Three international rights organizations on Sept. 13 called on the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to trigger infringement proceedings against Turkey over the country's failure to release jailed human rights defender and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Commission of Jurists and the Turkey Litigation Support Project made the call in a submission to the Committee detailing details of the legal case against Kavala.
The call came a day before the Committee's Sept. 14-16 meeting.
The Committee is holding its quarterly meeting to oversee the execution of judgments and decisions from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Decisions taken by the Committee of Ministers during the meeting will be published on the Council of Europe website on Sept. 17.
The Committee oversees the execution of ECHR's judgments on the basis of information provided by the national authorities concerned, applicants, NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other interested parties.
“In the face of Turkey’s persistent and flagrant defiance of its obligation to implement the [Osman] Kavala judgment, the Committee of Ministers should trigger infringement proceedings against Turkey,” said Aisling Reidy, senior legal adviser at the HRW.
The HRW also urged the Committee of Ministers to pressure for the immediate release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, “with a commitment to escalating measures if it does not happen.”
“The Committee of Ministers should take note of the Turkish authorities’ repeated tactics in the Kavala and Demirtaş cases aimed at ensuring the prolongation of their unlawful detention and circumventing the authority of the European Court,” said Ayşe Bingöl Demir of the Turkey Litigation Support Project.
Although the ECHR has ordered Turkey to release both Kavala and Demirtaş from jail, Turkish authorities have snubbed the Strasbourg court.
In December 2019, the ECHR ruled that Kavala's arrest took place in the absence of sufficient evidence that he had committed an offence, in violation of his right to liberty and security under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ECHR also found that Kavala’s arrest pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him and dissuade other human rights defenders.
As for Demirtaş, the ECHR ruled in December 2020 that the former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair had his rights violated under five different categories, including freedom of expression and liberty.
The ECHR said it saw no evidence in decisions on Demirtaş’s detention that linked his actions and the alleged offenses.
Infringement proceedings can result in the suspension of Turkey's voting rights or membership in the Council of Europe, which Turkey joined in 1950.
The infringement proceedings against a Council of Europe member state were used for the first time in 2017 when the government of Azerbaijan continuously refused to secure the unconditional release of a wrongfully jailed opposition politician, Ilgar Mammadov.
Two-thirds of the Committee of Ministers need to vote to start infringement proceedings. Once the process is triggered, the case reverts to the ECHR for a further opinion on whether the state has met its obligations to comply with the judgment, according to the HRW.