CoE fails to start infringement proceedings against Turkey in Kavala, Demirtaş cases

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The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has failed to start infringement proceedings against Turkey due to the country’s non-compliance with European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions in the cases of a jailed businessman and a Kurdish politician.

The committee, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the ECtHR rulings, held its quarterly meeting to oversee the execution of judgments and decisions from the ECtHR in Strasbourg September 14-16. Under Article 46 of the human rights convention, judgments from the ECtHR are binding on the states concerned.

The committee on Friday announced its decisions regarding the cases of jailed businessman Osman Kavala and jailed politician Selahattin Demirtaş, who are jailed in Turkey despite ECtHR decisions calling for their release.

The committee decided to set Sept. 30 as a deadline for Turkey to present an action plan regarding Demirtaş’s case, while it decided to wait for the release of Kavala until its next session, Nov. 3-Dec. 2.

Benan Molu, a lawyer for Demirtaş, said on Twitter: “The Committee of Ministers has once again requested that Demirtaş be released and his conviction be overturned. It has noted that the prison term of 4 years, 8 months on charges of [terrorism] propaganda aimed to keep Demirtaş in prison and prevent his participation in the  elections.”

The committee had previously set June 22 as the deadline for the Turkish government to present an action plan for Demirtaş. The deadline has been now extended to Sept. 30 although the government has not requested any additional time.

Before the start of the Committee of Ministers meeting, leading rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and Turkey Litigation Support Project called on it to trigger infringement proceedings against Turkey for Ankara’s failure to implement the ECtHR judgment ordering the release of Kavala.

Kavala has been in jail since his arrest in 2017, facing myriad shifting charges linked to protests in 2013 and a 2016 attempted coup. He remains behind bars despite six decisions and one interim resolution by the CoE Committee of Ministers. The ECtHR ruled in December 2019 that the prolonged pre-trial detention of Kavala was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and demanded his immediate release.

The three organizations, along with Article 19 and the International Federation for Human Rights, also made a submission to the Committee of Ministers on developments in the case of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, calling on the committee to urge the Turkish government to ensure his immediate release.

Demirtaş, who was a co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016, has been behind bars since then despite a decision from the ECtHR in November 2018 that ruled Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act, ordering his release.

“The Turkish courts and prosecutors have engaged in a series of tactics to circumvent the authority of the ECtHR and the Council of Europe,” said the rights organizations in their statement.

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