|TURKISH GOVERNMENT's 'VILLAGE GUARD' SYSTEM UNDERLIES MURDER OF THREE KURDISH VILLAGERS|
Three days ago, on 9 July 2002, Yusuf Unal, Abdulsamet Unal and Abdurrahim Unal, former residents of the village of Nurettin in Mus Province in eastern Turkey, were allegedly murdered by local village guards who work in the service of the Turkish Government. Shortly before their death, the three men, along with 13 fellow villagers, had applied for legal advice to the Kurdish Human Rights Project.
From the mid-1980s, residents of Kurdish villages have been coerced into joining the Village Guard System (koruculuk), a militia developed and armed by the Turkish Government to monitor Kurdish populations. This group, which have been implicated in various serious human rights violations in southeast Turkey ¹, have also been found to be involved in the systematic evacuation of Kurdish villages carried out at the behest of Turkish security forces. Village guards now number some 65,000.²
On 27 November 1993, Nurettin Village was allegedly raided by hundreds of State soldiers and Village Guards who forced local residents from their homes and destroyed much of the village. Villagers complained that, since the latter's absence, the houses and fields of the village have been unlawfuly occupied by these village guards. Despite several petitions compiled by the villagers, Turkish authorities consistently refused Nurettin's internally displaced population the right to return to their homes. At the end of last year, however, residents received short-term permission to work in the fields that they had formerly owned. Relatives of the three victims allege that, after their eighth working day, were about to leave the village when they were fatally attacked by the village guards who were armed with guns and knifes.
Additionally, the Court found several deficiencies in the investigations into the Orhans' disappearance, among which included the failure to investigate the situation when it occured, failure to take key witness statements, and failure to obtain information concerning security force activities operative in the region at the time.
Prior to their deaths, these men and 13 other former residents of Nurettin had applied to the Kurdish Human Rights Project for assistance to take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. KHRP had been preparing their applications.
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.
² U.S. State Department Report on Turkey, February 2001, p.17. The system used tribal loyalties and divisions and the traditional social structures of the region to recruit tens of thousands of Kurds. A human rights report on East and South region of Turkey under emergency law, IHD, 1991 and Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, "Turkey: Forced Displacement of Ethnic Kurds from Southeastern Turkey," Vol. 6, No. 12, 1994, p. 10.