|KURDISH WOMAN EMERGES VICTORIOUS IN CASE AGAINST TURKEY OVER HUSBAND'S MURDER|
Ekinci v. Turkey (Killing)
Yesterday, 16 July 2002, the European Court of Human Rights handed down a decision in favour of Ülkü Ekinci who claimed that the 1994 murder of her husband, Yusuf Ekinci, a prominent lawyer of Kurdish origin, was the responsibility of the Turkish State. The Court found the State to be violation of Articles 2 (right to life) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Kurdish Human Rights Project had lodged an application with the European Commission of Human Rights on behalf of Ms. Ekinci in May 1995. On 25 February 1994, road workers found Yusuf Ekinci's body alongside the E-90 TEM highway in Gölbasi on the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey. A criminal investigation was opened into his death and an autopsy, carried out on 26 February 1994, found 11 bullet entry wounds on his body and concluded that he had died of bullet wounds to the head and breast.
The applicant submitted to the Court that the killing of her husband was one of about 400 so-called "unknown perpetrator" killings in 1994, as documented by various human rights organisations. The principal victims had included prominent Kurdish businessmen and intellectuals. At the time Yusuf Ekinci was killed, the focal point of the campaign against terrorism was the victim's native Lice (southeast Turkey) and its surrounding villages. Moreover, the method used in the killing of Yusuf Ekinci was identical to that used in the murders of intellectuals and businessmen of Kurdish origin in the main Turkish cities in 1994. The applicant therefore alleged that her husband had been killed with the knowledge and under the auspices of the Turkish authorities, and that there was no effective investigation into his killing.
In its decision, the Court noted that there were no eye-witnesses to the killing (the witness referred to by the applicant had remained anonymous and, reportedly, was unwilling to give a written statement), and the only forensic evidence available consisted of a number of bullets found at the scene of the crime which a forensic examination had shown bore no resemblance to bullets previously examined. Thus, the Court found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the applicant's husband was, beyond reasonable doubt, killed by or with the connivance of State agents.
However, as to the alleged inadequacy of the investigation, the Court noted that the investigating authorities failed to draw a link between Ekinci and Behçet Cantürk, a former client of the victim whose murder one month earlier was strongly believed to have involved State agents. The Court stated that, as it was undisputed that Yusuf Ekinci was a wealthy person of Kurdish origin and that, at least in the past, he had publicly stated that he was a Kurdish nationalist and had been politically active until 1990, it was surprising that the investigating authorities had, from the very outset, failed to see the link between Ekinci and Cantürk. Thus, the Court concluded that the investigation by the Turkish authorities into the circumstances surrounding the killing of the applicant's husband was neither adequate nor effective. There had therefore been a breach of the State's procedural obligation under Article 2 to protect the right to life.
The Court awarded the applicant damages and costs of over £15, 000.
The Court's judgment is accessible on its Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
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 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.