Turkey-EU dispute over Kavala: Ankara should explain itself

Status: 01/19/2022 03:13 a.m

In the dispute over the imprisonment of cultural patron Osman Kavala, the dispute between Brussels and Ankara continues. Now the Council of Europe has set a new deadline for Turkey – and continues to threaten it with exclusion.

By Karin Senz, ARD Studio Istanbul

To date, the Council of Europe has given Ankara time to declare itself on infringement proceedings. It is a further step in the dispute between Turkey and the Council of Europe over cultural patron Osman Kavala, who has been in prison for more than four years on terror charges.

Karen Senz
ARD-Studio Istanbul

Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he should be released from custody immediately. Turkey has not complied, it sees this as interference in internal affairs. The Council of Europe therefore initiated infringement proceedings at the beginning of December. At the end of the day, he could exclude Turkey.

Court decides again and again: Kavala remains in custody

“From morning to night the same tune: Kavala…Kavala, Kavala…Kavala!” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fed up with the Osman Kavala case and all that it entails. He said so at the end of last year. And it shouldn’t be any different today. The responsible court in Istanbul has repeatedly ruled that the patron of the arts remains in prison – most recently last Monday. It follows Erdogan’s will, critics say.

Among them is Sezgin Tanrikulu. The member of parliament from the largest opposition party, CHP, is following the negotiation.

Turkey can hardly be harmed more with the help of judges and courts. There’s no other way to say it.

Turkey seems unimpressed

Some had hoped that the court would at least put Osman Kavala under house arrest this time. But Turkey also seems unimpressed by the infringement procedure launched by the Council of Europe in December. After all, she had already complied with the request of the European Court of Human Rights to release Kavala – in February 2020 after his surprising acquittal.

But there was a new procedure, government members argue again and again. The opposition politician Tanrikulu now expects a similar statement.

However, the European Court of Justice and the Council of Ministers remain convinced that the prosecution is based on the same evidence as in the first Kavala trial. And they won’t accept that.

Concern about the authority of court decisions

The Council of Europe will therefore have to press ahead with the expulsion procedure if members are to continue to take the judgments of the Human Rights Court seriously. Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, also from the CHP, said yesterday: “We have incorporated international law into our constitution. We have committed ourselves that when international courts make a decision, we will comply with it. But we don’t do it.”

Human Rights Watch Turkey representative Emma Sinclaire Webb was also in the courtroom Monday.

This is really a huge shame for Turkey. And the fact that Turkey is not even aware of this is really disturbing. And it’s destructive when it comes to the whole concept of international human rights legislation at the Council of Europe. And it is so destructive for Turkey itself to take this defiant course towards the Council of Europe.

Ankara complains of foreign interference

In addition to Emma Sinclaire Webb from the international human rights organization, the German Consul General in Istanbul, a representative of the Norwegian Consulate and representatives of German foundations are also observing the trial in the courtroom. That alone drives Devlet Bahceli crazy. He is the head of the ultra-nationalist MHP, which is part of the government in Turkey.

What are these foreign representatives doing in court? The Turkish judiciary is independent and neutral. No country will be able to control the Turkish judiciary or steer it in a certain direction!

Foreign countries interfere in internal affairs, Ankara complains again and again. That was disrespectful, Bahceli said yesterday in front of his parliamentary group.

Soon again detention date for Kavala

The Council of Ministers meets on February 2nd. He will probably decide on the next steps. The human rights activist Sinclaire-Webb doesn’t really want to imagine that the Turkish government will really remain stubborn to the end. “Turkey is showing in a variety of ways that it appreciates its membership in the Council of Europe. In Strasbourg you can see many Turkish delegations who regularly visit Council of Europe meetings. And Turkey also feels like an important member of the Council of Europe.”

After all, she has been there the longest, longer than Germany. Turkey will have more opportunities to stop the process, for example on February 10th. There’s Kavala’s next detention date.


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