ECHR’s decision on Osman Kavala: Osman Kavala should be released immediately

In December 10th, Human Rights Day, European Court of Human Rights declared that Osman Kavala’s application admissible as regards the complaints under Article 5 §§ 1 and 3 (lack of reasonable suspicion and of relevant and sufficient reasons), Article 5 § 4 (lack of a speedy judicial review by the Constitutional Court) and Article 18 of the Convention. The court ordered that Turkey was to take all necessary measures to put an end to the Osman Kavala’s detention and to secure his immediate release.

Osman Kavala was arrested in October 18th 2017, and has been in prison for more than 2 years. His case is still in process. Allegedly, he tried to overthrow the Turkish Government and abolish the constitutional order in Turkey. ECHR’s decision proves three points that all the human right defenders has been pointing out since Osman Kavala’s arrest:

  1. The lack of reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed an offence (Article 5/1 of the convention)
  2. The lack of a speedy judicial review by the Constitutional Court (Article 5/4 of the convention)
  3. Turkish state intentionally attempts to silence Osman Kavala who is a human right activists and philanthropist (Article 18 of the convention).

Turkey is a party of European Convention on Human Rights. And ECHR’s decisions are binding on Turkey. After the court’s decision, Turkish courts must immediately free Osman Kavala. Turkey’s insistence on keeping Osman Kavala in prison is not only a violation of human rights but also an illegal act by Turkish state.

The main cause used by Turkish authorities to arrest Osman Kavala is that he provided financial helps to Gezi events. However, Osman Kavala was arrested four years after Gezi Events. Turkish Government cannot explain why they waited for four years to arrest Osman Kavala, if there was already crime. Turkish courts still cannot provide any concrete evidence on Osman Kavala’s alleged crimes. That is why the ECHR declared that there was a lack of reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed an offence.

Osman Kavala is a renowned philanthropist, businessman and human rights activist.

Osman Kavala has appealed to his arrest and applied to Turkish Constitutional Court. However, the Constitutional Court made decision 1 year 4 months after his application. This is clearly a very late processing period. Therefore, ECHR holded that there was a lack of speedy judicial review by the Constitutional Court.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights believes that the Osman Kavala’s arrest, as well as his initial and continued detention, without an indictment for more than 400 days as of the time of writing of the present submission, should be seen against a backdrop of continuously increasing pressure on civil society and human rights defenders in Turkey in recent years.

The third party intervention by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights points out that regarding the practice of prosecutors, the Commissioner’s predecessor had pointed to the problem of indictments, expressing concern about the fact that they can become overly long, sometimes running into thousands of pages, especially in cases relating to terrorism and organized crime, owing to the fact that they are often limited to “a compilation of pieces of evidence, such as long, indiscriminate transcripts of many wire-tapped telephone conversations, some of which reportedly bear little relevance to the offense in question”.

Inclusion of the “limitation on use of restrictions on rights” article 18 (the restrictions permitted under this Convention to the said rights and freedoms shall not be applied for any purpose other than those for which they have been prescribed) in the ECHR’s Kavala decision shows a very crucial point, that is, Turkish judiciary system is extremely political.

Osman Kavala’s case is also expected to be a topic in upcoming German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey. Andrew Gardner, a Turkey researcher for  Amnesty  International, has called on German Chancellor Angele Merkel to raise the issue of jailed philanthropist and human activist Osman Kavala during her meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 24 in Istanbul.

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