (DBP). The HDP said over 50 co-mayors remained jailed on politically motivated terrorism charges after their removal from elected office. The democratic will of the people has been overridden.
The Human Rights Situation in Turkey
The delegation conducted meetings with a diverse selection of human rights groups and trade union bodies, including the Human Rights Association, Libertarian Lawyers Association, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Association of Lawyers for Liberties and the Confederation of Public Employees Trade Union (KESK), Turkish Medical Foundation, Health Workers Union and the Progressive Lawyers Association.
The delegation heard that the serious concerns raised in the İmralı reports of 2017 and 2019 remained, with human rights defenders in Turkey being subjected to harassment, threats, surveillance, violations of their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, judicial harassment including criminal prosecution, violent attacks, prolonged arbitrary detention and ill-treatment. They had been targeted for their work in denouncing impunity for serious human rights violations, defending sexual rights, investigating ultra-nationalist networks, advocating for labour rights and/or defending the right to conscientious objection.
Turkey submitted to the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review which concluded its observations in January 2020. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights found that over the past two years, through successive states of emergency, the space for dissent in Turkey had shrunk considerably, with journalists jailed on terrorism offences. The High Commissioner also called on the authorities to view critical or dissenting voices – including human rights defenders, academics and journalists – as valuable contributors to social dialogue, rather than destabilizing forces.
The final stages of the trial of some of the 16 civil society activists for “attempting to overthrow the Government”, for their alleged roles during protests in Gezi Park 2013, took place while the delegation was in Turkey. They noted the cruel re-arrest of defendants shortly after their acquittal at the conclusion of the trial. This trial was, as noted by the High Commissioner, emblematic of many other trials lacking international due process standards. The Office of the High Commissioner reported on arbitrary closure of civil society organisations, including prominent human rights nongovernmental organisations and media; arbitrary detention of people arrested under state of emergency measures; the use of torture and ill-treatment during pretrial detention; and restrictions of the rights to freedom of expression and of movement.
The Medical Foundation representatives told the delegation that in their view, “human rights principles have been eliminated in Turkey. There is now no way to defend rights or to live a life that is in any way critical or in opposition to the government. Activism for democratic principles now automatically excludes us from the professions, including the medical profession. This exclusion extends to family members of those who have ties to human rights organisations. Medical doctors have been dismissed for respecting the rights of those in prison.”
They told the delegation that medical doctors are no longer required to join the medical associations; there is no control of ethics or work practices. This is leading to serious shortcomings: domestic and international standards of professional care are no longer ensured.”
The Medical Association issued a press statement on the Turkish invasion of Afrin in January 2018, asserting their concern that the invasion constituted a major threat to public health. As a result of this statement, the Association headquarters and executive council members’ houses were raided and staff were prosecuted and sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment. The representative commented, “even in the 1980s we didn’t see raids like this, but now we are living in a true climate of fear”.
The executive committee of trade unionists (KESK) also issued a statement on Afrin and suffered a similar fate, with the entire executive committee facing trial. The Academics for Peace group is mainly made up of KESK members and unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey. They are among the 1128 signatories of a petition released in January 2016 calling for an end to violence in the region. In the petition, the signatories said that they were condemning both state violence against the Kurds and the Turkish state’s ongoing violation of its own laws and international treaties.
KESK representatives were pleased to report that an international conference of trade unions convened in Turkey in 2019 was boycotted not only by all the independent Turkish unions (represented by KESK), but also by the vast majority of other foreign unions, with only four delegations attending. This act of international solidarity was deeply appreciated.
In a charged meeting in central Istanbul, representatives of the Saturday Mothers, relatives of victims who campaign for justice for disappearances and killings by suspected state perpetrators, explained why their weekly campaigning had endured for over 700 weeks.
