The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe approved on Thursday the opening of infringement proceedings against Turkey due to the repeated refusal of the courts and the Turkish government to comply with a judgment of the European Court of Rights Rights (CEDH), located in the French city of Strasbourg, demanding the release of activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala, imprisoned for more than four years. The decision was taken after having received the approval of more than two thirds of the representatives of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe – not linked to the EU –, the institution on which the ECHR depends. The process may result in Turkey’s loss of voting rights or even its expulsion from the pan-European organization.
Kavala, a businessman involved in numerous social and cultural causes, was arrested in 2017 and accused of having financed and led the revolt of Gezi (in Istanbul), which put the government of Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the ropes in 2013. After being acquitted last year, Kavala was arrested the same day and charged in a new court case for allegedly participating in the failed 2016 coup attempt. to the revolt of Gezi were recovered and aggravated, having reversed justice the previous acquittal.
The Strasbourg Court ruled in December 2019 that Kavala’s procedural rights had been violated, demanding his immediate release. But Ankara avoided carrying out the sentence by first hiding the fact that it could present allegations and, secondly, the fact that Kavala had been arrested on other charges than those to which Strasbourg was accusing. reference.
The extraordinary measure taken on Thursday begins a long and complex process at the Council of Europe which can last for months. First of all, Turkey will be informed of the opening of the infringement procedure, which will have to respond with its allegations. Subsequently, the Court of Strasbourg will be consulted on the question of whether Ankara violated the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to apply its 2019 judgment. If the Court reaches this conclusion, the case will be referred to the Committee of Ministers to decide on the sanction to be applied. , which could range from the suspension of the right to vote to the expulsion of Turkey from the pan-European organization, of which it is one of the founding members.
The procedure can only be stopped if the court that judges Kavala agrees to release him during one of its monthly reviews. Local analysts say Erdogan has a particular fixation on Kavala, which he defined as “representative of the Jewish community [George] Soros”, tycoon and founder of the thinking group Open Society, which promotes liberalism and is considered the pet peeve of the new far right.
The European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor, who has closely followed the trial against Kavala, explains: “This case could have been solved several months ago with the execution of the sentence. Even if they do not agree with the sentence, the Turkish authorities are obliged to comply with it. This reluctance to comply has an inexplicable point, as it is not an external imposition on Turkey, but rather an international institution to which Turkey belongs and membership of which includes a commitment to comply. judgments of the Court of Human Rights”.
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There are few precedents to look at to know what consequences the infringement process against Turkey will have, in addition to the damage to the image of a country which has been criticized for its progressive departure from democratic values and its attachment to institutions. Europeans. In 2017, a similar measure was taken against Azerbaijan for refusing to release opponent Ilgar Mammadov, but a few months later Baku decided to release him and finally the dissident was acquitted by the courts of the Caucasian country. Turkey itself was warned almost 20 years ago that infringement proceedings would be launched if it did not pay compensation to a Cypriot woman who lost her property in northern Cyprus following the Turkish occupation of the northern third of the island in 1974. Compensation was decreed by the ECHR in a 1998 decision and the warning against Turkey came in 2003, after which Ankara agreed to proceed with the payment.
Only one country has left the Council of Europe since its creation in 1949: Greece. It was under the dictatorship of the colonels (1967-1974) that, faced with criticism for human rights violations and the threat of an expulsion process, the Greek military junta itself decided to leave its willingly (after the return of democracy, the country was readmitted).
Russia was stripped of its voting rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. In protest, Moscow decided to withdraw its parliamentarians and stop paying his contribution to the Council’s annual budget, after which he was threatened with expulsion. Finally, an agreement was reached, controversial for many, which allowed the return of Russian parliamentarians to the organization.
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