Turkey should comply with ECHR ruling to release Osman Kavala – rights watchdogs

Turkey should immediately release businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, in compliance with the decision made by Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on Sept. 3, a group of prominent human rights groups said in a joint statement on Monday.

The statement, published on Human Rights Watch’s website, was also signed by the International Commission of Jurists and the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project.

Kavala was arrested in November 2017 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government by allegedly funding the 2013 anti-government protests centred around Gezi Park.

The philanthropist was acquitted by a Turkish court in February this year, but before he could be released, he was arrested again on charges of aiding and abetting a failed military coup in July 2016. A third arrest came on March 9 on espionage charges.

In a detailed submission made to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on June 10, the three human rights groups argued that the sequence of events and repeated local court decisions to ensure Kavala’s detention, despite a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, demonstrated that Turkey was prolonging the violations found by the European Court.

The ECHR ruled in December 2019 that Kavala’s rights to liberty and security had been violated over his internment, which was not based on sufficient evidence, and his arrest had been for ulterior motives.

On Friday, the Council of Europe called on Turkey to implement the ECHR’s judgement and immediately release Kavala.

“The decision by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers confirms our submission that political considerations are behind the court orders prolonging Osman Kavala’s detention, and that there has been a concerted official effort to prevent Kavala’s release,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director at Human Rights Watch, in the joint statement. “Instead of complying with the European Court’s judgment, Turkey has continued to violate Kavala’s human rights.”

Roisin Pillay, director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme at the International Commission of Jurists, said that ECHR rulings were binding and said Kavala should be “released immediately”.

Ayşe Bingöl Demir, co-director of the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, labelled a series of charges thrown at Kavala a “campaign of persecution”. The failure to release the philanthropist and drop all charges against him had “perpetuated a chilling environment for all human rights defenders in Turkey”, she said.

“Ending this blatantly unlawful detention, which has been ongoing for over 1,000 days, will not only play a role in preventing further violations to Osman Kavala’s rights, it will also give a strong signal to the human rights defenders community that the oversight mechanisms in place to ensure Turkey’s compliance with its international human rights obligations can still be effective.”