Kurdish groups welcome Belgian court ruling that the PKK is not a terrorist organization
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Brussels-based Kurdish Institute and the Belgium Kurdish Society Center (NAV-BEL) on Tuesday welcomed a landmark decision by a top Belgian court that ruled the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not a terrorist organization.
The institute said the decision “not only ends 10 years of proceedings in this specific case but most likely also the criminalisation of the PKK and other Kurdish organisations or activists which -according to the Federal Prosecutor- are related to it.”
The PKK has fought a decades-long insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights, a conflict that has taken more than thirty-thousand lives on both sides.
On Tuesday, the Court of Cassation rejected an appeal and upheld the previous decision of the Court of Appeal to dismiss the case of federal judicial authorities who had requested that 36 individuals and companies be tried by a criminal court on charges of taking part in terrorist activity.
In March, the Brussels Court of Appeal ruled that conflict involving the PKK in Turkey was an “internal armed conflict” and, as such, the group cannot be considered a terrorist organization.
“Both decisions from the judiciary are of great importance for the PKK and by extension for the Kurds,” the institute said.
The Kurdish Institute said that the Turkish State has criminalized the Kurdish emancipatory movement in the broad sense as “terrorist.” It also added that EU countries during the 1990s were critical of Turkey’s policies, but after 2001 they adopted similar policies and designations.
“That criminalization has been the pretext for massive violations of fundamental rights, such as the right to expression, the freedom of association, the right not to be tortured and the right to life of those who stood up for the rights of the Kurds in Turkey.”
“It has also led to massive military campaigns against the Kurdish population such as the one at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 during which several Kurdish cities were completely destroyed and during which war crimes were committed on a massive scale by the Turkish security forces, all of this in the name of ‘struggle against terrorism’.”
NAV-BEL welcomed the historical decision as well, adding that it hoped the EU's designation for the PKK would now be questioned, arguing, “The EU terrorist list often encourages anti-democratic regimes to criminalize and suppress the internal opposition rather than preventing terrorism.”
However, Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin in a press release on Wednesday said that the Belgian government still sees the PKK as a terrorist organization, adding that the court ruling is independent of the Belgian government and that members of the PKK can still be prosecuted for criminal offenses.
Goffin said that Belgium, just like the European Union, the US, and Canada, continues to list the PKK as a “terrorist organization.”
He also added that Belgium is determined to maintain its relations with Turkey.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the decision by the Court of Cassation, suggesting it contradicts EU legislation and international obligations from UN Security Council Resolutions, saying, “We urge Belgian government to take all necessary steps to correct this desperate and contradictory ruling.”
Senior Kurdish officials who were previously accused in Belgian proceedings, their lawyers, and European Parliament members, will all comment on the decision of the during a press conference scheduled for Thursday.
The Kurdish Institute said it hopes the court’s decision will lead toward “a more balanced approach towards the Kurdish-Turkish problem and a diplomatic initiative for a political solution.”
“As long as the EU and its members took the position that [the] PKK is “terrorist” and therefore that there is a “good” and a “bad” party in the conflict, that was impossible because terrorism can only be fought. A conflict, on the contrary, should be solved.”
Editing by John J. Catherine