“Since the founding of the Republic of Turkey people have been lost in detention, but in the 90s the policy changed with a widespread pattern of systematic disappearances emerging. This not only happened to Kurds but to people all across Turkey from many different walks of life. What these people shared was dissidence in one way or another. Kurdish politicians, people who refused to become village guards, journalists, trade unionists, teachers, lawyers, those of different ethnicities and world views. They all shared a desire for a democratic Turkey.”
The vast majority of these crimes have been treated with complete impunity despite the weight of repeated judgements against Turkey in the ECtHR and the fact that under both domestic and international law Turkey has a duty to investigate and punish perpetrators of serious human rights abuses, a duty which cannot be displaced by statutes of limitations or other domestic legal obstacles.
The relatives however have not forgotten and they have met in Galatasaray Square every Saturday since 1995 holding up pictures of their loved ones and laying carnations there in the absence of any known burial sites. The Square transformed into a site of memory and struggle and became indelibly identified with the Saturday Mothers. In August 2018 the government banned the gathering and brutally attacked the relatives, detaining several of them. The protest in Galatasaray Square has been banned ever since but has re-emerged, eternally irrepressible, in another location.
The delegation heard of the chilling fear that the scale, scope and official tolerance of the extrajudicial killings and disappearances of the 90s would rise again and that at least seven cases in 2019 had already been fully documented. Five of these cases were communicated to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the disappeared were duly found following these communications. The fate and whereabouts of the sixth individual remains unknown. It was also understood that the found individuals had been subjected to torture and ill- treatment.
The Saturday Mothers’ campaign is widely understood as a legitimate form of protest and engenders deep sympathy. They said that the crackdown against them in 2018 has had a wider chilling effect in society: If they can be attacked, anyone can be.
The delegation called on the Turkish authorities to urgently demonstrate their commitment to upholding the absolute prohibitions on torture, ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances, and ensure prompt and effective investigations into security forces, intelligence services, and all other public officials alleged to have tortured or ill-treated detainees, or unlawfully deprived them of their liberty.
The delegation issued a public declaration at the Asrin Law Office concluding that: İmralı is a laboratory in oppression and democracy at the same time. Isolation and the lack of human rights in İmralı prison has a bearing on the condition of prisoners throughout the rest of the country. At the same time İmralı could become a laboratory for the exercise of human rights elsewhere in Turkey – and not only in Turkey because 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.
Recommendations for Action
(1) It is vital that pressure continues to be put on the Turkish state to end the isolation of Öcalan. Pressure should be applied to international human rights mechanisms, particularly those of the Council of Europe. The CPT should be urged to exercise its investigative capability to the fullest in the case of İmralı. The PACE should pressure the government of Turkey to implement the recommendations of the CPT, the rulings of the ECtHR, and abide by the ECHR, at the risk of sanctions. The Committee for Legal Affairs and Human Rights should also follow up the recommendations of the CPT. International human rights bodies should be urged to declare this isolation a crime against humanity.
(2) Governments of the international community should be lobbied to intervene against Öcalan’s isolation and other human rights abuses that the Turkish government is responsible for. Relevant individuals, such as members of parliament, should be urged to pass motions and raise questions concerning the situation in Turkey, to express their vocal support for ending the isolation, and to lobby their governments to take action. Individuals should also be urged to ask Turkish government officials, such as the Minister of Justice, for a meeting to express their concerns and ask questions, as the delegation did in its letter to the Minister of Justice. Political parties should be urged to link their party to the HDP, and to express solidarity with the imprisoned MPs.
(3) International NGOs, such as Amnesty International, must be appealed to to take immediate action against the isolation of Öcalan and the general situation in Turkey. Those who refuse should be publicly shamed for failing to speak out against human rights atrocities. International NGOs should be urged to form ties with NGOs and human rights organisations in Turkey, and attempt to intervene where possible. Doctors Without Borders and other medical bodies should be urged to reach out to Turkish authorities seeking permission to visit Öcalan to assess his health, and to provide an independent medical service for prisoners in Turkey.
