Cemil Kırbayır and other cases of “disappeared” people

On an unspecified date a sub-commission to the Human Rights Commission in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (full title in Turkish: TBMM İnsan Haklarını İnceleme Komisyonu) issued a report on a case of “disappearance” in Turkey in October 1980. The 350-page “Cemil Kırbayır Report” of the “sub-commission to research the fate of people who allegedly disappeared after having been detained” (in Turkish: …gözaltında iken kayboldukları iddia edilen kişilerin akibetininin araştırılması alt komisyonu) was probably published in June 2011 (the commission had its last gathering on 30 May 2011 and general elections were held on 12 June 2011).[1] It contains important details on the “disappearance” of Cemil Kırbayır (last seen in Kars on 8 October 1980) and Mahmut Kaya (detained in Kars on 25 December 1980) and the deaths in detention of Turan Sağlam (December 1980) and Oruç Korkmaz (January 1980).



The sub-commission was set up by decision of 9 February 2011 with the following members: Mersin deputy Prof. Dr. Mehmet Zafer ÜSKÜL, Çorum deputy Murat YILDIRIM, Izmir deputy Erdal KALKAN, Istanbul deputy Çetin SOYSAL and Izmir deputy Şenol BAL (he later withdrew). Three state secretaries were appointed to assist them: Mehmet Fırık, Mecit Gürsoy and the expert Kenan Altağ.

The commission decided to hear witnesses and officers on duty at the time for the police and the National Intelligence in Kars. It asked the Ministry for Defence for documents from the command of martial law, but until the end of its work was unable to obtain them.

Written statements

On 16 February 2011 the chief prosecutor in Kars was consulted and the next information was received to the effect that the “disappearance” of Cemil Kırbayır had not been investigated. Subsequently the prosecution’s office in Kars started such an investigation under the file number 2011/899.

On 1 March 2011 a letter was sent to the Governor’s Office in Kars asking for records on the “disappearance” of Cemil Kırbayır dated 8 October to 31 December 1980. The Commission also asked for the name of the commander of martial law, his deputy and the military commander in Göle (a district of Kars province). Should Cemil Kırbayır have been detained the names of the officers involved should be forwarded. In reply the Governor’s Office in Kars stated that several military units in Kars province had been contacted but not provided any answers. It was said that the command of the Turkish Army (tr: Kara Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı) might be in possession of documents on whether or not proceedings had been initiated by military prosecutors relating to the detention of Cemil Kırbayır.

The witnesses

Hearings of witnesses started on 3 March 2011. First the brother of Cemil Kırbayır, Mikail Kırbayır was heard and later Zübeyit Çelik, Cengiz KAYA, Türkan Çiftçi and Davut AKSU, who had been under detention with Cemil Kırbayır. Although the complete hearings were recorded only the important parts in the statements of the witnesses are quoted.

On the “disappearance” of Cemil Kırbayır

Mikail Kırbayır

My brother Cemil was detained on 13 September 1980. One week later he was transferred to the detention centre of the martial law command of the 9th Army in Kars. I could not see him, but on 7 October I went there again and left clothes and money for him. I waited until a soldier came with clothes to be washed and a note saying “I’m well, I got what you brought”.

We were living in Göle and I was working at the tax office in Göle. On 8 October my father came and said that officers had searched our house and said that Cemil had escaped. I was able to call a major and asked for the whereabouts of my brother. He cursed at me and closed the phone. I went to the military command in Kars again and one day after I had come and left clothes and money they said “he’s not here”. I should go the police headquarters and went there, but again I was told that he was not there. I was shown a note saying that three of four detainees Çetin AŞULA, Cengiz KAYA, Metin CENGİZ had been transferred but the name of Cemil Kırbayır was wiped out in red saying “he did not arrive”… All my other attempts to find him failed and as a disciplinary order I was appointed to work in Karaman (Konya).

Türkan Çiftçi

I am from Ardahan. I was detained there on 22 September 1980. The next day I was taken to the detention centre in Kars and stayed there until 3 November. I was transferred to Erzurum and on 6 November I was released. The part of the detention centre for women was next to the administration and we could hear what happened. One day a group from Göle came and I recognized Cemil Kırbayır.

Cengiz Kaya

I was detained in the morning of 12 September (1980). First I was taken a gendarmerie station and from there to the 246th Infantry Regiment (in Göle). We were about 30-40 detainees and stayed there for 16 or 17 days. Cemil came a few days later. In a vehicle we were taken from Göle to Kars. Maybe 10 days, I do not remember exactly, but one day they read out the names of four people including Cemil and me. At the door they blindfolded us. Later I learned that the place they had taken us to was the Educational Institute[2] We were given electric shocks with high voltage. We were stark naked and our heads banged on the concrete floor. Then they poured water over us. In my case they even urinated in my mouth.

I guess it was a big room, because we could hear each other when it was our turn to be tortured. We were taken aside and water was poured over us, when they took Cemil for interrogation. We could hear him say that he was about to vomit and he was encouraged to do so. Then someone said that he had vomited blood. Then there was a silence and an atmosphere of panic. They took us to a more distinct place. After half an hour or so we could hear that they were cleaning the place. The next morning they came and said that Cemil had escaped. In the evening they took us back to the detention centre.

Fevzi Çelik

Someone who said that he was a watchman (tr: bekçi) trusted me because I had come from Iğdır (a place dominated by right-wingers). On the way to the toilet he said that they had thrown Cemil “hoca” (respectful name for a teacher) down from the third floor. Only when I was taken back to Iğdır I learned that I had been in detention for 46 days.

Ç.A. (possibly Cengiz Aşula)

It must have been the 7th of October in the morning when the read out our names: mine, Cengiz Kaya, Metin Akkaş and Cemil Kırbayır. In the vehicle we were blindfolded.

The interrogator asked Cemil whether he was innocent or not and he told him about things happening in Göle. Then I heard a bang. I don’t know what it was, but maybe Cemil was hit by a sandsack, but in any case his head hit the wall. Then Cemil said “I’m dieing. Take me to the hospital.” The interrogator said that he should vomit. They made him vomit and they panicked saying that everything was alright and they would take him to the hospital. Then people started to run around. They took him out of the hall with a stretcher or without. It was very silent. I lifted my blindfold slightly and saw that we were in Sukapı quarter in the Dede Korkut Educational Institute in Kars. Later they tried to make us believe that Cemil had escaped. How can someone who just vomited with no pants on run away among 100 people. Outside the people would catch him believing that he came from a lunatic asylum.

Concerning the death of Turan Sağlam

Davut Aksu

I was arrested in Ardahan on 20 December 1980. I saw a person called “Turan SAĞLAM”. He was in a very bad state and only said that he was longing for his mother. Later we heard that he was dead. He died in Sarıkamış Military Hospital.

Ahmet Kaya

Turan Sağlam, too, was killed there under torture. He was a friend of mine. He had been detained as a member of the organization Revolutionary People’s Path. Mahmut Kaya and Cemil Kırbayır allegedly belonged to the Revolutionary Path.

Concerning the “disappearance” of Mahmut Kaya

Davut Aksu

It was on 26 or 27 December (1980) when they brought someone called Mahmut Kaya. We were tied together. His body was black from the waist downward because of torture. It was the new year’s eve or the day after when they took him at about 3 o’clock in the morning. Later I saw water coming from his mouth and this man died at my side. I controlled his pulse, unable to cry. Later they got rid of him: he “disappeared”.

