Turkey’s violation of Osman Kavala’s rights intensifies - HRW

The Council of Europe should uphold European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgments against Turkey concerning jailed Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been held in pretrial detention since November 2017, and punish the country if it fails to release him, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

Three non-governmental organisations - Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project - submitted the recommendation to the council’s Committee of Ministers, which will review the ECHR ruling on Kavala case on March 9-11, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The ECHR ruled for Kavala’s release in December 2019, but the Turkish courts have refused to comply, despite Turkey’s constitution requiring them to do so.

Keeping Kavala behind bars is “utterly wrong” and compliance with ECHR rulings is a “binding requirement” and “not a kind request”, Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejčinović Burić said in a Parliamentary Assembly session in January.

The judges and prosecutors involved in the Kavala case have violated criminal procedural rules by extending Kavala’s detention, which is based on his alleged involvement in the Istanbul Gezi Park protests of 2013 and a failed military coup in July 2016, the organisations said in the submission, HRW reported.

If the Committee of Ministers triggers the process, the Kavala case would be referred again to the ECHR for a further opinion. If the ECHR confirms its earlier ruling that Turkey has failed to comply with an order to release him, then the Committee of Ministers can implement measures such as suspending Turkey’s voting rights or membership of the Council of Europe, HRW said.

The Committee of Ministers has already issued two decisions on the case and in December 2020, called on Turkey to comply with the ECHR’s decision and unconditionally release Kavala. However, since then, Turkish courts have ruled to keep Kavala in jail four more times, it said.

“It is crucial for the Committee of Ministers, at its March session, to leave the Turkish government in no doubt that European Court of Human Rights judgments are binding on Turkey and that persistent failure to implement the ruling in Osman Kavala’s case constitutes a serious breach requiring exceptional measures,” said Aisling Reidy, a senior adviser at HRW.

Kavala was originally arrested in 2017 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government by funding and organising the massive anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013, which began over the planned destruction of a small urban park in Istanbul.

A lower court acquitted Kavala in February 2020, but he was arrested on renewed charges of espionage before he could be released. In January 2021, the Court of Appeals overturned the acquittal ruling.