CoE Committee of Ministers urges Turkey ro release Demirtaş and Kavala

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has decided to wait for Osman Kavala’s release before imposing sanctions on Turkey; it has also extended the time given to the government about Demirtaş till September 30.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings, has pronounced its decisions concerning jailed politician Selahattin Demirtaş and jailed rights defender and businessperson Osman Kavala, who have not been released despite ECtHR judgements.

The Committee of Ministers has once again reiterated that Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) former Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala should be released as per the related ECtHR rulings.

Benan Molu, an attorney for Selahattin Demirtaş, commented on the decisions on her social media account. Molu briefly said:

"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 charge of [terror] propaganda aimed to keep Demirtaş in prison and prevent his participation in the election.

"The Committee has called for the quashing of his conviction by the Istanbul Assize Court, and termination of the criminal proceedings pending before the 22nd Ankara Assize Court, together with the removal of all other negative consequences of the constitutional amendment.

"The Committee, in the light of the ECtHR Grand Chamber ruling, gave time to the government until June 22 to present an action plan. Even though the government did not request additional time, it has given time to the government till September 30 as it has not presented the plan.

"The Committee's decision and secretariat note on Demirtaş can be found here. The next Committee of Ministers meeting will be held on November 30-December 2.

"The Committee of Ministers has also reiterated its request for the release of Osman Kavala. Infringement proceedings were expected to be triggered at this session; however, the Committee of Ministers has decided to wait for Kavala's release until its session in December."

Kavala and Demirtaş judgements

The ECtHR ruled on December 10, 2019, that by holding Kavala in pretrial detention since November 2017 and prosecuting him on the basis of his human rights activities, the authorities had "pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him as a human rights defender."

Similarly, the ECtHR ruled on December 22, 2020, that by holding former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş in pretrial detention since November 2016 and prosecuting him for activities and speeches protected under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the authorities in Turkey sought to prevent him from carrying out his political activities.

The ECtHR concluded that this situation deprived voters of their elected representative, and resulted in "stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate: the very core of the concept of a democratic society."

In both cases, the court found that by using detention for political ends, Turkey had violated Kavala's and Demirtaş's rights, including the right to liberty, and had abused the discretion given to governments to impose legitimate limitations on rights (articles 5 and 18 of the ECHR respectively). The court took the rare step of ordering the immediate release of both.

However, politician Selahattin Demirtaş has been behind bars in the Edirne Type F Prison since November 4, 2016 and rights defender and businessperson Osman Kavala has been behind bars in Silivri Prison in İstanbul since November 1, 2017.