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PACE calls on Türkiye to comply with binding judgments of the Strasbourg Court and ‘immediately release Osman Kavala, who remains unlawfully detained’

Petra BAYR (Autriche, SOC)

During an urgent debate, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting in Strasbourg in plenary session, called on Türkiye to “comply with binding judgments” of the European Court of Human Rights, and “to immediately release Osman Kavala, who remains unlawfully detained in Turkey”, emphasising that this case “is undermining the basis of the Convention system”.

Adopting a resolution based on the report by Petra Bayr (Austria, SOC), PACE deplored the fact that the Turkish authorities had, up until now, not released the human rights defender and philanthropist, “in spite of a clear judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in 2019 requiring his immediate release”.

PACE added that in a second judgment in July 2022 in the infringement proceedings – this being “extraordinarily rare” – the Strasbourg Court found that Türkiye had indeed failed to fulfil its obligation to abide by the 2019 judgment.

“The continued refusal by the Turkish authorities to execute this judgment is not only a personal tragedy for Osman Kavala and his family, but also a tragedy for the rule of law and justice in Türkiye,” the parliamentarians said.

Noting that Mr Kavala's aggravated life sentence was upheld in September 2023 by the Turkish Court of Cassation, PACE recalled that the Strasbourg Court had found “that there was no credible evidence to conclude that there existed a reasonable suspicion in support of the charges” against Osman Kavala, and established that his detention pursued “an ulterior purpose […] namely that of reducing him to silence”.

The parliamentarians also said they considered Osman Kavala fell within the Assembly's definition of “political prisoner”.

In light of these “exceptional circumstances”, PACE also believes that the time has now arrived to “take steps to initiate the complementary joint procedure foreseen in its Resolution 2319 (2020)”.

It called on member States to “apply, should Türkiye fail to release Osman Kavala, 'Magnitsky legislation' or other existing legal instruments to impose targeted sanctions against those officials, including prosecutors and judges, who are responsible for the unlawful and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Osman Kavala."

Furthermore, the Parliamentary Assembly recalled its ability to “challenge the credentials of the Turkish delegation at its first part-session of 2024”, if Osman Kavala was not released from prison by 1 January 2024.

Finally, PACE said it was ready to “work together closely with the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General and Türkiye in ensuring the execution of the Kavala judgment” and in securing the protection of the Convention system, and the credibility of the Organisation.

Last Monday, PACE awarded Osman Kavala the 11th Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights.