European rights court says Turkey failed to comply with its Kavala judgement

Photo: HRW

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) said Turkey failed to comply with a binding judgment of the court in December 2019 which found that businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala’s detention violated his fundamental rights, Turkish Minute reported on Monday.

An İstanbul court on April 25 sentenced Kavala, who had been behind bars without a conviction for over four years, to aggravated life and his co-defendants to 18 years each on charges of instigating the anti-government Gezi Park protests in 2013.

Turkey has refused to release Kavala despite the 2019 ECtHR ruling that found his detention was in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” that of silencing him as a human rights defender. The non-implementation of the ruling prompted the Council of Europe (CoE) Committee of Ministers to launch an infringement procedure against Turkey in February, which is still ongoing.

Today’s ECtHR judgment came in response to a question by the Committee of Ministers as to whether Turkey had complied with the court’s ruling.

“The European Court of Human Rights, in its judgment released today, has confirmed the Committee of Ministers’ view that by not having ensured Osman Kavala’s release after the Court’s first judgment in his case, Türkiye has failed to fulfil its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. We welcome today’s judgment which provides a definitive answer on this point. We renew our call for the immediate release of Mr Kavala,” the Committee of Ministers said following the judgment.

The ECtHR ruled that Turkey rearresting Kavala on the same day a court ordered his release in 2020 was not based on new evidence, as required by a lawful rearrest, but had been “based on facts that were similar, or even identical, to those that the Court had already examined in the Kavala judgment.”

The ECtHR said in a press release on the judgment that it concluded Turkey did not act in “good faith”

“The Court considered that the measures indicated by Türkiye did not permit it to conclude that the State Party had acted in ‘good faith’, in a manner compatible with the ‘conclusions and spirit’ of the Kavala judgment, or in a way that would have made practical and effective the protection of the Convention rights which the Court had found to have been violated in that judgment,” the ECtHR said.

The Strasbourg court also held that Turkey was to pay Kavala 7,500 euros in costs and expenses.

Following the judgment, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Ankara’s expectations that “the ECtHR assess the matter on a fair basis and not act as a first instance court” were not met.

The Strasbourg court “has unfortunately failed to meet our expectations by the decision announced today (11 July 2022) and once again called into question the credibility of the European human rights system,” the ministry said.

A leading figure in Turkey’s civil society, 64-year-old Kavala was born in Paris, educated in the UK and ran a cultural center before being thrust to prominence. He was accused of financing protests against then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government during large-scale protests in 2013 and involvement in a failed military coup in 2016.

Kavala’s plight had soured relations between Ankara and Western nations, and a diplomatic crisis was triggered last year when Turkey threatened to expel 10 Western ambassadors, including the US envoy, after they demanded Kavala’s release.

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