Turkey’s response to UN letter on Kavala case does not address allegations: UN special rapporteurs

Jailed businessman Osman Kavala

Turkey’s response to a joint letter sent by UN special rapporteurs in September on the case of Osman Kavala, a prominent businessman and philanthropist who has been jailed since October 18, 2017, did not address the allegations contained in the communication, UN special rapporteurs said in a statement on Friday.

SCF on Thursday reported on Turkey’s diplomatic letter stating that Ankara will not provide further information to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on its communication (Ref: AL TUR 8/2022).

“The refusal of Türkiye to abide by the judgement appears to furthermore be a direct attack on the credibility of the ECtHR [European Court of Human Rights],” the joint statement said, adding that the Kavala case could have a chilling effect on individuals who wish to express themselves, demonstrate peacefully, assemble and participate in public and political life in Turkey.

In its diplomatic letter, dated November 10 and sent by the Turkish Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva to the OHCHR, the Turkish government accused Mary Lawlor, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, of “[resorting] to … a hasty press release,” displaying “a prejudging attitude on the issue without hearing the observations of the [Turkish] Government” and reaching “a unilateral conclusion.”

“For these reasons, the [Turkish] Government has decided to refrain from providing further information on the communication AL TUR 8/2022,” the letter said.

In September four UN special rapporteurs sent a joint letter (Ref. AL TUR 8/2022) to the Turkish government and expressed their concern regarding the apparent denial of justice for Kavala. The UN officials urged Turkey to respect the decision and legitimacy of ECtHR and requested information on the factual and legal basis of the charges and conviction of Kavala.

The UN letter was signed by Lawlor, Vice Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Mumba Malila, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan and Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Clement Nyaletsossi Voule.

Turkey has refused to release Kavala despite a 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’s (CoE) Committee of Ministers to launch an infringement procedure against Turkey in February, which is still ongoing.

Kavala, who had been behind bars since October 18, 2017, was acquitted in February 2020 of charges of attempting to overthrow the government through involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park protests.

Kavala was rearrested the same day of his release on charges related to a 2016 abortive putsch in Turkey in a move described by his lawyers as a tactic to circumvent the court’s 2019 ruling to free him.

An İstanbul court on April 25 sentenced Kavala to aggravated life and his co-defendants to 18 years each on charges of financing the anti-government Gezi Park protests, sparking criticism from international community.

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