The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (CoM) voted on Wednesday to start infringement proceedings against Turkey over its non-compliance with a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of human rights defender Osman Kavala who has been incarcerated in Turkey since October 2017.
The ECHR had ruled in December 2019 that the European Convention on Human Rights was violated in the Kavala case and called for Kavala’s immediate release. The ECHR had concluded that Kavala’s arrest was based on political motives, without any reasonable evidence backing the charges.
After repeated calls by the Counsel of Ministers on Turkey to implement the ECHR ruling, and Turkey’s insistence on keeping Kavala jailed, the Committee voted to send the case back to the ECHR for a legal opinion on whether Turkey has met its obligations to comply with the judgment. If the European Court confirms that Turkey has failed to implement its judgment, the CoM may then take measures against Turkey, including suspending Turkey’s voting rights in the Council of Europe and even ending its membership
Turkey is the second country in the history of the Council of Europe to be subjected to infringement proceedings after Azerbaijan who had been the first country in 2017 to be subjected to the process for refusing to release jailed opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov.
In another case concerning imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, Turkey’s non-compliance with a similar ECHR ruling will be reviewed in the meetings of the CoM on 8-10 March.
Demirtaş was incarcerated in November 2016 while he was serving as the co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and an MP in the Turkish parliament.
He has not been released despite an ECHR decision in 2020 that in detaining Demirtaş and then prolonging his detention for over four years, the Turkish government has pursued an ulterior purpose of preventing him from carrying out his political activities, depriving voters of their elected representative, and ‘stifling pluralism’ and ‘limiting freedom of political debate’. The Court had ordered the immediate release of Demirtaş.
The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reacted on Thursday to the Committee’s move: “There is a decision concerned here which was taken by our courts, and in this case we are not interested in what the ECHR is saying. We want our courts to be respected. We have no respect for those who do not respect our courts.”