Turkey: IBAHRI condemns the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defender Osman Kavala

Thursday 17 June 2021

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defender Osman Kavala, following the decision of a Turkish court to continue his confinement until his next hearing. The IBAHRI calls on Turkey to release Mr Kavala as per the legally binding decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which found Mr Kavala’s trial to be unfair and in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In a statement made on 9 June 2021 calling for the release of imprisoned human rights defenders in Turkey, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said the case of Mr Kavala has become emblematic of a pattern of judicial harassment against human rights defenders in Turkey.  She expressed great concern that, ‘anti-terrorism laws are being used extensively to silence Turkish human rights defenders and disrupt their legitimate work’.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and former Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996–2006), the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, stated: ‘The ongoing detention of Osman Kavala, nearing four years, has been the litmus test for the severe deterioration of judicial independence and the rule of law, as well as the systematic crackdown on human rights defenders in Turkey. The IBAHRI reminds Turkish authorities that, as per the right to trial within reasonable time guaranteed under Article 6 of the ECHR, excessively long proceedings can amount to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, prohibited by Article 3 of the same convention. Additionally,  Council of Europe Resolution 1551 (2007) [on] Fair trial issues in criminal cases concerning espionage or divulging state secrets, recognises that espionage and terrorism-related cases can be used as a pretext to unduly restrict human rights. The initial offences with which Mr Kavala was charged arose out of activities relating to his defence of human rights in Turkey. The IBAHRI calls for his immediate release’.

On 21 May, the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court rejected Mr Kavala’s request to be released from custody, prolonging his detention until his next hearing on 6 August 2021. The Court also reiterated considerations to merge his case with the Çarşı case, similarly relating to the 2013 Gezi Park protests – begun by a group of environmentalists to save a park in central Istanbul from being rezoned, but which soon grew into nationwide demonstrations. Mr Kavala objected, noting his own case is close to a final verdict, and given that the Çarşı case includes almost 40 defendants, merging the cases would be in violation of his right to a fair and expeditious trial.

In justifying its decision to continue his detention, the Court held that the ECtHR ruling vindicating Mr Kavala was made regarding charges for which he was acquitted, not the newly raised charge of espionage, and is therefore not binding.

Mr Kirby commented: ‘The ensuing acquittal, overturning and renewal of charges has created a convoluted and confusing web of indictments and proceedings, the former of which rely on the same facts as those Mr Kavala was acquitted upon, validating the finding by the ECtHR as an attempt to silence him through prolonged proceedings. Reviving his case, for the second time without merit, despite it nearing its verdict, is yet another attempt in a long list of wrongs designed to undermine the achievement of justice in his case’.

In a Council of Europe Committee of Ministers meeting on 7-9 June regarding the Kavala case, the Committee ‘affirmed their determination, if the applicant is not released, to ensure the implementation of the judgment through all the means at the disposal of the Organisation, including if necessary infringement proceedings under Article 46 § 4 of the Convention.’ Once the process is triggered, the case reverts to the ECtHR for a further opinion on whether the state has met its binding obligation to comply with the judgment.

If the Court confirms that Turkey has failed to carry out the ruling, the Committee of Ministers may then take additional measures, including the suspension of Turkey’s voting rights or membership of the Council of Europe.

IBAHRI Co-chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc stated: ‘The blatant disregard of the ECtHR judgment, and the multiple calls for release by the Council of Ministers, is a clear illustration of Turkey’s severe lack of commitment to the rule of law. Rather than implementing the recently unveiled Council of Europe’s Human Rights Action Plan, Turkey instead finds itself facing sanctions through infringement proceedings because of its hollow actions in respecting the ECHR and the ECtHR judgment. Not only does the continued detention of Osman Kavala severely violate his personal rights, but it also represents a severe challenge to the Council of Europe and its enforcement of regional law. We urge Turkey’s authorities to release Mr Kavala without delay in line with the 2019 ECtHR ruling and the fundamental rights guaranteed to him by the ECHR’.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Related material:
  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  3. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:
  4. The International Bar Association established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

  5. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAnews) on social media here:

For further information, please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association

5 Chancery Lane
London WC2A 1LG
United Kingdom

Mobile: +44 (0)7940 731 915
Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7842 0094
Main Office: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091

Email: romana.daniel@int-bar.org
Email: IBApressoffice@int-bar.org
Website: www.ibanet.org

IBAHRI website page link for this news release:
Short link: