The isolation of Abdullah Ocalan is against all internationally accepted Human Rights standards

Open letter to Ms Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Dear Secretary General,

We, the signatories of this letter, support the demands of activists of the campaign “The Time for Freedom is Now – Freedom Shall Prevail -Act For Öcalan in Strasbourg and ask you to do everything in your power to activate the competent bodies of the Council of Europe to respond positively to the below demands.  We believe that democracy, the rule of law, and universal human rights are non-negotiable, and appreciate your attention to the situation of Mr Öcalan and the plight of dissidents in Turkey at this critical time.

Since the Kurdish People’s leader Abdullah Öcalan’s 4-5 minute telephone call with his brother on 25 March, there has been silence from the prison island of İmralı. Due to the absence of any dependable information on Mr. Abdullah Öcalan’s current situation, the Kurdish people and their friends are deeply concerned.  Mr. Öcalan has been held in the İmralı Island F Type Closed High Security Prison for 22 years. There he is isolated and, for most of that time, and especially recently, denied access  to all means of communication.

As a member of the Council of Europe Turkey ratified the agreement of the council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).  On 5 August 2020, the CPT published a report on the situation in the İmralı Island Prison, based on visits to Turkish prisons in May 2019. CPT concluded that the system and isolation on İmralı are unacceptable.

In October 2020, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution on Turkey’s repression of opposition groups. It also mentioned the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and states:  “…While welcoming the publication, in August 2020, of two reports prepared in 2017 and 2019 by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), the Assembly reiterates its call on the Turkish authorities to authorise, without any further delay, the publication of the 2016 CPT report and to implement all remaining CPT recommendations, including those pertaining to the situation of Mr Abdullah Öcalan and other prisoners who remain cut off from contacts with the outside world at the İmralı F-Type High-Security Closed Prison, as already referred to in its Resolution 2260 (2019)”.

The CPT clearly stated that the conditions on İmralı are unacceptable, and PACE has called on Turkey to comply with the CPT’s recommendations for change.  However, nothing has altered, and no news has been received from İmralı. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe appears unwilling to follow up recommendations made by the CPT and PACE.

For the sake of peace and stability in Turkey and the region, we kindly request you to use all of your power for the implementation of following demands:


  1. Abdullah Öcalan and the other İmralı prisoners must immediately be permitted to communicate with their lawyers and relatives, and the isolation measures must be lifted.
  2. The ECtHR, CoE and UN must sanction Turkey, because Turkey’s current detention regime is contrary to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).
  3. Committee of Ministers of the Council must initiate political steps regarding the freedom of Abdullah Ocalan, as it has executive power and can induce Turkey in this regard


We strongly believe that the non-implementation of CPT and PACE decisions by the executive, which is the Committee of Ministers leads to the questioning of the Council of Europe.  Finally, the Council of Europe has an executive body that can force member states to comply with its rules, decisions and recommendations.


We thank you for your consideration and remain available to provide you with further information should you require it.


Yours sincerely,