Europe’s top human rights body has no plans to sanction Turkey over failure to free Kavala

Europe’s top human rights body has no plans to sanction Turkey over failure to free Kavala
Despite a ECtHR ruling, Turkey has refused to free Kavala, seen addressing a crowd near Istanbul's Taksim Square in 2015. / Janbazian, cc-by-sa 4.0
By bne IntelliNews April 28, 2024

The Committee of Ministers of Europe’s top human rights body, the Council of Europe (CoE), has no plans to impose sanctions on Turkey for failing to comply with European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings calling for the release of businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, T24 has reported.

A reporter for the news website and a group of other journalists gathered in Strasbourg spoke with Daniel Holtgen, the council’s director of communications and spokesperson of the CoE secretary general.

Despite the initiation of CoE infringement proceedings against Turkey, there is “no willingness on the part of member states to impose sanctions”, Holtgen was cited as saying.

He was also reported as stating that while the diplomatic language against Ankara had become “increasingly harsh,” the possibility of issuing sanctions or the discussion of expelling Turkey from the CoE—which last October awarded Kavala its top human rights prize—had not materialised.

Any country that wishes to join the European Union de facto requires CoE membership. Though Turkey’s application to join the bloc looks unlikely to progress any time soon, the loss of its CoE membership would be a huge blow to remaining hopes of reviving the EU accession process.

Holtgen, T24 said, framed the infringement procedure as initiated to send a signal to Turkey, rather than as a prelude to expelling the country from the CoE.

“No member state official called for the termination of Turkey’s membership even when the procedure was initiated,” Holtgen was further reported as saying, adding that the subsequent outbreak of the war in Ukraine and the multiple crises facing CoE member states meant a maintaining of solidarity was required rather than diverting attention.

In March, the CoE Committee of Ministers declared Turkey was in “serious breach” of the European Convention on Human Rights and rule of law principles due to the continued imprisonment of Kavala.

The committee reiterated its deep concern and the need for Turkey to take all necessary steps to ensure the immediate release of Kavala and others detained under similar circumstances.

The committee is scheduled to further examine the relevant cases in meetings set for June and September.

Kavala, 66, faces charges including espionage, financing the “Gezi Park” anti-government protests in 2013 and taking part in the failed 2016 coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He was arrested in 2017 and in 2022 sentenced to life in prison for allegedly trying to topple Erdogan’s administration by organising the Gezi Park protests.

The ECtHR judgement in Kavala’s case in December 2019 found his detention to be arbitrary, politically motivated and in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” namely that of silencing him as a human rights defender.

Turkey failed to implement the 2019 ruling. In response, the CoE Committee of Ministers launched the infringement procedure against Ankara in February 2022.