Council of Europe starts infringement process against Turkey

February 3, 2022
Osman Kavala © 2017 Private
Osman Kavala © 2017 Private

The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers voted on 2 February, 2022 to begin infringement proceedings against Turkey. Human Rights Watch called it an important step to support human rights protection in Turkey and uphold the international human rights framework. The resolution concerns Turkey’s failure over the past two years to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in which the Court ruled that Turkey should free human rights defender Osman Kavala and fully restore his rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/18/kavala-saga-continues-turkish-court-keeps-philanthropist-in-prison/

The Committee of Ministers’ vote to pursue infringement proceedings against Turkey for its politically motivated, arbitrary detention of human rights defender Osman Kavala shows a resolve to uphold the international human rights law framework on which the Council of Europe is based,” said Aisling Reidy, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. “The resolution sends a reminder to all Council of Europe member states that European Court of Human Rights judgments are binding, and it is an important acknowledgement of Turkey’s rule of law crisis.

The Committee voted to send the case of Kavala v Turkey back to the European Court of Human Rights for a legal opinion on whether Turkey has met its obligations to comply with the judgment. If the European Court confirms – as it is expected to do – that Turkey has failed to implement its judgment, the Committee of Ministers may then take additional measures against Turkey.

These could include ultimately suspending Turkey’s voting rights in the Council of Europe and could even jeopardize Turkey’s membership. Turkey is the second country in Council of Europe history to be subjected to the sanction process for breaching member states’ obligations to implement European Court of Human Rights judgments. (first time was in 2017 against Azerbaijan in the case of Ilgar Mammadov).

The Kavala judgment is legally binding, yet the Turkish authorities have snubbed the Strasbourg court and ignored the decisions of the Committee of Ministers, which represents the Council’s 47 member states, calling for his release and the full restoration of his rights. Ankara has already reacted as expexted: it has accused the Council of Europe of “interfering in an ongoing judicial process

The Turkish courts and prosecutors have engaged in a series of tactics to circumvent the authority of the European Court and the Council of Europe, using domestic court decisions to prolong Kavala’s detention and extend the life of baseless prosecutions. The courts have issued sham release orders, initiated multiple criminal proceedings against Kavala on the same facts, and separated and re-joined case files accusing him of bogus offenses.

In 2021, Turkey merged the proceedings against Kavala with an entirely separate and much older case against football fans and others charged with a demonstration during 2013 protests a few kilometers away from Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

Turkey’s international partners, in particular countries that supported the infringement vote, should make it clear that Turkey’s continued failure to implement the Court’s judgment and to release Osman Kavala would have consequences on their relations with Turkey. In particular, the European Union should tie its proposed “positive agenda” with Turkey to Kavala’s release and make respect for rights a prerequisite for opening talks on the Customs Union modernization that Turkey is seeking.

Turkey knows that the European Court’s judgments are binding but has chosen to defy its obligations and the rule of law,” Reidy said. “Through the infringement proceedings and engagement from other countries, that needs to change, and Turkey should free Osman Kavala immediately and restore all of his rights.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/02/turkey-council-europe-votes-infringement-process

https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-slams-council-of-europe-for-intervening-in-ongoing-kavala-case-171229

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