HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT BY EMMA SINCLAIR-WEBB : “ECHR Ruling on Kuşkonar is A Landmark Decision”
Tuesday’s European Court of Human Rights ruling on the 1994 aerial bombardment of two Şırnak villages is a landmark decision in the struggle to hold the Turkish state accountable for its systematic human rights abuses in the 1990s.
Istanbul – BIA News Desk – 15 November 2013, Friday 17:19 – Tuesday’s European Court of Human Rights ruling on the 1994 aerial bombardment of two Şırnak villages is a landmark decision in the struggle to hold the Turkish state accountable for its systematic human rights abuses in the 1990s.
The Court concluded that on March 26, 1994 the Turkish airforce had conducted an aerial bombardment of Kuşkonar (Gever) and Koçağılı (Beysuke), killing 38 Kurdish villagers, and that the authorities had covered it up, describing its investigation into the attack as “wholly inadequate.” The Court described the “national authorities’ failure to offer even the minimum humanitarian assistance” to the surviving villagers after the bombing. It ruled that Turkey was responsible for causing survivors “suffering attaining the threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment.” The court ordered the Turkish state to pay them 2.3 million Euro compensation. The most striking part of the Court’s ruling is its conclusion that it is now “inevitable” that Turkey investigate the case “with a view to identifying and punishing those responsible for the bombing of the applicants’ two villages.” It will be especially important now for human rights groups and media in Turkey to follow the domestic investigation, and to press for justice in Turkey’s own courts.
Human Rights Watch will be following the Kuşkonar and Koçağılı case with particular interest. The incident has a special meaning for the organization, because we first documented it back in 1995. That year, researchers pieced together events from surviving villagers who fled Kuşkonar and settled in Adana. From these and numerous other interviews with survivors of forced evacuations in the southeast, Human Rights Watch published its 1995 report, Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey. The report was later translated into Turkish, for which the translator Ertuğrul Kürkçü and the report’s publisher Ragip Zarakolu were both tried and convicted.
The 1995 Human Rights Watch report was one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind by an international human rights organization. It has stood the test of time, striking for its accuracy and detail in documenting systematic and widespread human rights violations in Turkey’s southeast and eastern provinces. The report also implicates the US and other NATO governments for providing the Turkish military with weapons, vehicles, and other vital materials and failing to press Ankara to curb abuses.
Nineteen years on, both researchers of the report have expressed satisfaction with the news of the European Court ruling on the aerial bombardment of Kuşkonar and Koçağılı. The report’s author, James Ron, is now a professor of international affairs at the University of Minnesota. His colleague, who kept her identity concealed at time of publication, was a Turkish journalist, well-known to Bianet readers as Nadire Mater.
Emma Sinclair-Webb is a senior Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch who focuses on Turkey.Follow her on Twitter @esinclairwebb