BHRC has published its observations in full of the “Gezi Park” trial of sixteen leading civil society individuals in Turkey, including Open Society Foundation Board member Osman Kavala.
BHRC has closely monitored the trial over several months since June 2019, which ostensibly ended with the acquittal of Mr Kavala and eight other defendants in February 2020. Following his acquittal, Mr Kavala was immediately re-arrested and detained in relation to new allegations of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence, in effect re-opening the criminal investigation against him.
Mr Kavala continues to be held in detention after he was re-arrested following the acquittal in respect of a new criminal investigation. He has been detained for over two and half years, in defiance of an unequivocal decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on 10 December 2019 calling for his immediate release.
The BHRC report sets out a full chronology of the proceedings and wider events, and sets out BHRC’s concerns that the human rights and fair trial safeguards of the Gezi Park defendants have been violated in a number of fundamental aspects in each stage of the proceedings: the use of pre-trial detention, the indictment, the trial itself and the reaction by the authorities to the acquittals.
The Gezi Park proceedings have served no legitimate purpose and have caused incalculable harm to both the defendants and the wider application of the rule of law in Turkey. Prosecutions like these have to stop.
The report notes that it is clear that the acquittals have been the only “small glimmer of light” in what were otherwise arbitrary and oppressive proceedings that should never have been brought, or continued. BHRC shares the assessment by the ECtHR that these proceedings that were brought for political reasons and in order to silence and deter civil society groups and human rights activists, part of a worrying pattern of similar prosecutions.
The case is not yet concluded against other defendants who are based abroad, and an appeal by the Public Prosecutor against the acquittals remains unresolved. A disciplinary investigation has been announced concerning the panel of judges who acquitted the Gezi Park defendants.
ECtHR Grand Chamber rejects referral by Turkey in Kavala v Turkey (no. 28749/18)
In a further development, on 12 May 2020 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rejected a referral made by Turkey for the case to be reconsidered. Now that the referral has been rejected, the decision of ECHR last December is final. BHRC therefore reiterates its call for authorities in Turkey to immediately Mr Kavala.
Conclusions and recommendations of the report
The report calls on the authorities in Turkey to:
- Desist in bringing politically motivated arbitrary prosecutions, designed to punish, harass and curtail the work of civil society groups and human rights activists;
- Review and reform the process of drafting indictments so that they have the necessary element of specificity rather than presenting grand political theses;
- Release Osman Kavala immediately and end the unedifying manoeuvres being used to perpetuate his detention;
- Fully implement decisions of the ECtHR in accordance with international obligations and put an end to manoeuvres aimed at defying them;
- Halt the disciplinary proceedings against the Gezi Park judges and support measures to improve judicial independence;
- Release from detention any prisoners whose health is likely to be affected by Coronavirus 19, regardless of whether they come within the ambit of being political detainees;
- Make good on the representations and promises made by Turkey in its submissions to the United Nations in the recent Universal Periodic Review.