Uludere families, lawyers say court ruling result of weakness

13 June 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – Lawyers and families of the 34 people killed in the southeastern township of Uludere in an airstrike by Turkish jets in 2011 have responded negatively to a civilian court ruling that the investigation is outside its jurisdiction.

The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday ruled that the case concerning the killing of 34 people is outside its jurisdiction and decided to refer the case to military prosecutors. The office, which had been investigating the tragic deaths of the 34 victims, on Tuesday decided to send the Uludere case to the General Staff Military Prosecutor’s Office. The decision comes at the end of a one-and-a-half-year investigation into the Uludere incident, leading some observers to accuse the prosecution of taking too long to announce its final decision.

Lawyers for the victims say the prosecutor’s referral implies that it believes the airstrike was an “accident.”

Veli Encü, whose brother Ferhat Encü died in the airstrike, said the prosecutor’s office had found that its jurisdiction did not include Uludere because it didn’t know what to do and it had to remove itself from a situation it didn’t want to be in. He referred to it as a “weakness.”

Lawyer Meral Danış Beştaş said the airstrike was not the result of an error or abuse of power, but “a murder committed against society.” The prosecutor’s office has so far reviewed documents from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the General Staff and other agencies. It also examined a report prepared by a parliamentary commission, which had referred to the tragedy as an “accident” and failed short of accusing any specific individuals.

Encü said the investigation has not moved forward an inch, although a significant amount of time has elapsed. He claimed that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is politically responsible and that the chief of General Staff is also responsible in military terms for the massacre. He said it was similar to the report of the parliamentary commission. Lawyer Beştaş, who is also deputy chairwoman of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), said the family lawyers were examining the ruling and they might appeal it. “The charge in the referral by the Diyarbakır prosecutor is ‘causing death due to an error.’ The prosecutor says the deaths caused by the airstrike were not deliberate. The decision indicates that the order [for the airstrike] just occurred during military action. The prosecutor has given the case to the military prosecutor. This is a crime against humanity, and this is not over yet. This is not an error or abuse of authority, it is a crime against society. We will continue our efforts to make sure that those responsible are punished.”