Rights groups point to more problems in airstrike aftermath

January 01, 2012, Sunday/ 16:20:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Two human rights groups that visited the Uludere district of southeastern Şırnak province where 35 civilians were killed on Wednesday as a result of an airstrike meant to target terrorists have released a preliminary report on their findings which suggests that the aftermath of the attack has also been riddled with problems.

On Sunday the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) released a report on their findings from their initial visit to the region. The report, which the associations said reflected preliminary findings, claims the identities of the villagers crossing the northern Iraqi border for cross-border trade were known to all security units in the area as the smugglers often used the same route. It also claims that no official body approached the families about retrieving the bodies after the attack and that the families had to bring the bodies back to the village on their own. The local hospital did not have adequate equipment for a reliable autopsy, the report also noted.

The report said, “Thirty-five people have died as a result of bombing by unmanned air vehicles that belong to the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] on Dec. 28, 2011.”

A joint delegation, including representatives from both groups' headquarters and local branches, visited the region on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30.

The report noted that the dead were from the villages of Gülyazı, or Bujeh in Kurdish, and Ortasu, Roboski by its Kurdish name.

The delegation first visited Uludere State Hospital, where some of the bodies were being kept, on Dec. 29 upon their arrival at around 5 p.m. The report noted that the hospital was overcrowded and that the bodies were being kept not in a morgue but in random rooms swathed in blankets with family members waiting next to the bodies. The report said autopsy conditions were not up to scratch, saying the autopsies had been conducted inside a room adjacent to where the hospital's heating system is hosted. Officials allowed the presence of only one lawyer from the Şırnak Bar Association to represent the families during the autopsy. Only six bodies could be examined in the first day, according to the report.

The victims' ages ranged between 12-18. The report also said according to witnesses that officials at the local military outpost had full knowledge of the border trade going on between Uludere locals and northern Iraq. The station has always shown outright tolerance to the border trade, the report said. However, the gendarmerie outpost in Ortasu was evacuated 10 days prior to the airstrike and moved to another region.

The delegation also talked to Haci Encü, one of the three survivors of the airstrike. Encü gave details of the attack and said he hadn't been called to testify by a prosecutor.

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