Public Statement Regarding the Absolute Incommunicado Detention of our Clients in İmralı Island Prison-25.03.2023


As of today, it has been exactly two years that we have not been able to receive a single sign of life from Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, Mr. Ömer Hayri Konar, Mr. Hamili Yıldırım and Mr. Veysi Aktaş, our clients who are imprisoned in İmralı Island Prison. As you may know, the last time we heard from Mr. Öcalan and Mr. Veysi Aktaş was on 25 March 2021, when they had a brief phone call with their family members. Mr. Öcalan’s conversation with his brother was abruptly interrupted after a few minutes. Despite all legal, administrative, and democratic initiatives taken since then, we have not been able to make any contact with our clients until date. Since we have not been able to visit them or communicate with them in any way, we still do not have any information about their health, conditions of detention and legal status.

We have filed 274 applications for lawyer visits and 118 applications for family visits to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and the İmralı Island Prison Directorate over the course of the past two years, however to no avail. Likewise, all judicial and administrative applications filed from local courts all the way up to the Constitutional Court to complain about the violation of our clients’ nationally and internationally recognized rights have been without success. Through their decisions, the judicial bodies have once again shown that they constitute a central pillar in the regime of isolation, allowing torturous and inhumane form of isolation practiced in İmralı to continue instead of protecting the rights of the clients and putting an end to these illegal practices.

The fact that Mr. Öcalan and our other clients are completely cut off from the outside world cannot be explained by any regulation and law. Their being cut off from the outside world, from society, while also being deprived of all legal protection and held under unmonitored, uncertain, and unpredictable conditions constitutes a form of inhumane treatment that in fact amounts to torture. Therefore, an application was made to the United Nations Human Rights Committee with a request for an injunction to end the absolute incommunicado detention in İmralı. The Committee initially accepted our request for an injunction and in September 2022 ordered the Government to “put an end to the authors’ incommunicado detention and provide them with immediate and unrestricted access to a lawyer of their choice”. Due to non-compliance with this decision, the HRC reminded the Government of its urgent request in January 2023. Although the process regarding the merits of the application is still ongoing, the Committee’s injunction has made it clear that the conditions in İmralı violate the prohibition of torture and must be ended immediately.

But although the Turkish state is bound by international conventions, it did not recognize the injunction of the United Nations Human Rights Committee or take steps to comply with it, nor did it remove the obstacles to lawyer and family visits, instead choosing to maintain the prolonged state of absolute incommunicado detention.

As important as these international decisions regarding the isolation of Mr. Öcalan and İmralı are, the state’s refusal to comply with them is just as illegal and political.

The reflections of the state’s policies with respect to İmralı can be seen in Turkish and Middle Eastern politics. Security policies prevail over peace-oriented and democratic policies, leading to increased polarization, crisis, and chaos. This is closely related to the Kurdish issue in its regional and global dimensions, and the dead-end reached in terms of its resolution. Decreasing willingness to resolve the issue by peaceful and democratic means goes hand in hand with an intensification of the system of absolute isolation. Vice versa, a resolution to the Kurdish issue and democratic progress cannot be achieved as long as the system of absolute isolation is maintained.

In short, the existence of the regime of isolation in İmralı implies that law and democracy are abandoned in Turkey. This creates a domino effect undermining the values of society and doing great damage to social and political life.

For this country and region to allow everyone to live and thrive, the Kurdish issue must be resolved and the İmralı isolation system must be abolished for good. The only way out of this crisis is to follow Mr. Öcalan’s proposal and act within the basic political framework of democracy and universal law.

We would like to emphasize again that the fact that we have not been able to obtain even a single sign of life from our clients or any information about their state of health and detention for the past two years despite the existence of international resolutions to the contrary is entirely unacceptable. These concerns must be addressed immediately. The state must comply with the injunctions of the United Nations Human Rights Committee immediately and restore all legal and international treaty rights of our clients, including their right to see a lawyer. We invite the democratic public to observe the situation in İmralı closely and help us see our demands fulfilled.25.03.2023