It is with considerable regret that Amnesty International can confirm that just before 10pm on Friday 26 April, a group of approximately 40 protesters entered the offices of the organisation’s International Secretariat in London.
Police were called to the scene as the view was taken that the safety of staff in the office could no longer be assured. The police assessed the situation and took action to remove those protesters inside the building. Some individuals were arrested at the scene.
This entire episode has been deeply disturbing. Throughout the protest we continually repeated our willingness to engage with the protesters and invited a delegation to meet with us, after we had had the opportunity to review the information they gave us.
Amnesty International made it clear to the protesters that, though unwelcome, we were prepared to tolerate their presence on our property and allow them to protest in our reception area if carried out peacefully. However, we couldn’t allow them to enter further into the building as this could pose a security risk to staff and jeopardize the integrity of the building. It is with great regret that as events unfolded we came to the conclusion that we had no other option but to seek the support of the police to protect our staff and the building.
The protest started on 24 April, after a number of representatives from Kurdish organisations staged a sit-in in the lobby of the office of Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in London. The next day approximately 30 people entered into the reception area of the building.
On Thursday 25 April, mindful of the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff we reluctantly made the decision to close the building. This resulted in 300 plus staff being unable to access the office, which has caused significant disruption to our ability to carry out human rights work.
By Friday afternoon the number of protesters had reduced to nine. However, later in the evening a further 80 protesters arrived at the office and 40 entered the building.
The groups were asking for a statement by Amnesty International about the ongoing prison hunger strikes with the demand that the leader of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, held in İmralı Prison, is granted regular access to his family and lawyers. We were and still are actively looking into the information provided about alleged rights violations against hunger strikers in prisons.
Amnesty International opposes solitary confinement and small group isolation in prisons in Turkey, and around the world. These are serious violations of prisoners’ rights.
Amnesty International is acutely aware of the hunger strikes, which started in Turkey in November 2018 and the plight of the hunger strikers. However, to report on any human rights violations, Amnesty International has to independently verify allegations and requires consent of the individuals concerned.
During the course of the occupation protesters made a number of allegations accusing Amnesty International of infringing their human rights by denying them water, fresh air and toilet facilities. We categorically refute these allegations.
There is a fresh air circulation system in the reception area which they were occupying, and they were provided with water and food on request.
Our office toilet facilities are in the heart of the building, and in the interests of security and the integrity of the office, we could not grant them access to those. They were free to leave the building whenever they wished to use the many amenities a short distance from our office.
This statement was updated on 29 April 2019 as we understand that some of the protesters are now the subject of live criminal investigation. We are unable to comment in detail on events as this jeopardizes their right to a fair trial, which is a criminal offence in the UK.