|Strasbourg Condemns Turkey's Treatment of Local PKK Leader|
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found Turkey in violation of the right to life and prohibition of torture or ill-treatment in a case concerning its treatment of a member of an armed illegal group ( Kanlibas v. Turkey ).
The case concerns the death of Ali Ekber Kanlibas, a Turkish national of Kurdish origin and local leader of the Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan (PKK - Kurdistan Workers' Party). He died on 9 January 1996 during an armed confrontation with security forces. Five PKK militants and three soldiers were killed during the clash; Kanlibas's body was the only one later identified by forensic medical experts. According to their report Kanlibas died as a result of acute haemorrhaging caused by bullet wounds and an autopsy was declared unnecessary.
The deceased's brother and applicant, Hüseyin Kanlibas, only discovered the news of his death and the site of his burial through the national Turkish press. Upon examination of the corpse in preparation for washing the body in accordance with religious tradition, Mr Hüseyin Kanlibas noticed significant mutilation of the eyes, ears and sides of the body including bruises mingled with prints left by the soles of boots, suggesting that the deceased had been kicked. The applicant took photos of the mutilated corpse as evidence and on 24 January 1996 wrote to a human rights organisation complaining, among other matters, of the mutilations inflicted on his brother's dead body. The applicant submitted that the Turkish authorities had not conducted an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of his brother and felt that articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) had been violated.
An official investigation was opened but on 8 May 1998 the Kangal public prosecutor's office discontinued proceedings against the accused officials. The European Court noted that in spite of this investigation, it remained unconvinced that the authorities had acted with the speed and neutrality necessary to establish the circumstances behind the armed clash and the responsibilities arising from it. The Court was concerned that the Turkish Government had been unable to list all the troops who had taken part in the engagement and believed this illustrated the incomplete and inadequate nature of the inquiry. The applicant himself had been excluded from the judicial investigation.
The Court observed that the Government had not been able to show that the Turkish authorities had done everything in their power to identify and question the soldiers who had taken an active part in the fighting an in the mutilation of Ali Ekber Kanlibas. Consequently, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 3, in respect of the applicant, on account of the inadequacy of the investigation conducted into the mutilations and a further violation of Article 2 on account of the inadequacy of the investigation conducted into the case. It is one of a series of cases brought to the Court by KHRP highlighting violations of the right to life and prohibition of torture by Turkish authorities.