CoE urged Turkey for immediate release of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala

(This article has been updated from 7th paragraph by UN expert Mary Lawlor’s statement.)

The Committee of Ministers of 47 members of the Council of Europe reiterated its call on Turkey to implement a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgement and immediately release philanthropist Osman Kavala on Wednesday.

If Kavala is not released, the committee of ministers affirmed their determination to ensure the implementation of the court’s judgment through all the means, including to initiate the violation process against Turkey under Article 46 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Despite the fact that it is legally binding, the Turkish government has not implemented a ECHR judgement which ordered the immediate release of Kavala.

On Dec. 10, 2019, the court ruled that by holding Kavala in pretrial detention since November 2017 and prosecuting him on the basis of his human rights activities, the Turkish authorities had “pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him as a human rights defender.”

The Court found that by using detention for political ends, Turkey had violated the right to liberty and other rights and had misused the discretion given to governments to impose limitations on rights for illegitimate purposes.

The Committee of Ministers in their meetings on June 7-9, 2021, reviewed Turkish government’s failure to implement the ECHR judgment.

Mary Lawlor, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders also urged Turkey on Thursday to stop using terrorism charges to turn human rights activist into criminals.

Lawlor called on Turkey to release imprisoned human rights defenders.

“I am greatly concerned that anti-terrorism laws are being used extensively to silence Turkish human rights defenders and disrupt their legitimate work defending human rights,” Lawlor said.

“The case of Osman Kavala, a businessman and human rights defender, is emblematic of a pattern of judicial harassment against human rights defenders in Turkey.”

Kavala, a prominent businessman and human rights defender, faces life in prison for seeking to overthrow the constitutional order and a further 20 years if convicted on additional espionage charges.

He 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 re-arrested on new charges of espionage and plotting a coup attempt in July 2016, before he could be released. In January 2021, the Court of Appeals overturned the acquittal ruling.