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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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This morning, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg published its decision to go ahead with a full hearing of the main issues in the seminal case of Abdullah Öcalan v. Turkey.

Press Release: 15th December 2000


The key issues raised by the Öcalan case that have been accepted by the Court include:

  • The legality of his death penalty sentence;

  • The lawfulness of Öcalan's abduction from Kenya in February 1999;
  • The fairness of the legal proceedings against Öcalan in Turkey since February 1999 including restrictions on his access to legal advice and to documents in the case; and

  • Öcalan's solitary confinement on Imrali Island for the past 22 months.

Commenting on the importance of the case, Mark Muller, Chairman of the Kurdish Human Rights Project and one of Öcalan's legal representatives at the Court, noted, "This case is the most significant case on the death penalty ever to come before the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights standards have evolved internationally to such an extent since the Convention was drafted in the 1940s that there are now strong grounds to argue that the death penalty per se violates both the right to life (Article 2) and the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3). We welcome the Court's confirmation that it will give its judgment on this and other critical questions raised by the case."

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. The complaints regarding all of these have been declared admissible.

"The Court's historic decision today means that it will rightly go on to assess the strengths of the arguments posed in this crucial case," commented Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, "The Court's judgment in Abdullah Öcalan v. Turkey will have ramifications across the world."


1. Öcalan's legal team includes, from Britain, Sir Sydney Kentridge QC (formerly Nelson Mandela's lawyer), Mark Muller, Tim Otty, Gareth Peirce (known for her miscarriage of justice cases), Louis Charalambous, Kerim Yildiz and Philip Leach and from Turkey, Hasip Kaplan, Irfan Dundar and Dogan 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 the case.

2. 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.

3. The European Court Human Rights has passed twenty-five successful judgments in cases brought by the Kurdish Human Rights Project, the majority of which have centred on the right to life (Article 2), prohibition of torture (Article 3), right to a fair trial (Article 6), right to an effective remedy (Article 13) and freedom of expression (Article 10).

4. The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. On 1 November 1998 a full-time Court was established, replacing the original two-tier system of a part-time Commission and Court.