Concerning the death of Oruç Korkmaz

Zübeyit Çelik

In the case of Oruç Korkmaz the police officers Mehmet Haytan, Kemal Kartal and another one that I do not remember right now were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by the military court in Erzurum, but they did not serve the sentences.[3]


When Oruç Korkmaz was killed his body had marks of 700 cigarettes that had been stubbed out on him. Turan Sağlam was killed. Mahmut Kaya and Cemil Kırbayır were killed. The corpses of Turan Sağlam and Oruç Korkmaz were handed over, but the corpses of Mahmut Kaya and Cemil Kırbayır were not given to their families.

Further investigations

Between 18 and 20 March 2011 the sub-commission went to Kars and inspected several places. The commission also heard 16 watchmen who had been on duty at the time. On 17 March 2011 the commission wrote to the Ministry of the Interior asking for the name of police officers on duty at Kars Police HQ between 1980 and 1982. The Ministry was also asked about the police officer Mehmet Haytan, named by several witnesses as one of the torturers. In response the Ministry stated that on 16 May 1986 Erzurum Military Court sentenced him to five years, four months’ imprisonment under Article 463 of the Turkish Penal Court for having killed a person under torture in an attempt to make him confess. The sentence had been confirmed by the Military Court of Cassation on 3 March 1987 and the officer had been dismissed from duty on 2 October 1987.

Statements of police officers

On 24 March 2011 Salih Işık, at the time chief of police in Kars for about nine months, was heard. He only confirmed that Kemal Kartal and Mehmet Haytan had been working at the first department (the political department, DTF). On the same day Burhanettin Özdemir, another chief of police in Kars for about six months was heard, too. He stated that the interrogations were carried out at a different place. People from the National Intelligence, from the military were responsible and among the police officers only Mehmet Haytan took part. At the time the director of the first department had been Recep Çaycıoğlu. He said that he could not remember the case of Cemil Kırbayır, because he had come to Kars on 15 November 1980.

The commission also heard former Commissioner Mehmet Haytan on 24 March 2011. He said that he had been on duty in Kars between autumn 1977 and April 1981. Mehmet Haytan maintained that he had not been involved in the interrogation of Cemil Kırbayır. The National Intelligence had prepared the Dede Korkut Educational Institute as the place for interrogations. He had only been involved in the transport of prisoners. The other police officers had been Mehmet Aktaş, Ergün Tosunöz, Kureyşin Tepedelen and Mehmet Ali Akın. Mehmet Haytan also claimed that no prisoner was blindfolded and that he did not torture anyone. He had not been afraid to put his signature under the statements (and not just his number of duty). This had been one of the reasons why he had been held responsible for the death of Oruç Korkmaz although his friends from the organization had killed him, because he had confessed to 42 actions including 7 or 8 killings.

Mehmet Haytan named the people from the National Intelligence who carried out interrogations as Engin Yenilmez, Taner Alper and Teki Tunçkollu. Mehmet Haytan accepted to have interrogated Davut Aksi, Turhan Sağlam and Mahmut Kaya, but without blindfolding them and putting his signature under the minutes. First they had detained Turan Sağlam, but he had been released because it could not be established that he had been involved in certain activities. Later Ahmet Kaya and Haydar Yörüklü had been detained with arms that had been used during a robbery. Now Turan Sağlam had been “on the run”. He had been detained with the ID and pistol of a person that was killed. In detention he had said to suffer from diarrhoea and they had suspected that he had cholera. He had been taken to Sarıkamış Military Hospital and should have been transferred to a hospital in Erzurum, but died on the way there. A report certified that he died because of respiratory insufficiency and in the trial on allegations of torture the defendants were acquitted in 1984. Mehmet Haytan maintained that he did not know anything of someone called Mahmut Kaya.

The next to be heard on 24 March 2011 was Ali Aykut Demirden, who had been deputy chief of police in Kars at the time. He maintained not to know anything about the incident and the people who might have been involved. Ergün Tosunöz, a police officer at the first department, was also heard on 24 March 2011. He said that he had been working as a driver and alleged that the National Intelligence had carried out the interrogations. He called the witnesses liars when they said that they had been blindfolded on the way to and from interrogation. Another officer from the first department, Mehmet Aktaş, now retired chief commissioner claimed that the interrogations were carried out by soldiers and officers from the National Intelligence and maintained not to know whether officer from the police had been involved or not. He also said that the people had been in good health, when they took them back to the detention centre. Mehmet Ali Akın from the first department made a similar statement on the same day.

