Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović on Thursday published her comments on the infringement proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), previously submitted to the court on April 6, in the case of jailed human rights activist and businessman Osman Kavala against the government of Turkey.
In her submission Mijatović said Turkish authorities had failed to abide by an ECtHR judgement by not releasing Kavala.
Sixty-four-year-old civil society leader Kavala, who has been kept in jail since 2017 without conviction of any crime, is accused of financing 2013 anti-government protests and playing a role in a 2016 coup attempt. If convicted, he could be jailed for life without the possibility of parole.
Mijatović noted that Turkish authorities have taken steps to circumvent the applicant’s right to liberty, having as a priority keeping him in detention, and that they have therefore not acted in good faith and in a manner incompatible with the “conclusions and spirit” of the judgment.
Repeated public statements by high-level officials against Kavala’s release confirm that “the applicant’s ongoing detention is motivated by the same ulterior purpose found by the Court,” she said.
In 2019 Mijatović also submitted an opinion against the Turkish government at the ECtHR. She described the incarceration of Kavala as part of increasing pressure in Turkey on the legitimate activities of human rights activists and civil society organizations.
Furthermore, Mijatović criticized the ineffectiveness of Turkey’s Constitutional Court as regards the legality of long periods of pre-detention.
According to her mandate, the commissioner fosters the effective observance of human rights and assists member states in the implementation of CoE human rights instruments.
Turkey refuses to release Kavala despite a binding judgment of the ECtHR in December 2019 finding that his detention for allegedly directing and financing the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and for alleged involvement in the failed coup of July 2016 was in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” that of silencing him as a human rights defender.
The CoE Committee of Ministers on February 1 decided to take action against Turkey due to the philanthropist’s continued imprisonment and ordered that the case be submitted to the ECtHR for review, officially beginning an infringement procedure against Turkey.
Kavala appeared before a court in March for the first time in months, only to have his case adjourned and his detention extended. The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court ruled for a continuation of his detention in a hearing on Friday.
In October 2021 the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the US, Germany and France, demanded Kavala’s immediate release in line with the 2019 ECtHR ruling. President Erdoğan threatened to expel the envoys before backing down.