Council of Europe takes Turkey to court

Status: 03.02.2022 1:25 p.m

In the dispute over the imprisoned cultural patron Kavala, the Council of Europe has now turned to the European Court of Human Rights. Should Turkey have violated its obligation to release the publisher, sanctions are threatened.

In the dispute over the imprisoned Turkish cultural promoter Osman Kavala, possible sanctions by the Council of Europe against Ankara are getting closer. The Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg asked the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to clarify whether Turkey had breached its obligation to implement a previous judgment on the case. The Council of Europe officially announced Wednesday’s decision today.

The background is Ankara’s continued refusal to release Kavala. Should the ECtHR come to the conclusion that Turkey has not implemented its Kavala judgment, the Committee of Ministers would have to decide on further steps or sanctions. However, it is not specified what that would be. An exclusion is considered the sharpest weapon, but rather unlikely.

Release already ordered in 2019

The publisher and cultural promoter Kavala has been in Turkish custody since November 2017 for alleged anti-state activities. In a trial in Istanbul, he is accused of attempted coup in connection with the 2013 Gezi protests and “political and military espionage” in connection with the 2016 coup attempt. Kavala strictly rejects the allegations.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the immediate release of the human rights activist around two years ago and classified the detention as politically motivated. As a member country of the Council of Europe, Turkey is obliged to implement final decisions of the Strasbourg court.

Erdogan: “We don’t care”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized the Council of Europe’s current decision: “What the Human Rights Court, what the Council of Europe says, doesn’t interest us. We expect our courts to be treated with respect.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry had already accused the Committee of Ministers of being biased and interfering in independent court processes in Turkey. The fact that the Kavala case is still on the agenda is “far from good will,” it said.

prospects for accession are dwindling

The Council of Europe, which monitors compliance with human rights in its 47 member states, initiated infringement proceedings against Turkey at the beginning of December. At that time, the Committee of Ministers also informed Ankara about bringing the Kavala case before the Human Rights Court. The government in Ankara was given until January 19 to comment on the matter.

According to the EU’s foreign service, the case against Turkey is clouding the country’s prospects of EU membership. Ankara’s refusal to accept the Human Rights Court’s ruling sets a “worrying precedent. Turkey’s stance runs counter to its own obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and as a candidate for EU membership.

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