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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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KHRP concerned about fairness of trial of Mr Abdullah Ocalan

As the trial of Mr Abdullah Ocalan enters its fourth day, the Kurdish Human Rights Project continues to express concern about the likelihood that he will receive a fair trial.

Press Release: 3 June 1999

Mr Ocalan stands trial on the island of Imrali off the coast of Turkey on charges of treason. He is accused of being responsible for the deaths of an estimated 30,000 people, caught up in 14 years of guerrilla warfare waged in the south east of Turkey between the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the Turkish security forces.

KHRP joins with other international human rights bodies in calling attention to the substantial grounds for concern that Mr Ocalan will not receive a fair trial in accordance with the standards of international law and the European Convention of Human Rights.

  1. There is concern about the legitimacy of the arrest in Kenya in February 1999. Under international law, when a person is arrested and charged with a criminal offence, it is a valid ground of objection to the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction to try him that the prosecuting authority secured the prisoner’s presence within the territorial jurisdiction of the court by forcibly abducting him from within the jurisdiction of some other State, in violation of international law, in violation of the laws of the State from which he was abducted and in disregard of available procedures to secure his lawful extradition. It is far from established that these issues were examined by Turkey at the time of the arrest.
  2. Following his arrest, Mr Ocalan was held incommunicado, without access to legal representatives, for a period of ten days. Turkish law permits four days’ incommunicado detention. A ruling of the European Human Rights Commission Council of State prohibits detainees from being held incommunicado for more than four days and six hours.
  3. On 4th March 1999 the European Court of Human Rights requested the Turkish state to secure compliance with Mr Ocalan’s rights under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights to see and have unrestricted access to the lawyers representing him in private. Assistance of legal counsel is also guaranteed in Principle 1 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and Principle 17 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. Despite this, Mr Ocalan’s access to legal counsel has been subject to the most severe restrictions. Meetings with legal counsel have been limited to one hour and take place within the sight and hearing of military personnel. Legal representatives are not allowed to take notes of their communications with Mr Ocalan and his representatives are not allowed to take their case files with them.
  4. Mr Ocalan’s trial is before the Turkish State Security Court. Yet the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, in the cases of Incal v Turkey and Ciraklar v Turkey, that this tribunal does not satisfy the requirements of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights as a result of the presence of a military judge. The Turkish government’s recent announcement to the effect that it intends to remove military judges from State Security Courts has little immediate impact on the trial of Mr Ocalan.
  5. The media coverage surrounding the trial gives rise to serious doubts as to whether Mr Ocalan can conceivably receive a fair hearing. Everyone has the right to presumption of innocence, yet members of the Turkish government have even gone as far as to suggest that there is no need for a trial.

Given that Mr Ocalan is charged under Article 125 of the Turkish penal code and could face the death penalty if convicted, the issues raised above are of particular concern.

Mr Ocalan’s case is currently before the European Court of Human Rights where Turkey is accused of violating Articles 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the European Convention. As mentioned above, the Court has already taken the unusual step of taking interim measures under Article 39 of the Rules of Court, requesting that the Turkish state take measures to ensure that Mr Ocalan’s rights under the Convention are preserved.

KHRP joins the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union and Amnesty International in calling for a fair trial for Mr Ocalan.