Humanitarian Law Project
Urges Nobel Committee to Award 98 Peace Prize to Leyla Zana

Humanitarian Law Project/ International Educational Development
8124 West Third Street, Suite 105
Los Angeles, CA 90048
May 28, 1998

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee
Nobelinstituttet Drammensvein 19 N-0255
Oslo, Norway

Dear Committee Members:

The Humanitarian Law Project urges the Committee to issue its Nobel Peace Prize to Leyla Zana of Turkey.

Ms. Zana personifies the finest qualities of a people struggling to sustain their cultural birthrights through peaceful means against armed, aggressive and oppressive government forces. The Kurds form the world¹s largest cultural group without a homeland, since the soil they have occupied for millennia was divided among states created in the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the Treaty of Serves, which promised them a plebiscite to determine their own destiny was abrogated by the 1923 treaty of Lausanne. Some twenty million Kurds live in what is now Turkey, where special armed forces deny them liberties proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Leyla Zana has crusaded for equal rights and against the destruction of Kurdish villages, dislocation of millions of her fellow Kurds, and the arbitrary arrests, torture, degrading treatment, detention, summary executions, and denial of their rights to express themselves in their own language and customs by the Turkish government.

In October, 1991, Leyla Zana was elected to the Turkish parliament from the Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP). In the following year, she joined other Kurdish deputies, including Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and Orhan Dogan -- these three are now imprisoned with her -- and formed People¹s Labor Party, (HEP). In 1993, HEP was closed down, forcing Leyla and her deputy friend to form another party, Democracy Party, DEP. On March 2, 1994, Leyla Zana was imprisoned together with a five other Kurdish deputies and held in communicado detention for 12 to 14 days before being committed to prison.

Detention unsupervised by a Judge constitutes a breach of Article 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (On November 26, 1997 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that their incommunicado detention was unlawful and breached Turkey¹s commitments under the Convention). The five deputies were brought to trial at Ankara State Security Court on August 3, 1994. They were charged with aiding the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The testimony connecting to the PKK was found by Amnesty International to be ³highly suspect ... obtained from people who themselves faced persecution, but who had turned state¹s evidence in return for a lighter punishment, or from people who later retracted their statements claiming that these had been extracted under torture.² (In Turkey, the colors of their clothes: parliamentary deputies serve 15 years imprisonment for expressions of Kurdish political identity, Amnesty International, December, 1997). Amnesty International named all four deputies ²Prisoners of Conscience.² id.

On December 8. 1994, Ms. Zana and the three other deputies were convinced by the Turkish courts of membership in the PKK, and sentenced to 15 years prison. Although, in the last few weeks, the Prime Minister of Turkey offered to pardon Ms. Zana, she refused to accept being singled out for special favors, and would not leave prison unless the pardon was extended to her co- parliamentarians, Mr. Dicle, Mr. Sadak and Mr. Dogan.

From her prison cell, Leyla Zana has become the pre-eminent spokesperson for indigenous people who are oppressed in their homelands, calling out for a peaceful resolution of conflict that has consumed Turkey since 1923.

The Humanitarian Law Project (³HLP²) is a non profit organization formed initially as a component of the Archbishop Oscar Romero Relief Fund, and then merged into the International Educational Development, Inc. (IED) a group created in the 1950¹s by a group of Jesuit Fathers for charitable and educational purposed, to serve as the secular arm of their overseas projects. The IED was chartered as a Non-Governmental Organization (³NGO²) of the United Nations by Dag Hammarsjold with consultative status to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, a role HLP sustains in regular participation in Geneva, advocating peaceful resolution and armed conflict situations and universal adherence to humanitarian law.


Ralph D. Fertig