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Türkiye: Council of Europe prize a reminder that Osman Kavala has not been forgotten

Responding to the awarding of the 2023 Václav Havel Prize to Turkish prisoner of conscience, Osman Kavala, by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Europe, Dinushika Dissanayake, said:

“While we celebrate the fact that Osman Kavala has been recognised with this top human rights award, the fact that he cannot be in Strasbourg to collect it in person is heartbreaking. Instead, having already been in jail for almost six years, he is languishing behind bars in Türkiye on a politically-motivated life sentence without the possibility of parole.

“Today’s award is particularly poignant, coming just ten days after Türkiye’s highest appeal court dismissed a crucial opportunity to end this ongoing travesty of justice. The court’s decision to reject Osman Kavala’s appeal defies all logic given that the prosecuting authorities have repeatedly failed to provide evidence which substantiates the baseless charges laid against him. Worryingly, the Turkish judiciary has enabled this politically motivated persecution.

“It is also significant that this award should be granted in Strasbourg, where the European Court of Human Rights has twice ruled that Osman Kavala’s detention is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and called for his immediate release.

“While Turkish authorities may use unconscionable tactics to silence critical voices, today’s award shows that while Osman Kavala may be out of sight, he is not out of mind, and the demand for his release grows ever more visible.”


The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has repeatedly called for Osman Kavala’s release in line with the ECtHR rulings. Türkiye has ignored the legally-binding judgment and refused to release him, which led to the case being referred back to the European Court, initiating rarely used infringement proceedings which led to the confirmation of the violations. 

Two other human rights activists were shortlisted for the Award: Yevgeniy Zakharov from Ukraine and Justyna Wydrzynska from Poland on whose behalf Amnesty International has been campaigning on for some years.