|Strasbourg Judges Condemn Turkey's Failure to Investigate Civilian Deaths|
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has today condemned Turkey's failure to investigate an incident that became known as the Gucluconak massacre by those who believed that state security forces were responsible ( Belkiza Kaya and Others v. Turkey (nos. 33420/96 and 36206/97)).
KHRP brought the case on behalf of the relatives of ten men who died in the custody of Turkish authorities in January 1996. The men were being transferred to a gendarmerie station when the minibus they were travelling in came under fire. Gendarmes travelling in a separate escort vehicle returned the fire. The shooting, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, ended with the minibus being destroyed and its occupants killed. The body of the driver was found a few metres away bearing gunshot wounds. The bodies of the remaining ten passengers were burnt to ashes.
A KHRP fact-finding mission to the region in 1996 gathered evidence that state security forces were responsible for the killing; while the Turkish government accused the PKK of responsibility. The incident attracted international attention and prompted questions in the UK House of Lords.
The ECtHR held a violation of the right to life (Article 2) to have occurred because the investigations at the scene of the incident had not been conducted with the thoroughness warranted by a case of that nature. No statements were taken by the gendarmes until more than six years after the incident. The authorities only investigated the custody and facts surrounding the questioning of the deceased following KHRP's submission of an application to the ECtHR.
The Government stated that those concerned had been taken into police custody on the basis of statements made by an individual, but failed to produce a copy of the statement in question. Nor did the person's name appear on any record as having been lawfully detained. In those circumstances the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of the right to liberty and security (Article 5). It also found an additional violation of the right to an effective remedy (Article 13).
The Court held either that it was not necessary to examine or that there was insufficient evidence to establish further alleged violations of Articles 2, 3, 6, 8, 14 and 18.
Kerim Yildiz, KHRP Executive Director, says, "Lord Avebury once described this as, "One of a great many cases where the truth may never be fully uncovered." We are pleased that an international human rights court has been able finally to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of these civilians, and hope this judgment provides some measure of redress to the relatives."
 The deceased men were Neytullah Ilhan, Abdullah Ilhan, Halit Kaya, Ahmet Kaya, Ali Nas, Lokman Özdemir, Hamit Yilmaz, Abdulhalim Yilmaz and Besir Nas. In total, eleven civilians died in the incident. The application of one applicant was deemed inadmissible as he was held not to meet the requisite criteria to bring an application under Article 34 of the ECHR. Accordingly, the judgment relates to the remaining applicants.