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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Turkey Issues Hefty Sentence in Avsar Murder Case

On 20 March, the Diyarbakir Heavy Criminal Court Number 3 sentenced Gültekin Sütçü, a former member of the Turkish security forces, to 30 years imprisonment under 448 of the Turkish penal Code for “homicidal attempt to murder”, for his involvement in the killing of Mehmet Şerif Avşar in Diyabakir, south-east Turkey in 1994.

KHRP welcomes this decision, 14 years after the killing of Mr. Avşar, as an indication of Turkey’s new willingness to hold members of its security forces to account for their violations of Turkish law. Mr. Avşar was taken into custody by several armed policeman on 22 April 1994 in Diyarbakir and was later found dead. In a KHRP-assisted case in 2002, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey responsible for his death, in violation of the Right to Life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well Article 13 based on its failure to adequately investigate the killing. Whilst several individuals were convicted by Turkey in 2000 for their involvement in Mr. Avşar’s death, Sütçü has until now escaped prosecution.

However, KHRP, along with the victim’s family, is deeply concerned to learn that the court decided not to remand Sütçü in custody until his sentence is ratified by the High Court of Appeal. This is in keeping with Turkey’s handling of the case since Sütçü’s arrest in October 2006. Prior to this, Sütçü had spent several years in hiding, thus showing himself to be a serious flight risk. Now that he has been sentenced, it is highly likely that he will once again disappear and evade justice. 

Upon learning of the sentence, KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz stated, “The sentencing of Gültekin Sütçü is in itself a positive development, indicating greater recognition on the part of Turkey for the crimes committed by its security forces during the conflict in the Kurdish Region of Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s. Yet any failure to ensure that he serves his sentence will severely undermine this process.  Over the past 15 years, KHRP has been involved with a number of cases in which Turkey has failed to bring to justice members of its own security forces for torture, abductions and murder. Indeed, the ultimate casualty of this is the integrity of the rule of law, which is severely undermined by a culture of impunity that this creates.”