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Commissioner’s statement on developments affecting the work of human rights defenders and civil society in Turkey

Statement
Strasbourg 20/11/2018
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Commissioner’s statement on developments affecting the work of human rights defenders and civil society in Turkey

Mr Osman Kavala was arrested on 18 October 2017 by the Turkish authorities and has been deprived of his liberty ever since, without an indictment. I have been following this case very closely as Mr Kavala is a long-standing partner of my Office, a prominent human rights defender, philanthropist, and a pillar of Turkish civil society. His detention has had far-reaching effects on human rights defenders and their work in Turkey. As such, I raised his case on several occasions in my official meetings with the Turkish authorities during my contact mission to Turkey last month and called for his speedy release.

Against this background, I was dismayed by the arrest last Friday of thirteen prominent academics, civil society representatives and human rights defenders, clearly in connection with Mr Kavala’s case. These persons, twelve of whom have subsequently been released under judicial control with a travel ban, include respected partners of my Office and the Council of Europe.

During my contact mission, the Turkish authorities spoke of a normalisation process following the lifting of the state of emergency. However, these latest developments cast serious doubts about this process.

Mr Kavala lodged an application before the European Court of Human Rights on 8 June 2018, alleging violations of several Articles of the ECHR, which was communicated on 30 August 2018. Given this context, I have decided to exercise my power under the ECHR and I informed the European Court of Human Rights that I will submit written observations as a third party in the pending case of Mehmet Osman Kavala v. Turkey