The Council of Europe (CoE) voted to start infringement proceedings against Turkey over the case of jailed philanthropist and civil society activist Osman Kavala on Thursday, Euronews reported.
Kavala has been behind bars for over four years, and Turkish courts have refused to implement several European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings for his release.
The decision to launch infringement proceedings was voted at the meeting of the CoE Committee of Ministers, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of ECHR rulings.
A majority of at least two thirds is necessary for the process to start. On Thursday’s vote, 32 of 47 CoE members voted in favour of the process starting, clearing the necessary majority easily, Euronews said.
The Committee of Ministers must respect and trust the judicial procedure in Turkey, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement responding to the vote. The ministry said:
“In accordance with the principle of respect for ongoing judicial procedures in our country, we invite the CoE to refrain from continuing with this decision, which would constitute an intervention on the independent judiciary.”
According to the ministry, Turkey has implemented 128 ECHR rulings in 2021, and 3,674 rulings in total. “Our country, a founding member of the Council of Europe, is aware of its responsibilities arising from the European Convention on Human Rights,” it said, adding:
“We believe the Kavala ruling in particular being kept on the agenda constantly to be an incoherent approach, while there are rulings older than the Kavala decision against other countries and on other matters.”
The ministry said ECHR mechanisms being put in practice “not according to a lawful and just understanding but over political considerations against certain countries” would harm the CoE’s reputation. It also called on the Committee to “handle the implementation of ECHR rulings in a neutral approach regarding all member states”.
A Turkish court last Friday ruled to continue Kavala’s arrest. He is expected to remain in prison until his next hearing on Jan. 17.
The ECHR’s 2019 ruling stated that by holding Kavala in pretrial detention and prosecuting him on the basis of his human rights activities, Turkish authorities had “pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him as a human rights defender.” Turkey was convicted on articles 5 and 18 of the ECHR, violating Kavala’s right to liberty and abusing governmental discretion to impose legitimate limitations on rights.
Infringement proceedings of this kind have only been used by the council once before against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan eventually implemented the ECHR ruling.