|EUROPEAN COURT FINDS TURKEY RESPONSIBLE FOR DEATH IN CUSTODY|
The European Court of Human Rights has today confirmed in the case of Aktas v. Turkey that the Turkish State was responsible for the death in custody of a Kurdish man in 1990.
Yakup Aktas, a Kurdish man, died one week after he was taken into custody in Mardin, Turkey on suspicion of assisting the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK, now KADEK). Two police officers charged with beating the man to death during interrogation were acquitted by domestic courts.
The Kurdish Human Rights Project submitted a case to the European Court of Human Rights on 8 June 1994 on behalf of the deceased's brother, Eshat Aktas.
In its judgment, the Court ruled that Turkey had violated the right to life (Article 2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in respect of the death and the deficiencies of the official investigation into the death. The Court noted that, "Where an individual is taken into police custody in good health and is found to be injured on release, it is incumbent on the State to provide a plausible explanation of how those injuries were caused".
The Court ruled that Yakup Aktas had been subjected to torture and that the ensuring investigations had been inadequate. The Turkish State had violated "One of the fundamental values of a democratic society", the prohibition of torture (Article 3). "Even in the most difficult of circumstances, such as the fight against terrorism, the Convention prohibits in absolute terms torture", the Court ruled.
The Court ruled that the applicant's right to an effective remedy had been denied, in violation of Article 13.
The Court ruled that the Turkish Government fell short of its obligation to provide all of the information required by the Court in their task of establishing the facts, in violation of Article 38. The Turkish Government requested during the Court's fact-finding hearing in Ankara in 1997 that their witnesses should be heard in the absence of the applicant. The Court rebuked this attitude and reaffirmed that effective co-operation is of utmost importance in the Strasbourg system.
The Court awarded EUR 288,065 in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages to the deceased's widow and daughter and to the applicant himself.
The KHRP will monitor the Turkish government's implementation of the judgment. Despite Turkey's obligations to ensure the protection of human rights to meet EU accession requirements, violations of human rights continue. According to the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), five further deaths in custody occurred in 2002.
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of KHRP, said, "In cases concerning torture or deaths in custody, it is the state, rather than the applicant, which has the capability to obtain or preserve essential evidence. Where national authorities have failed to conduct such hearings, the European Court should do so. Unfortunately, the Court has recently conducted fewer fact-finding hearings in the light of its spiralling costs and backlog of cases. Cases like Aktas v. Turkey emphasise the paramount importance of fact-finding hearings to the protection of human rights in Europe."