ECHR VERDICT – Turkey to Pay 330,000 Euros for Extrajudicial Killings

BIANET – 2.7.2013 – ECHR reached a verdict on the case where 5 people ages between 13 and 24 were killed by soldiers, ordering Turkey to pay a sum of 330,000 euros to applicant families.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) reached a verdict this morning on the killing of 5 people between 13-24 years old by Turkish soldiers.

The court found Turkey guilty of violating the right to life according to Article 2 of the Convention, ordering the Turkish state to pay applicant families a sum of 330,000 euros.

They died together

On 17 December 2004 Sibel Sartık (24) and her cousin Nergiz Özer (15) left their apartment in İzmir, saying that they were going to visit her three children who were living with her ex-husband in the city of Siirt.

On 20 December 2004 Zühal Esen (16) and Zerga Esen (13) left their homes and told their families that they were going shopping.

Hamdullah Çınar was 22 years old and was working on a building site in Ankara. The last time his family heard from him was towards the end of December 2004.

On 19 January 2005 Sibel, Nergiz, Zuhal, Zerga and Hamdullah were killed by soldiers in a place one and a half kilometres to the north of a small village in southeastern province of Şırnak. According to a report prepared on 20 January 2005 by twenty-six soldiers who had taken part in the incident, at about 6.00 p.m. on 19 January 2005 special police teams who had observed with their night vision cameras nine or ten persons in an area near Cudi mountain, informed the military about the presence of the group.

The soldiers retreated to a safer area and issued verbal warnings, in Turkish and Kurdish, and asked members of the group to surrender. When their calls for surrender were rejected and they came under more fire, the soldiers blocked all exit routes and opened mortar fire on those who tried to run away.No fingerprints, no shooting prints taken

The following morning the soldiers found the 5 dead bodies and a number of weapons and food stocks near to them.

It was stated in a report drawn up by the investigating soldiers that, “as it was raining the weapons [found next to the bodies] were wet and muddy and [the investigators] have thus been unable to carry out fingerprint analysis on the weapons”.

On 20 January 2005 the 5 dead bodies were brought to the Şırnak State Hospital morgue where they were examined by a doctor and a prosecutor at midday on 20 January 2005. After a brief investigation, the prosecutor came to the conclusion that 5 PKK militants were killed as a result of clashes with Turkish soldiers.

The Human Rights Association of Turkey released a report on 27 January 2005 on the killing of the applicants’ five children. It was stated in the report that the authorities had refused to hand over the bodies of Nergiz Özer and Sibel Sartık to their families and had buried them in an undisclosed location.The report concluded it to be highly probable that the applicants’ five children had run away from their homes in order to join the PKK, and had then been killed by the soldiers even though they were unarmed.

Court mentioned them as “terrorists”

On 1 February 2005 the applicants Gülbahar Özer and Yusuf Özer, with the assistance of their lawyers, lodged a formal complaint against the soldiers responsible for the killing of the five persons. The formal complaint expressed that 5 deceased neither carried weapons or know how to use one. According to the report of the ballistic examination conducted by the gendarmerie, however, twenty-one of the empty bullet cases found in the area had been discharged from the five rifles found next to the 5 dead bodies. In a report of 13 April 2005 a police firearms expert concluded that it would be possible for children from the age of 11, with one to two hours’ training, to use the weapons found next to the bodies of the five deceased.

The soldiers were questioned as “eyewitnesses”. On 6 March 2006 the Şırnak prosecutor decided not to prosecute any of the soldiers responsible for the killing of 5 people.

It also appeared from the prosecutor’s decision that on the day after the killings a TV channel reported, based on information obtained from PKK sources, that these 5 people had not been PKK militants, but that they had gone to the area unarmed to meet with PKK members.

On 28 March 2006 families of deceased 5 people lodged an objection against the prosecutor’s decision. They pointed to the failure to obtain swabs from the hands of the deceased.

On 12 April 2006 the objection lodged by the two applicants was rejected by the Siirt Assize Court which considered the 5 deceased as “terrorists” and rejected the objection. All objections against the prosecutor’s decision was rejected by the Siirt Assize Court on 10 February 2011 – resulting families to apply to ECHR.  The European Court of Human Rights announced its verdict this morning, finding Turkey guilty of violating the right to life of Article 2 of the Convention and ordering the Turkish state to pay for damages. Applicants Gülbahar Özer (Sibel Sartık’s mother), Yusuf Özer (Nergiz Özer’s father), Halil Esen (Zerga Esen’s father), Hüseyin Esen (Zühal Esen’s father) and Abdurrahman Çınar (Hamdullah Çınar’s father) will each receive 65,000 euros for non-pecuniary damages and 5,930 euros for court expenses.