Turkey appeals ECHR’s record fine for 38 villagers killed in 1994 airstrike

Deniz ZEYREK ANKARA / Hürriyet – 25-2-2014 – Turkey has appealed against a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordering Ankara to pay out a record fine over the killing of 38 villagers during a military airstrike in the southeastern province of Şırnak in 1994.

The case came to the spotlight almost 20 years after the attack as the court handed its biggest fine – over 2.3 million euros – concluding Turkey failed “to protect the right to life,” “conduct proper investigation” and “provide any humanitarian support to the survivors.” The prosecutor had accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of conducting the attack without any investigation or proof from the incident, the court also said.

The Justice Ministry decided to file an appeal after the Turkish General Staff made two objections regarding the ruling.

Military lawyers noted the ECHR referred in its Nov. 12, 2013, ruling to the first three articles of the Geneva Conventions, arguing such a verdict could “potentially” pave the way to open trials against the Turkish Armed Forces in international criminal courts.

They also rejected the claim that PKK militants were referred to as “freedom fighters” in the case file. Twenty-five residents of Kuşkonar village and 13 others living in the Koçağılı village, both located in remote and mountainous areas, were killed during the aerial attack conducted March 26, 1994. Only 32 days remain in the statute of limitations in the case, but former Justice Minister Ergin hinted that the case could be reopened if necessary applications were made in his statements following the ruling. Ergin argued that a fourth judicial package introduced a provision permitting the opening of new investigations in cases after the ECHR finds a violation.  he victims’ lawyer, Tahir Elçi, recently claimed 25 of the 38 villagers were still alive, according to official documents. He also alleged that the real number of victims was 43 but that five victims’ relatives did not apply to the ECHR.

The court ordered Turkey to pay a total of 2,305,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 5,700 euros jointly for costs and expenses to the 38 applicants, three of whom were wounded in the attack. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-appeals-echrs-record-fine-for-38-villagers-killed-in-1994-airstrike.aspx?pageID=238&nID=62853&NewsCatID=339