Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Fax: +33 388 412 799
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
OPEN LETTER TO MR THORBJØRN JAGLAND, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Dear Mr Jagland
As you must be aware hundreds of Kurds in Europe and Turkey have been taking part in a hunger strike to demand justice for their people.
The hunger strike started as a protest by Kurdish political prisoners on 20 January 2012, to mark the 13th anniversary of the handing over of Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey in what the Kurdish people maintain was an international conspiracy. This action has since escalated into an indefinite hunger strike with Kurds across Europe joining Kurdish politicians and activists in Turkey
Fifteen Kurds in Strasbourg began their indefinite hunger strike on 1st March and so far three have been hospitalised.
The Kurds want to see the resumption of talks towards a negotiated resolution of the conflict with Turkey, and are demanding the immediate relaxing of inhumane prison conditions imposed on Abdullah Ocalan, who has been kept in total isolation and denied the right to see his lawyers since July 2011.
Their deeply felt wishes are to see the release of all political prisoners and a fair and democratic resolution of the Kurdish question. We are of the opinion that these wishes must be respected and that the demands of the Kurds at least need to be heard. The escalating violence, conflict and increased repression inside Turkey today is a cause for great concern as it takes the country in totally the wrong direction.
We are writing to urge you to exercise your powers and take action as people who strongly believe in the necessity of finding a democratic political solution to the Kurdish question. Meaningful talks represent the only hope of finding a genuine and sustainable peace. The deepening crisis inside Turkey of which the hunger strikes are a manifestation needs to be reversed or the consequences for the country could be extremely damaging. The ill-treatment of Ocalan reflects the injustice that the Kurds as a people see is being inflicted on them by the Turkish state while international institutions fails to respond.
These hunger strikes are a desperate plea from the Kurdish people to the Turkish government to persuade it to stop the clampdown on their political organisations and rights. In the last three years, over 8,000 people – including elected MPs, mayors and councillors, journalists, students, human rights activists, and academics – have been jailed in what Prime Minister Erdogan insists are counter-terrorism operations.
But as Selma Irmak, imprisoned BDP MP for Sirnak who was among the first to begin the hunger strike, has said, ‘Since I have been robbed of all instruments and means of expression, I am obliged to use my body as a means of communication’.
We wish to express our deep concern at the treatment being meted out to Abdullah Ocalan on the prison island of Imrali, where he has been held since 1999. By prohibiting contact with his lawyers – 36 of whom were themselves arrested under Turkey’s ever-widening anti-terror legislation in December 2011 – the Turkish government is putting itself in breach of international obligations on the treatment of prisoners.
As the only international body with any authority to visit Imrali, we request that the Council for the Prevention of Torture arrange an urgent visit in order to establish that Mr Ocalan is not being subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment.
We believe that such a visit will allay the fears of the Kurdish people and will help bring about an end to the hunger strikes and the desperate measures that they feel forced to take.
This matter is particularly urgent given the important contribution that Mr Ocalan has demonstrated that he is capable of making to any resolution of the conflict were he to be accepted by Turkey as a partner, or at least a key participant, in future negotiations.
As this is a desperately urgent issue we kindly request your prompt and positive response.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Hywel Williams MP
Katy Clark MP
Bruce Kent, Vice-President CND and Pax Christi
Gareth Peirce, human rights lawyer
Professor Bill Bowring, Barrister, Director of the LLM/MA in Human Rights School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London
Louise Christian, human rights lawyer
Jean Lambert MEP
Jill Evans MEP
Dr. Dafydd Iwan, Plaid Cymru past President
Stan Newens, former MP and MEP, President of Liberation
Margaret Owen OBE, international human rights lawyer
Dr Vicki Sentas, Kings College London
Dr Felix Padel, Social Anthropologist and author
Michael Ellman, lawyer
Nick Hildyard, Policy Analyst
David Morgan, journalist
Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation
Roger Tompkins, lawyer and humanist (New Zealander)
Joe Ryan, Chair of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission
Khatchatur I. Pilikian, Professor of Music & Art
Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)
George Binette, Camden UNISON Branch Secretary (personal capacity)
Alain Hertzmann ,Trade unionist, Unite the union (personal capacity)
Stephen Smellie, Branch Secretary, UNISON South Lanarkshire Branch
Deputy Convenor, UNISON Scotland
Manivannan Pathmanabhan MP, Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)
Osagyefo Otongogara-Tewodros, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Defence Campaign UK
Saleh Mamon, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)
Manaz Baloch, International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, UK
Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
18 April 2012
Contact and further information
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Bairbre de Brún MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Mark Thomas