Statements from MİT personnel

On 25 March 2011 the commission sent a letter to the National Intelligence (tr: Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı = MİT)) asking for the people who had been in charge in Kars between 1 January 1980 and 1 January 1982 and who had been on duty as interrogator. On 30 March 2011 the first one from MİT to be heard was Zeki Tunçkollu. He said that he had been on duty in Kars between 1978 and 1986. Police officers from the first department had been responsible for interrogation and his duty had been to provide information on certain suspects. Once he had taken information to the place, where the suspects were interrogated, the Dede Korkut Educational Institute. In the corridor people had been lined up tied with by their hands to the radiator. Presumably the handcuffs had not been enough. Zeki Tunçkollu added that these people had been blindfolded. There had been more than 100 people.

The next staff member of MİT to be heard was Ömer Bursalı. He said that he had started his duty in Kars on 23 September 1980. He never had been to the place of interrogation, because his duty had been connected to counter spying (because of the border to the Soviet Union. He also had not participated in coordination meeting with the security officers from the police and the martial law authorities. The directors Engin Yenilmez, Taner Alper and Zeki Tunçkollu might have participated. Engin Yenilmez told the commission that he had been on duty in Kars between 1979 and 1981. He did not remember the incident of disappearance of Cemil Kırbayır, but officers from MİT had only participated in interrogations as observers. He confirmed that the interrogations were carried out at the Educational Institute, but claimed never to have gone there.

Further statements of police officers and MİT personnel

Some members of the security forces were heard again. On 10 May 2011 the commission heard Seyfi Kesici, who had come to Kars in July 1979 and later worked in the first department. He remembers Recep Caycıoğlu as the director and a police team led by Kemal Kartal. When he was reminded that Kemal Kartal had left Kars at the time he said that the interrogations were done by 3 to 4 people from the police, including Mehmet Haytan and Mehmet Aykıldız, two persons from MİT and officers of the army termed G1 and S1. Seyfi Kesici was reminded that his colleagues Mehmet Aktaş and Ergün Tosunöz immediately after the so called incident had stated Seyfi Kesici had been among the police officers interrogating Cemil Kırbayır and the police officer Selçuk Ayyıldız had written the notes. He was also reminded of his own statement after the incident in which he stated that he had been given the duty to interrogate Cemil Kırbayır. Still he insisted that he could not believe that the signature under this statement was his own signature.

Selçuk Akyıldız, who had been responsible for taking notes until 7 November 1980 was also heard on 10 May 2011. He maintained that someone had escaped even before being interrogated. Despite a statement that he had been present during an interrogation in which Seyfi Kesici participated he pretended not to have recognized the person that had left the room right before he entered. In a new statement former deputy chief of police in Kars, Ali Aykut Demirden alleged that the person who had escaped was living in France and was the second person in charge of the PKK there. Before his second statement Ergun Tosunöz was told that someone had stated that he participated in interrogations. Still Ergun Tosunöz maintained that he (and other from the police) had not been allowed into the interrogation rooms. Mehmet Ali Akın was reminded of his statement of 8 October 1980 where he had named staff of the police as interrogators. Nevertheless he claimed that his statement to the commission had been correct. Mehmet Aktaş said that his statement in 1980 might be correct.

