By: Lara Hovagimian
Turkey’s decision to ignore the Council of Europe’s deadline to release Turkish activist and businessperson Osman Kavala has come as no surprise. Assaults on human rights and the rule of law have been commonplace in the last few years, particularly since the attempted 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In fact, Kavala was indicted due to his alleged role in the July 2016 attempted coup, hours after being acquitted for “attempting to overthrow the government by force and violence” in connection with the 2013 mass protests which began in Gezi Park (Human Rights Watch, 2020). Kavala was accused of financing the Gezi Park protests, attempting to overthrow the government by helping orchestrate the 2016 coup, and espionage. He denies the charges, which carry a life sentence without parole. After a hearing on January 17, 2022, a Turkish court ruled that Kavala should stay in prison, despite his more than four years in pre-trial detention (ABC News, 2022).
The European Court judgment in Kavala v. Turkey (Application no. 28749/18) found violations of the following provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 5(1) (right to liberty and security), Article 5(4) (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention), and the rarely used Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) taken together with Article 5(1). The Court continues to demand the Turkish government to release Kavala. Any continuation of his detention would prolong the violations and breach the obligation to abide by the judgment in accordance with Article 46(1) of the Convention. The Court said that by detaining Kavala, the Turkish authorities have “pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him as human rights defender” (International Commission of Jurists, 2020).
Osman Kavala’s History of Activism
In 2002, Kavala founded the civil society organization Anadolu Kültür. It works towards developing collaborations among artists, cultural workers, and NGOs from Turkey and its neighbours, as well as other countries. The organization also supports youth social involvement, and implements projects to strengthen Turkey’s relations with Armenia. It has also published works relating to the history of the Armenian Genocide and the Syrian refugee crisis (Anadolu Kültür).
What Can You Do?
You should consider signing a petition to release Osman Kavala from prison at https://www.osmankavala.org/en/statements-about-osman-kavala/202-a-petition-to-the-president-prime-minister-and-grand-national-assembly-of-turkey-by-an-international-network-of-artists. The petition appeals to the President, Prime Minister and Grand National Assembly of Turkey to review the case of Osman Kavala as a matter of urgency. This petition has already been signed by several prominent academics and journalists, including Thomas de Waal, Christina Maranci, and Clare Shine.
You should also considering looking at Anadolu Kültür’s publications at https://www.anadolukultur.org/EN/36-our-publications/, which remain the fruits of Kavala’s work as an activist.
- “Turkey: Events of 2020.” Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/turkey#.
- Bilginsoy, Zeynep. “Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison.” ABC News, ABC, January 17, 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/trial-philanthropist-dozens-resumes-turkey-82303822.
- “Turkey: Release Osman Kavala.” International Commission of Jurists, September 7, 2020, https://www.icj.org/turkey-release-osman-kavala/.
- Anadolu Kültür, https://www.anadolukultur.org/EN/.