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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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Ocalan's Trial Unfair, Rules European Human Rights Court

Human rights lawyers are welcoming today's decision of the highest panel of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), confirming that the imposition of the death penalty on Abdullah Ocalan violated the prohibition on human and degrading treatment. [1] The judgment raises the prospect that Mr Ocalan will receive a retrial to compensate deficiencies in his original trial which led to the imposition of the death penalty, later commuted to a life sentence. Mr Ocalan has remained in solitary confinement as the sole prisoner on Imrali Island since 1999.

In light of the case's significance, the Grand Chamber took the exceptional step of proposing specific measures available to the Turkish Government to enable it to implement fully the terms of the judgment. In the specific context of such cases in Turkey's state security courts, the Court declared, the most appropriate form of redress in principle would be for the applicant to be given a retrial without delay if s/he so requested. The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers will monitor any failure to implement the Court's decision, safeguarding Ocalan from further violations to his human rights or fundamental freedoms.

The decision, delivered this morning by the ECtHR's Grand Chamber, confirms an earlier judgment of 18 March 2003 that capital punishment has now come to be regarded as "an unacceptable form of punishment" which "can no longer be seen as having any legitimate place in a democratic society". It was held that the capital sentence imposed on Mr Ocalan must be considered, it itself, to amount to inhuman treatment. The Court also found that Mr Ocalan's rights under Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the Convention had been violated in several respects. The Court established that his rights under Article 5 (right to liberty and security) had been violated, stating that the length of his detention before being brought to a judge and the inability to challenge his detention at the domestic level violated both Article 5(3) and 5(4).

On the basis of the numerous issues of general importance and serious questions affecting the interpretation of the Convention raised by the case, both the applicant's representatives and the Turkish Government had requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber.

Turkey's approach to upholding this ruling will be seen by many as a test of its commitment to the universal applicability of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, irrespective of ethnic or political status; a commitment that is critical to its aspirations of EU accession.

Mark Muller, Advocate Representing Abdullah Ocalan, states,

"This is one of the most significant cases to ever come before the European Court of Human Rights. We fully expect the international community to monitor Turkey's compliance with the verdict, in light of the potentially enormous ramifications of the case. Above all, the judgment represents a chance for a measure of justice for a forgotten people and perhaps also the platform for a future reconciliation between Kurds and Turks alike."