International Initiative
Freedom for Ocalan – Peace in Kurdistan
P.O. Box 100511, D-50445 Koeln
Telephone: +49 221 130 15 59
Fax: +49 221 790 76 10 30

Cologne, 15 February 2009

Press statement:
10 Years Imrali prison, 10 Years of Torture
Ocalan and the "European Guantanamo"

On February 15th we will see the 10th anniversary of the abduction of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan from Kenya to Turkey. It followed an odyssey between Damascus, Moscow, Athens, Rome, and Amsterdam that had lasted for weeks. On February 15, 1999 this odyssey was ended by an act of piracy involving the CIA, the MIT (Turkish secret service), and the Mossad. It was also supported by the governments of Russia, Greece, and other European countries.

Ocalan had come to Europe to campaign to seek support for a peaceful solution of the long lasting and bloody Turkish-Kurdish conflict. His hand put forth for peace was refused. No country was willing to take the Kurdish leader or take the initiative in mediating negotiations between the conflicting parties. However, the dice had already been cast and the Kurds had been found to stand in the way of geostrategic and economic interests of the leading powers in the Middle East. Deliberately, these powers accepted the escalation of the war in Turkey in order to gain political profit. Abdullah Ocalan's abduction was supposed to be only the beginning.

Yet the Kurds still insist on their political and cultural rights; Ocalan is still a figure omnipresent in the Kurdish minds; Turkey is still trying to get to grips with the Kurdish problem with the help of the military; still, until today, Turkish soldiers and Kurdish fighters are being killed in this conflict. The human rights situation is still disastrous. Ten years after Ocalan's abduction the Kurdish question remains unresolved.

The 15th of February 1999 has also been a turning point in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Ocalan continued his peace efforts and did not allow for escalation. He called on the Kurdish rebels to proclaim a unilateral truce. At the same time he demanded, in turn, the recognition of cultural and language rights of the Kurds, thus implying that the Kurdish question could be resolved in the course of a democratization of Turkey. When the Kurdish fighters withdrew from Turkish soil the tension eased. But government and military let this opportunity for peace wear away. They regarded the Kurdish peace offer as a sign of weakness.

Initial Turkish reform efforts by the Erdogan administration in the course of the EU-membership negotiations have slowed down significantly. In the beginning there had been some concessions to the Kurds on paper. However, after Erdogan's recent misbehavior in Davos even his most dogged backers have become doubtful of his true character, whether he is not after all a wolf in sheep's clothing despotically seeking to align Turkey with his islamist world-view. However, this would not be compatible with the wishful thinking of some western security strategists, who adamantly defend their thesis of a moderate Islam forming a bridge into the Muslim world. The power struggle between the secular camp and the islamist camp is already dictating domestic politics in Turkey. Even the allegedly untouchable army is no longer safe. Human rights, democratic reform efforts or a solution of the Kurdish question go by the wayside. The Kurdish civilian population still experiences systematic human rights violations. People expressing opposition are persecuted. Extralegal executions are increasing in number. Peaceful protest by the civilian population is again repressed by force of arms. Alarming reports by human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) on continuing torture or executions in police posts or prisons say it clearly.

The detention situation in Turkish prisons, particularly on Imrali, reflects the overall situation of the country. Turkey is still far away from the democracy and the state of law in Europe. For ten years Abdullah Ocalan has been held prisoner on the Turkish prison island of Imrali under inhumane conditions in solitary confinement. His health is severely affected. Time and again, his lawyers and relatives are arbitrarily refused their visits. His channels of information and communication are utterly limited. Many of his lawyers have been criminalized or banned from their profession. The detention conditions have been put beyond any democratic control. Imrali is a place outside the law.

The anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe (CPT) demands the end of Ocalan's solitary confinement. However, the Council of Europe does not take any real steps to add authority to the demands of its committee. Instead, it remains mute towards the open breaches of law on the part of a member country. Imrali is also a symbol for the janus-headed European human rights policy. While criticizing the intolerable situation in Guantanamo the critics stay mum with a view to the insufferable conditions on Imrali, a similarly extralegal place like Guantanamo. Under the new American president Baracks Obama the closure of Guantanamo will only be a matter of time. The "European Guantanamo" continues to exist. Its closure, however, will be a necessary demand if the European human rights policy is to retain its credibility.

