Osman Kavala, the most famous detainee in Turkey, was the subject of a Council of Europe vote on Thursday.
The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers voted to start infringement proceedings against Turkey over their failure to free the human rights activist.
Turkey was ordered to free Kavala by the European Court of Human Rights two years ago. The country has since failed to make any progress in releasing the activist.
“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, a legal adviser who works with the 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 acknowledgment of Turkey’s rule of law crisis.”
The Committee has decided to present the case of Kavala v. Turkey again to the European Court of Human Rights to see whether they believe Turkey has followed through on the Court’s judgment. If the court finds that Turkey had not freed Kavala, the Committee of Ministers then has the ability to act against Turkey.
This could mean suspending Turkey’s voting rights in the Council of Europe or a loss of its membership altogether.
Ambassadors from Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the US had previously urged Turkey to recognize the Council’s decision.
In a joint statement, the ambassadors of the ten countries called on Turkey to follow the rulings of the human rights body it joined in 1950. “The continuing delays in his trial … cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law, and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system,” said the statement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a press conference on Thursday that Turkey would not respect the Council of Europe’s decision.
“What the ECHR has said, what the Council of Europe says, this doesn’t concern us much because we expect our courts to be respected…To those who don’t show this respect: excuse us, but we will have no respect for them either,” He said.
Kavala charged over 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan
Kavala, 64, was acquitted last year of charges linked to nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, but the ruling was overturned and joined to charges relating to a 2016 coup attempt.
International observers and human rights groups have repeatedly called for the release of Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who has been jailed since 2016.
They say their imprisonment is based on politics. Ankara denies the claims and insists that the Turkish courts are independent.
On September 17, the Council of Europe issued Turkey its final warning to release the 64-year-old entrepreneur, warning that infringement proceedings against Ankara would start at the end of November if Kavala was not released by then.
But Turkey, so far, has refused to acknowledge the ruling made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on December 10, 2019, which stated that the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated and therefore ordered Kavala to be released immediately.
The ECHR concluded that Kavala’s arrest was based on political motives, without any reasonable evidence backing the accusations. However, Turkish officials did not implement the decision and said the ECHR’s judgment was not final.