|European Court Orders Turkey to Pay|
Mustafa TANLI v Turkey (right to life)
Earlier this afternoon, in a judgment handed down by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Tanli v Turkey, the Turkish State was found in violation Article 2 (the right to life) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights for the death of Mahmut Tanli, a young Kurdish man who died whilst under interrogation in police custody.
The Kurdish Human Rights Project lodged an application with the European Commission of Human Rights on 22nd December 1994 on behalf of Mustafa Tanli, in relation to events which occurred on 27 and 28 June 1994. On 27 June 1994, Mahmut Tanli, the son of Mustafa Tanli, was arrested and taken into police custody during a police search of his village. The following day, Mahmut Tanli died during interrogation, allegedly of a heart attack.
In the investigation carried out by the public prosecutor, police officers stated that Mahmut Tanli had gone pale and collapsed after being told they had evidence that he was involved with the PKK. Although a forensic examination was carried out before the burial, it was found to be inadequate. The body of Mahmut Tanli was later exhumed in 1995, but due to deterioration of the body no findings were possible as to the cause of death.
In their application to the European Commission of Human Rights, the applicants contended that the Turkish State was in breach of Articles 2, 3, 5, 13, 14 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In finding Turkey to be in violation of Article 2, the Court stressed that where an individual was taken into police custody in good health and died, it was incumbent on the State to provide a plausible explanation. Mahmut Tanli was in good health when he was taken into custody and did not have any medical history of illness. In addition, the post mortem procedure had been defective in fundamental aspects, notably because there had been no dissection of the heart. The examination of the body had been insufficient to rebut the allegations made by the applicant that Mahmut Tanli was tortured to death. Accordingly, the Turkish Government had failed to provide a proper explanation for the death of Mahmut Tanli. As a result, there had been a violation of Article 2. Furthermore, the inadequacy of the forensic investigation led the Court to conclude that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mahmut Tanli's death, also a violation of Article 2.
In finding a violation of Article 13, the Court held that as they had found the Turkish Government responsible under Article 2 of the Convention for the death in custody of the applicant's son, the applicant's complaints were "arguable" for the purposes of Article 13, placing the authorities under an obligation to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances of Mahmut Tanli's death. Given the inadequacy of the post mortem examinations, the Court found that the applicant had been denied an effective remedy in respect of the death of his son and thereby access to any other available remedies at his disposal, including a claim for compensation. The Court consequently found that the applicants had been deprived of an effective remedy, and that the Turkish State had violated Article 13.
The Court held that the applicants were entitled to an explanation from the police officers in adversarial proceedings. However, in the State's criminal trial of the police officers, no evidence was given by the applicants. The police officers were acquitted solely on the basis of their own evidence, and were not required to provide an explanation as to how Devrim Berktay came to fall whilst in their custody. The Court consequently found that the applicants had been deprived of an effective remedy, and that the Turkish State had violated Article 13.
The Court awarded compensation in the sum of £10,000 to Mustafa Tanli in respect of his pain and suffering due to the loss of his son, £20,000 in respect of the pain and suffering of Mahmut Tanli, and £38,754.77 in respect of pecuniary losses suffered by the Tanli family as a result of his death. It further ordered the Government to pay an additional £9,760 in legal costs.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. The Kurdish Human Rights Project works for the promotion and protection of human rights within the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union.
2. The case of Tanli v. Turkey concerns the death in custody of Mahmut Tanli, a twenty-two year old man, whilst in police custody.
3. The application was made by the Kurdish Human Rights Project on 22nd December 1994 on behalf of Mahmut Tanli and his father Mustafa.
4. The Court, in a judgment handed down on 1st March 2001, found Turkey to be in violation of Articles 2 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
5. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the Court awarded Mustafa Tanli £10,000 for pain, suffering and non pecuniary damage, £20,000 to Mahmut Tanli for non pecuniary damage, and £38,754.77 for pecuniary damage.6. The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. On 1 November 1998 a full-time Court was established, replacing the original two-tier system of a part-time Commission and Court.