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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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Semse ONEN v TURKEY (extra-judicial killing)

For immediate release - 20th May 2002


The European Court of Human Rights has found Turkey in violation of Article 2 (right to life) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights and has ordered the Turkish Government to pay more than €175,000 Euros in compensation to ten Kurdish children who watched as their parents and brother were killed in front of them during an attack on their home in Southeast Turkey in 1993.

In its 14 May 2002 judgment, the Court found the Turkish Government to have violated the right to life of Ibrahim and Mome Onen along with their son, Orhan Onen, in its failure to conduct a serious, adequate or effective investigation into their March 1993 murders. Most notably, the Court found the investigation team to have committed multiple errors in standard criminal investigation procedure which included failure to take any photographs of the crime scene, failure to number and record the location of spent cartridges, drawing an inadequate sketch map of the scene, and taking no eyewitness statements at the crime scene. In addition, the Court found that the public prosecutor in the case requested that the Onen's death certificates state that they "were murdered by fire-armed members of the outlawed PKK terrorist organisation" without having first conducted an effective official investigation. Consequently, the domestic investigation in Turkey proceeded under the assumption that the PKK was responsible for the deaths. In light of Turkey's failure to carry out an adequate investigation into the Onens' murders, the Court held that they had violated both the right to life (Article 2) and the right to an effective remedy (Article 13).

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the Court awarded the Onen children a total of €149,000 Euros in non-pecuniary damage and an additional £17,500 in costs and damages.

The case was first lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights on 15 September 1993 by the Kurdish Human Rights Project on behalf of the ten surviving Onen children who contended that Turkey had breached Articles 2, 3, 6, 8, 13 and 14 of the European Convention. The Onen children alleged that their parents and brother had been murdered by State agents while the Turkish Government contended that PKK guerrillas had a motive for the killing. In 1998, the European Commission held fact-finding hearings in Ankara at which they found Turkey's version of the events in the case to be unsubstantiated and contradicted by substantial evidence. Concluding that the Onens had been murdered by two masked gunmen who entered the family's home after having introduced themselves as soldiers, the Commission found "grave deficiencies" in the State's investigation. These conclusions were confirmed in the Court's 14 May 2002 judgment.

For a full copy of the Court's judgment in this case, go to


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.