Written answers

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Department of Foreign Affairs

Human Rights Issues

12:00 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Question 229: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding the new prison conditions in which a person (details supplied) is being held in Turkish jails, which are a deterioration on the inhumane conditions he was held in until November 2009; if he will raise this at the next Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers and with the Turkish Ambassador in Ireland. [44641/09]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Abdullah Öcalan had been held in solitary confinement since 15 February 1999 in the Imrali Island prison near Istanbul, as the only prisoner on the island. During a visit to the prison in May 2007, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), an arm of the Council of Europe, strongly criticised his conditions of detention, and called on the Turkish authorities to "completely review the situation, with a view to integrating him into a setting where contacts with other inmates and a wider range of activities are possible."

In November 2008, the Turkish Justice Minister confirmed that a new prison facility was being constructed on Imrali with a view to transferring a small number of other prisoners to the island and ending Mr Öcalan's complete isolation. On 16 November 2009, the Turkish Government announced that the transfer of a limited number of prisoners to this facility would take place shortly.

Recent reports suggest this move has now taken place and that Mr. Öcalan is no longer the sole prisoner on the island. It is expected that in the new prison he will have some limited contact with the other prisoners, although he may be housed in a smaller cell. Our Embassy in Ankara and our Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe are monitoring developments in this matter.

The Turkish authorities have faced a serious terrorist threat from the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which is included by the EU in its list of terrorist organisations. The Government in Ankara recently announced an outreach campaign towards the Kurdish minority. The measures include greater recognition of the rights of the Kurdish population, including use of their own language in daily life and in public affairs. We welcome this initiative by the Turkish Government and will continue to encourage the implementation of further reforms, which would ensure proper recognition of the rights of the Kurdish minority.

One of the key elements of the EU's enlargement negotiations with Turkey is to ensure that legitimate anti-terrorism and security measures do not undermine full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.


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