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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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Orhan v Turkey ('Disappearance'/ Village Destruction)


In a judgment of 18 June 2002, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to pay a total of £100 000 to Salih Orhan for the 1994 burning and destruction of the Kurdish village of Debovoyu and the subsequent 'disappearance' of his two brothers, Selim and Hasan Orhan, and his son, Cezayir Orhan.

On 24 November 1994, the Kurdish Human Rights Project lodged an application with the European Commission of Human Rights on behalf of Salih Orhan. He alleged that on 6 May 1994, after a large military convoy had gathered the villagers in Deveboyu (also known as Adrok) in Southeast Turkey and given them one hour to clear their houses, the soldiers began burning the houses in the village including his home and those of Hasan and Selim Orhan. He also alleged that on 7 May 1994, Selim Orhan and other villagers went to Kulp and complained about the incident to the Kulp District Gendarme Commander who gave the villagers permission to stay in their village in order to harvest crops. On 24 May 1994 the soldiers returned to the village and forced Selim, Hasan and Cezayir Orhan to accompany them as guides. The three men, Salih Orhan claimed, were last seen alive in Gümüssuyu hamlet in the custody of the soldiers.

In its decision, the Court noted that the Orhans were last seen being taken away to an unidentified place of detention by Turkish security forces. There was also some direct evidence that the Orhans were wanted by the authorities, and in the general context of the criminal law protection situation in Southeast Turkey in 1994, it could not therefore be denied that detention of such people would be life-threatening. As no information had come to light concerning the whereabouts of the Orhans for almost eight years, the Court was satisfied that they must be presumed dead following an unacknowledged detention by the security forces. Therefore, the Turkish Government was found to be liable for the deaths.

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.

The Court also noted that the Orhans' detention was not logged in the relevant custody records and that there existed no official trace of their subsequent whereabouts or fate. This fact enabled those responsible to conceal their involvement in a crime, to cover their tracks and to escape accountability for the fate of the detainees. Given the deficiencies in the investigations into the applicant's early, consistent and serious assertions about the apprehension and detention of the Orhans by the security forces and their subsequent disappearance, the Court concluded that the Orhans had been held in unacknowledged detention in the complete absence of the most fundamental of safeguards.

Moreover, the Court found that the homes and certain possessions of the Orhans were deliberately destroyed by the security forces in their unlawful attempt to evacuate the village after the harvest. There was no doubt that these acts constituted particularly grave and unjustified interferences with the applicant's and the Orhans' right to respect for their private and family lives and homes.

The Court also noted that the applicant had been summoned before Diyarbakir Chief Public Prosecutor in relation to his application to the former European Commission of Human Rights, which could have been an intimidating experience. The Court emphasised that it was inappropriate for State authorities to enter into direct contact with an applicant in this way. In addition, an attempt was made by the authorities to cast doubt on the validity of the application and thereby on the credibility of the applicant, actions which could not but be interpreted as a bid to try to frustrate the applicant's successful pursuance of his claims.

The Turkish State was found in violation Articles 2 (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of torture and degrading treatment or punishment), Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 34 (right to petition the Court) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The judgment and details of the compensation awarded to the applicant are accessible at the Court's internet site (


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.