Prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been jailed in Turkey on politically motivated charges since 2017, has been nominated for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said in a statement on Tuesday.
A five-member nominating committee that gathered in Prague on Tuesday shortlisted three candidates: Kavala, Polish women’s and human rights activist Justyna Wydrzynska and Ukrainian rights activist Yevgeniy Zakharov.
The committee comprises independent figures from the human rights world and is chaired by PACE President Tiny Kox.
The winner of the prize, which rewards individuals or organizations judged to have undertaken outstanding action in defense of human rights, will be announced at the opening of PACE’s autumn plenary session in Strasbourg on Oct. 9.
The PACE website referred to Kavala’s years-long engagement with civil society in Turkey, saying he has supported numerous civil society organizations since the early 1990s while also talking about his judicial ordeal.
It said despite a 2019 judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), ruling that Kavala’s detention was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and calling for his immediate release, he has been detained since 2017 and was sentenced in April 2022 to life in prison on charges of instigating the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013.
In July 2022 the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR confirmed that Turkey has failed to fulfil its obligations under the convention by not releasing Kavala and held that the impugned measures against him were aimed at silencing him and dissuading other human rights defenders.
Turkey’s failure to implement the ECtHR judgment in the case of Kavala led to the Council of Europe launching infringement proceedings against Turkey in February 2022 due to its refusal to release him. It marked only the second instance of such a procedure being initiated against a member state.
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, responsible for overseeing the implementation of judgments by the ECtHR, in June stated that they had decided to consider what further measures are required in the event that the philanthropist has not been released by the committee’s 1,475th meeting in September.
The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, created in 2013, is awarded each year by PACE, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, and the support of the Czech government. The prize consists of a sum of €60,000, a trophy and a diploma. The 2017 Prize went to a jailed lawyer from Turkey, Murat Arslan, president of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), while the 2022 winner of the award was imprisoned Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza.