It Is For Sake Of Justice, Not Öcalan

IZMIR – Turkish Daily News
Sunday, May 15, 2005

President of Human Rights Agenda Association Orhan Kemal Cengiz, in criticizing the general reaction to the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights about terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, said that the verdict has been misunderstood in Turkey, “It is not for the sake of Öcalan but for the benefit of the justice system in Turkey that Öcalan be put on trial again.

“There is a huge gap between what it is understood from the concept of a fair trial in Turkey and how it is construed by the European Court of Human Rights,” said Cengiz, adding: “In Turkey, the outcome of any given case is stressed, but the European understanding, rather, focuses on the way in which the outcome is reached. Otherwise, only the innocent accused will be able to enjoy a fair trial. In this respect, Öcalan’s case is full of lessons for the Turkish justice system.”

Pointing out that the judges in the State Security Court did whatever they could do to handle this case in a manner that would be acceptable the rest of the world, Cengiz said: “But in spite of all these efforts, the procedure they followed was criticized by the European court. Is not this worth thinking about? There have been many cases before the European court coming from Turkey concerning allegations of torture, illegal killings etc. Therefore, we have a clear picture of the problems in Turkey as far as these kinds of vulgar human rights violations are concerned. However, there have been very few cases before the court that brought detailed discussion on the fairness of cases tried in Turkish Courts.”

Talking about the Turkish justice system, Cengiz said: “If you look at the Turkish judicial system from a critical perspective, you can see that the standards of this sector are well below those set by the European Court of Human Rights. Therefore, a re-trial of Abdullah Öcalan should be seen as a golden opportunity to bring the Turkish justice system in line with European standards. The Öcalan case is now on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers and eventually Turkey will have to restart the case at domestic level. If Turkey begins the re-trial of Abdullah Öcalan on its own accord, without facing any serious external pressure, this will contribute to the reformation process of Turkish justice system, as this would send a clear signal to all parties in Turkey and abroad about the series intention of the Turkish government regarding reform.

“There is a judgment that should only be evaluated from a legal perspective, but instead we see a lot of discussions in the political arena with political arguments aimed at exploiting nationalist sentiments. These arguments and the feelings that they are trying to exploit are not beneficial to Turkey in any way,” said Cengiz. He added: “Consequently, Turkey should be able to initiate legal procedures for a new trial for Abdullah Öcalan and this time hopefully it will manage to try him in accordance with the standards stipulated by the European Court of Human Rights. This is what should be done.”