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Kavala v. Turkey, No. 28749/18, ECtHR (Second Section), 10 December 2019


Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in time of emergency. Detention based on a “mere suspicion”. Excessive length of the procedure for assessing the lawfulness of detention. Deprivation of liberty aimed at silencing NGO activists and human rights defenders.

Normative references

Art. 5 ECHR
Art. 15 ECHR
Art. 18 ECHR


1. Even in the event of a public emergency, a detention order based on a “mere” suspicion that someone has committed a criminal offence breaches Art. 5, para. 1 (c) ECHR. The lack of a “reasonable” suspicion justifying the deprivation of liberty denies the minimum requirements of Art. 5, para. 1 (c) ECHR and it cannot be said to be strictly required by the exigencies of the situation as prescribed by Art. 15 ECHR. 

2. The period of one year, five months and twenty-nine days for the examination of an application for release from detention cannot be considered compatible with the “speediness” requirement of Art. 5, para. 4 ECHR. The length of the proceeding to review the lawfulness of detention cannot even be justified by the special circumstances of a state of emergency.

3. The restriction of liberty for the undeclared purpose of silencing NGO activists and human rights defenders is contrary to Art. 18 of the Convention and affected the very essence of democracy, in which individual freedoms can be limited only in the name of the general interest. This is of particular gravity considering the role of human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations in a pluralist society.
(Case concerning complaints by a human-rights defender in Turkey, who had been arrested and detained for attempting to abolish the government and overthrowing the constitutional order by force and violence).