No punitive action from Council of Europe against Turkey in Kavala and Demirtas cases

No punitive action from Council of Europe against Turkey in Kavala and Demirtas cases
Kavala addresses a crowd near Istanbul's Taksim Square in 2015. / Janbazian, cc-by-sa 4.0
By bne IntelliNews March 20, 2024

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has declared Turkey in “serious breach” of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and rule of law principles in response to its continued detention of businessman, philanthropist and human rights defender Osman Kavala.

The Council, Europe’s top human rights body, released a statement on the move but did not publicise it with a press release. Many critics of the Erdogan regime have called for Turkey to be booted out of the Council given what they say is its stark disregard for human rights, European law and the rule of law. Council membership is required by any country that hopes to advance its application to join the European Union.

In refraining from taking immediate punitive measures against Turkey in the infringement proceeding, the Council chose a path that emphasises dialogue and cooperation, despite Turkey’s continued failure to comply with European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings calling for the immediate release of detainees including Kavala and former co-leader of the pro- Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (or HDP, now the Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party, or DEM), ex-MP and human rights lawyer Selahattin Demirtas.

The Council’s Committee of Ministers said it planned to resume the examination of the Kavala and Demirtas cases in June and September of this year. Kavala has been jailed since late 2017, and Demirtas since late 2016.

​Demirtas was detained while a serving MP in November 2016 after his parliamentary immunity was lifted (Credit: VoA).

The committee reviewed Turkey’s failure to comply with ECtHR judgements in the Kavala and Demirtas cases during its 1,492nd meeting held from March 12 to 14.

It expressed deep concern over Kavala’s nearly six-and-a-half years of detention, despite the ECtHR demand for his immediate release.

The rulings underscored the absence of reasonable suspicion in his arrest and pretrial detention, deemed to pursue the ulterior motive of silencing him and deterring other defenders of human rights.

The committee’s decisions stressed the need for Ankara to take all necessary steps to ensure Kavala and Demirtas’ immediate release, including exploring judicial and other means within the Turkish legal system.

The committee also called on Turkey to adopt measures ensuring the independence of its judiciary and respect for parliamentary immunity. Turkey’s Erdogan regime does not stop short of prosecuting and jailing serving lawmakers.

The Council last October awarded its top human rights award, the Vaclav Havel Prize, to Kavala.

Turkey’s foreign ministry responded by accusing the Council of pursuing a “political agenda”.

Kavala is sometimes described, including by Erdogan, as the “Turkish George Soros”. The Jewish multi-billionaire philanthropist Soros, whose Open Society Foundations support liberal, democratic causes, is a bogeyman for the hard right around the world, accused of being an evil mastermind behind a global conspiracy.