The Asrın Law Office representing Abdullah Öcalan and his three fellow prisoners on Imralı has called on the CPT committee to ensure that all necessary measures are taken on the prison island for protection from Coronavirus.
The Istanbul based Asrın Law Office fears that the coronavirus could spread to the prison island of Imralı and has therefore called on the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to act immediately to protect the prisoners Abdullah Öcalan, Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş.
In a report submitted to the CPT on the current pandemic situation in Turkey, Asrın urges the CPT to take initiatives to implement the health and hygiene measures recommended in connection with Covid-19, especially in light of the pre-existing illnesses of their clients. All Imralı prisoners suffer from chronic respiratory diseases due to adverse climatic conditions: in winter it is very cold, and in summer very humid. Abdullah Öcalan is likely to experience the worst of all in this respect, as he has been held as a political hostage on Imralı for more than 21 years. Added to this is his advanced age. At 71 years of age, the Kurdish leader belongs to the group of people who, according to current knowledge, have a higher risk of a serious or even fatal course of disease.
In the report, Asrın Law Office points to proposals that have been made to prevent the virus from reaching Imralı and spreading uncontrollably both in prison and on the island. A corresponding request for the implementation of preventive measures and telephone contact with Öcalan was rejected by the prison court on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. Asrın had described the reasons for the refusal as legally untenable, because it was precisely within the remit of the prison court to investigate and decide on complaints about lack of care with regard to the physical and mental health of prisoners and their contact with the outside world. For this reason, the Legal Bureau has appealed against the refusal decision.
Another point highlighted in Asrın’s report is the completely arbitrary disciplinary sanctions imposed on the Imralı prisoners. Decisions to restrict communication have been ordered for six months, even though the legal limit for disciplinary penalties in execution is three months. This is a further sign that Imralı is a “lawless area”. Because the imposition of disciplinary punishment is unlawful, contradicts decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights and the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) are not implemented, the lawyers have also appealed against this decision.
Asrın Law Office highlighted their demands from the CPT as follows:
-request information on the situation and condition of the Imralı prisoners from the Ministry of Justice, the Directorate-General for Prisons and Detention and from government representatives,
-ensure that all necessary measures are taken for protection from coronavirus in order to prevent the introduction of the pandemic into the island prison and thus the infection of the prisoners,
-ensure that the preventive measures and codes of conduct recommended in a joint declaration (30 March) by human rights organisations, lawyers’ associations and NGOs such as the IHD, TIHV, ÖHD, ÇHD, SES and CISST are implemented and respected in prisons,
-guarantee that the disciplinary sanctions against the Imralı prisoners are lifted or postponed,
-take necessary steps to ensure that, under appropriate conditions, legal and family visits and telephone conversations with Imralı prisoners can take place.