At 9 a.m. this Tuesday, 21 November, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will hold a hearing on the admissibility of the seminal case of Abdullah Öcalan against Turkey.
The case represents a direct challenge to the death penalty per se, as being a violation of the right to life (Article 2) and as being inhuman and degrading treatment (in violation of Article 3). Beyond the death penalty issue, the Öcalan case raises a number of other crucial issues for Turkey, most notably the question of the legality of Öcalan's abduction and its effect on the fairness of the subsequent proceedings against him. The case is sure to raise new legal arguments and involves Articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 18 and 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Öcalan's legal team at this hearing includes, from Britain, Sir Sydney Kentridge QC (formerly Nelson Mandela's lawyer), Mark Muller, Tim Otty and Gareth Peirce (known for her miscarriage of justice cases) and from Turkey, Hasip Kaplan, Irfan Dundar and Doga Erbas. Because of its vast experience in the European Court over the last decade, the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) was asked to assist in this hearing. KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz and Legal Director Philip Leach will be present at the hearing on Tuesday and available to speak about the case immediately following the hearing.
The case, which was first brought to the European Court on 16 February 1999, just one day after Öcalan was abducted in Kenya and brought back to Turkey, comes at a sensitive time for Turkey. Just last week, the European Union brought out its Draft Accession Agreement with Turkey which called upon the Turkish State to abolish the death penalty as part of the accession process. However, Turkey still has not ratified Protocol 6 to the European Convention which would have the same effect. Its human rights record.
Notes for journalists:Abdullah Öcalan was detained in Kenya in February 1999 and handed over to Turkish security officials. In June 1999 he was tried in the Ankara State Security Court No. 2, and convicted of treason and separatism under the Turkish Penal Code and sentenced to the death penalty. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal Chamber No. 9 on the 25th November 1999. The first application to the European Court of Human Rights was lodged on 16th February 1999 following Öcalan's arrest, and a further application was subsequently made with regard to the death penalty.