Zeki Tunçkollu (MİT) was heard again, but insisted on his previous statement that members of MİT had not been involved in interrogations. Zeki Akyıldız appears to have been present, because he partly corrected the statement of Zeki Tunçkollu. Another police officer, Musa Durmuş told similar things as his colleagues before (no blindfold etc.) On 10 May 2011 the commission also heard Kureyşin Tepedelen, police officer in Kars at the time. He said that he had worked as a driver and had no knowledge of the incidents. In his second statement Mehmet Haytan tried to convince the commission that the organization “People’s Path” (to which Cemil Kırbayır belonged) had helped him to escape and would not let him go. He himself knew of the killing of Salim Dursunoğlu, a candidate for the senat, in Göle in 1978. Indirectly he accused Cemil Kırbayır of having conducted the murder. He repeated his earlier statement. The commission must have confronted Zeki Tunçkollu and Mehmet Haytan and they tried to solve the contradictions in their statements. The minutes of statements end on page 334 of the report.


The conclusions start on page 334 of the report. First international conventions and norms are presented including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. After that rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) are cited. Several judgements concerning Turkey are cited as well. The section on “disappearances” is followed by a section relating to the ban of torture, again starting with the United Nations followed by relevant norms of the Council of Europe. Again a number of rulings of the ECHR on Turkey are presented.

The own evaluation begins on page 345. Having stressed the importance of the right to life that gives only little room to States for exceptions (protect others, prevent uprising…) the commission continues with remarks on deaths in detention as the result of torture and “disappearances”. The commission found that

in case a person had been in good health before detention, but it was alleged that s/he disappeared in detention or dies, the responsibility of the State to protect their lives gets even more important and it is completely the duty of the State to determine what happened to the person. It is not the duty of the owners of the allegation to prove that the person did not escape or that agents of the State killed the person in detention, it is up to the State to prove that the person escaped and was not tortured. This responsibility increases in case that someone died in custody.

The commission found that the witnesses, who had been together with Cemil Kürbayır and interrogated at Dedekorkut Educational Institute provided sufficient evidence that he had been tortured with rough beatings, subjected to the bastonade (falaka = beatings of the sole of the feet, DTF), given electric shocks and that he had died as a result of torture. The commission found the testimony of people detained with Cemil Kırbayır immediately after the coup of 12 September 1980 and other witnesses reliable. The commission believes that the public servants that caused the death of Cemil Kırbayır disposed his corpse and covered up the deed by maintaining that he escaped by jumping from a window in the second or third floor.

At the time the administrative and judicial authorities in Kars province did not investigate the allegations of death as a result of torture correctly and consistently. This resulted in the impression of impunity for people involved in act of torture. The heads of those people who tortured and caused the deaths (at the time) were aware of it, but did not take any measures to prevent further acts. The fact that the Ministry of Defence has not replied to written and oral requests to identify the military personnel on duty at the time increases our fear of tolerance shown to staff responsible for torture and a violation of the right to life.

The commission was grateful for the staff from the police and the National Intelligence that came to testify. Concerning their statements directed at accusing members of other units and in particular the cross examination of the police officers Selçuk Akyıldız, the police chief Mehmet Haytan and the MİT personnel Zeki Tunçkollu led the commission to believe that between 8 December 1980 (when Cemil Kırbayır and his friends were taken for interrogation) and 17 November 1980

  • the police officer Selçuk Akyıldız took notes during interrogations and collected signatures under statements
  • interrogations were carried out by MİT staff members Taner Alpan and Zeki Tunçkollu, who did not sign statements
  • and therefore the police officer Selçuk Akyıldız and of the MİT staff members Zeki Tunçkollu (the one, who is alive) have knowledge of what happened to Cemil Kırbayır during interrogation.
  • Staff from the military participated in interrogations from time to time.

The commission decided to file an official complaint with the prosecutor’s office in Kars and to follow the developments.


  1. Download the full report in Turkish
  2. At these institutes teachers were educated, DTF
  3. According to information gathered by a group called “alternative aid for Turkey” the police officers Kemal Kartal, Mehmet Haytan, Mehmet Güden and Hasan Sapancalı were sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment in June 1983. In September 1985 a request was made in parliament asking why the police officer Kemal Kartal was still on duty. See this page in German