(4) Solidarity among trade unions needs to be extended internationally. Trade unions should be encouraged to express their solidarity officially, and affiliate with trade unions in Turkey, speaking out publicly against the diminishment of workers’ rights in Turkey and the state’s crackdown on trade unions, and drafting motions in support of Öcalan and the Kurdish movement. Additionally, trade unions should condemn the state-organised unions in Turkey that participate in the marginalisationa and criminalisation of workers, and seek their exclusion from international trade union confederations and conferences.
(5) Social movements throughout the world should be encouraged to establish ties of solidarity with the Kurdish freedom movement and other opposition groups in Turkey. For instance, the Plaza de Mayo mothers of Argentina have expressed solidarity with and visited the Saturday Mothers in Turkey, and should be encouraged to continue to do so. International women’s movements should be encouraged to express solidarity with the Kurdish women’s movement, in the form of written statements, video messages, and visits to Turkey.
(6) Lawyers from around the world should be encouraged to file appeals to international bodies about the situation, and condemn the illegality of the isolation policy and the treatment of Kurdish people, as a means of applying pressure to the Turkish state. Furthermore, they should be encouraged to collaborate with lawyers in Turkey, at meetings both in Turkey and abroad, to learn more about the legal specifics of the situation and work together to create legal objections.
(7) Strong efforts should be made to raise global awareness of the situation in Turkey. This can include solidarity campaigns, projects of cultural solidarity such as collaborative documentaries or art pieces with artists in Turkey, and campaigns to boycott Turkey. Efforts should also be made to counter the pro-Turkey narrative in the mainstream media and to accurately portray the authoritarian rule in Turkey which has suppressed political and civil freedom.
(8) Populations around the world should be encouraged to take action. This includes writing letters to elected representatives to pressurise our own governments and the government of Turkey, writing letters to NGOs urging them to take further action, writing letters of protest to Turkish officials, and writing letters of support to prisoners in Turkey. Individuals should also be encouraged to spread the word about the situation in Turkey, sign petitions, and join campaigns of solidarity.
(9) More delegations should be organised to visit Turkey and the Kurdistan region, consisting of all manner of people including politicians, academics, public figures, and trade union members. These should meet with organisations in Turkey and attempt to meet with Turkish government officials, in order to give the delegates a first-hand experience of the conditions, offer support to those afflicted, and to further spread awareness of situation.
International Initiative “Freedom for Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan”: http://www.freeocalan.org/
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 International Peace Delegation to İmralı:
Link to Report of the 2019 International Peace Delegation to İmralı:
Report of the 2017 İmralı Peace Delegation: https://westminsterjp.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/final-report-of-the-third-imrali-delegation-2017-docx.pdf
Permanent People’s Tribunal ruling – Turkey and the Kurds: http://iadllaw.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/PPT_-edited-_-JUDGMENT_TURKEY_KURDS_-EN_Ml.pdf
Venice Commission opinions on Turkey: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/by_opinion.aspx?country=31
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&lang=en
Summary of Öcalan’s Roadmap to the Negotiations: http://data.freeocalan.org/materials/english/forms/EN-ocalan-the-road-map-summary_2011.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/
Human Rights Day 2019:
Increased Pressures on HRDs and the HRA
- Judicial Reform Strategy Document
- Law No. 7145
- In Support of Victims of Torture
Biographies of the February 2020 İmralı Peace Delegates
- 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 İmralı Delegation in 2017 having made several previous visits to Amed 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.
- 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.
- Ögmundur Jonasson—born in Iceland 1948, is a historian from the University of Edinburgh, was editor of foreign news at Icelandic State TV until he became chairman of the Federation og State and Municipal Employees in Iceland 1988 – 2009. In 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 Racism 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 is a signatory of the International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan” and led the 2019 International Peace Delegation to İmralı.
- 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 Samarendra Das, 2010/2020), Ecology, Economy: Quest for a socially informed connection (with Ajay Dandekar and Jeemol 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 of Peace in Kurdistan: https://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com