Türkiye: Following new European Court judgment, Osman Kavala must be immediately freed and acquitted of all charges

Türkiye’s authorities must immediately free human rights defender and philanthropist Osman Kavala, after a damning judgment of the European Court of Human Rights held the State did not act in good faith by keeping him behind bars despite a previous ruling of the Court requiring his release.

Today, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Türkiye in the second ever infringement proceedings case before it, holding that the continued detention of Osman Kavala violated the State’s obligation to abide by the binding judgments of the European Court under Article 46.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Osman Kavala must be freed today and acquitted of all charges against him”, said Roisin Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme, “Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are legally binding. They must be complied with and cannot be allowed to be intentionally circumvented. It is the respect of the rule of law in Europe that is at stake here.”

The Court ruled that Türkiye had failed to comply with its previous ruling because Osman Kavala’s latest conviction and detention was based on his involvement in the protests concerning Gezi Park, the same conduct in respect of which his previous detention had been found to be arbitrary. The Court affirmed its previous finding that Osman Kavala had been detained arbitrarily and for an improper purpose, in violation of Article 18 ECHR taken together with Article 5 ECHR and held that this finding “had vitiated any action resulting from the charges related to the Gezi Park events and the attempted coup.” (para 172).

“Now that the European Court has taken the serious step of finding a violation of the obligation to abide by its judgments, under Article 46 ECHR, the Turkish authorities are legally obliged to immediately comply. If they do not, it is the collective responsibility of the Member States of the Council of Europe to ensure that Türkiye does not defy the authority of the European Convention system with impunity” said Róisín Pillay.


The European Court ruled on December 10, 2019, 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, Türkiye had violated Kavala’s rights, including the right to liberty, and had abused the discretion given to governments to impose legitimate limitations on rights (articles 5 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights respectively). The Court took the rare step of ordering Osman Kavala’s immediate release.

The Kavala judgment is legally binding, yet the Turkish authorities have snubbed the Strasbourg court and ignored the decisions of the Committee of Ministers, representing the Council of Europe’s 46 member states, calling for his release and the full restoration of his rights.

The Turkish courts and prosecutors have however engaged in a series of tactics to circumvent the authority of the European Court and the Council of Europe. They have issued sham release orders, initiated multiple criminal proceedings against Kavala on the same facts, disjoined and re-joined case files accusing him of bogus offenses.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will have now to ensure that the first judgment as well as this latest judgment declaring the infringement of article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights are effectively executed by Türkiye.

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