As much as the Kurdish emancipation struggle is denounced as terror - it cannot be eliminated. The lopsided partisanship of American and European politics in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict has contributed nothing to a peaceful solution. This conflict can only be resolved by way of dialogue. The Kurds have made it completely clear several times that they are ready for such a process. It is Turkey's turn to take some constructive steps towards reconciliation with its Kurdish population. Ending the military repression could be the one decisive step to bring about a permanent solution. Ending Ocalan's solitary confinement in compliance with the demands of the anti-torture-committee of the Council of Europe (CPT) would be a first step in this direction.

First signatories of the International Initiative:

Máiréad Maguire (Nobel Price Award, Northern Ireland), Dario Fo (Director, Writer, Actor, Nobel Literature Price Award, Italy), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Nobel Literature Price Award, Argentine), Jose Ramos-Horta (Peace Nobel Price Award, East-Timor), José Saramago (Nobel Literature Price Award, Portugal), Danielle Mitterrand (President, Donation France Liberté, France), Ramsey Clark (Lawyer, former Attorney General, USA), Uri Avnery (Former Member of Knesset, Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), Israel), Prof. Dr. Noam Chomsky (Linguist, Writer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Alain Lipietz (Member of the European Parliament, France), Pedro Marset Carpos (Member of the European Parliament, Spain), Mrs. Jean Lambert (Member of the European Parliament, GB), Lord Avebury (Chairman, Parliamentary Human Rights Group, House of Lords, GB), Harry Cohen (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Cynog Dafis (Member of Parliament, Plaid Cymru, GB), Lord Raymond Hylton (House of Lords, GB), Lord Rea (House of Lords, Great Britain), Walid Jumblat (President, Socialist Progressive Party, Lebanon), Rudi Vis (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Paul Flynn (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, Great Britain), Máiréad Keane (Director, International Department, Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland), Domenico Gallo (Lawyer, former senator (CI), member of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Livio Pepino (Lawyer, President of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Xabier Arzalluz (President, PNV (Basque Nationalist Party), Tony Benn (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Giovanni Palombarini (Lawyer, former president of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Heidi Ambrosch (Vice-president and Women Speaker, Communist Party of Austria), Mag. Walter Baier (President, Communist Party of Austria), Giana Nanini (Artist, Italy), Geraldine Chaplin (Actress, Madrid, Spain), Dietrich Kittner, (Humorist, Writer, Cabarettist, Germany), David MacDowall, (Writer, GB), Alice Walker, (Writer, USA), Franca Rame, (Actress, Director, Writer, Italy), Prof. Dr. Jean Ziegler (Member of the Swiss National Council, Publisher, Switzerland), Dr. Diether Dehm (Vice President, PDS, Germany), Prof. Dr. Angela Davis (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA), Prof. Dr. Luigi Ferraioli (Philosophy and Law Professor, Italy), Prof. Dr. Uwe Jens Heuer (Law Professor, Berlin, Germany), Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Narr (Comittee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy, Germany), Prof. Dr. Werner Ruf (International Law Professor, Kassel University, Germany), Prof. Dr. Norman Paech (International Law Professor, Hamburg School of Economy and Politics, Germany), Prof. Dr. Gerhard Stuby (International Law Professor, Bremen University, Germany), Prof. Dr. h.c. Ronald Mönch (Chair of Bremen Highschool, Germany), Prof. Dr. Elmar Altvater (President, International Lelio Basso Donation for the rights of the peoples, Germany), Prof. Dr. Helmut Dahmer (Sociology Professor, Darmstadt Technical University, Germany), Prof. Jürgen Waller (Chair of School of Arts, Bremen, Germany), Christine Blower (Former President, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Great Britain), Ken Cameron (General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union (FBU), GB), Josep Lluis Carod Rouira (President ERC, Barcelona, Spain), Michael Feeny (Adviser of Cardinal Hume in refugee affaires, GB), Gareth Peirce (Lawyer, Great Britain Frances Webber, Barrister, GB), Norbert Mattes (Information Project Near und Middle East, Germany), Yayla Mönch-Buçak (Oldenburg University, Germany), Dr. Mamoud Osman (Kurdish Politician, Great Britain), Jutta Bauer (Book Illustrator, Germany), Günther Schwarberg (Journalist, Germany), Hans Branscheidt (medico international / Appell von Hannover), Germany, Rolf Becker (Actor, IG Medien (Media Union), Germany)