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Osman Kavala | Calling for compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights

02 November 2022

November 2022 marks 5 years since the arbitrary arrest and detention of Osman Kavala, Turkish civil society activist, human rights defender and businessman turned political prisoner. Turkey has repeatedly refused to implement the European Court of Human Rights rulings calling to release Kavala, who is now facing a lifetime in prison.

In light of the most recent developments in Turkey and the 5 year anniversary of Kavala’s arrest, we want to bring attention to Turkey’s lack of implementation of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Promoting Compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights – Fighting for Free Speech and Against Political Persecution

In 2020, Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC), together with the European Implementation Network (EIN), started a project to improve the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court/the ECtHR) in Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, and to improve compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention/the ECHR) system. As an interim product of this project, a report was composed by Benan Molu, outlining the contemporary lack of implementation efforts within Turkey (find the full report here).


Although the judgments of the ECtHR are binding, statistics published by the Council of Europe bodies indicate that the above-mentioned states resist the implementation of violation judgments handed down under the freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 10 of the Convention, the freedom of assembly and association guaranteed under Article 11 of the Convention, and the limitation on use of restrictions on rights regulated in Article 18 of the Convention, which the above-mentioned states particularly use to suppress, silence and punish dissidents.

Indeed, according to the statistics of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which supervises the implementation of the ECtHR judgments; countries such as Russia and Turkey are the least implementing states of ECtHR judgments. This problem has become increasingly important in Turkey in recent years, especially due to the lack of implementation of the ECtHR’s violation judgments regarding the businessperson and human rights defender Osman Kavala and the opposition politician Selahattin Demirtaş. Especially the former’s conviction to a life-long sentence after the Council of Europe’s initiation of its infringement procedure against Turkey, demonstrates Turkey’s complete dismissal of the ECHR and the consequences of its undemocratic behaviour.

As part of the project, a seminar was organized by NHC and EIN in order to increase the awareness of lawyers and non-governmental organisations in Turkey and to share their experiences on Turkey’s ECtHR judgment violations. This report incorporates the topics discussed during this meeting and provides concrete recommendations for the necessary reforms to be made by the Turkish authorities and relevant local courts against the clearly inadequate steps taken so far in order to implement violation judgments. One of the main takeaways of the report is that civil society is pivotal in applying pressure on relevant decision-makers in Turkey through the ECtHR by providing 9.2 submissions to the Committee of Ministers.

Besides the overall very poor record of Turkey’s ECHR compliance, the life-long sentence of Osman Kavala by the Turkish courts and the most recent arrest of the Chair of the Turkish Medical Association, Prof. Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, illustrate clearly the pressing urgency of Turkey’s implementation problem. In this regard, the NHC emphasizes its call upon the international community, the Council of Europe, and its member states to urge Turkey to comply with its human rights obligations.