European court orders Turkey to pay 1.4 million euros over Şemdinli raid

April 16, 2013, Tuesday/ 15:13:00

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ordered Turkey to pay more than 1.4 million euros in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages to the relatives of 12 villagers who have been missing since a military raid in 1994 in the Şemdinli district of Hakkari, located on the Iraqi border.

According to the relatives of the missing villagers, the Turkish military and gendarmerie forces raided the Ormancık village of Şemdinli on July 24, 1994. There have also been claims that these forces were part of an illegal intelligence organization inside the gendarmerie known as JİTEM.

The residents were told by the military to gather at a helicopter landing pad located in the village's main square, according to the villagers. The men of the village were then stripped naked and beaten. Two pregnant female villagers, Emine Çelik and Zübeyda Uysal, were also beaten when they protested the security forces' conduct and later suffered miscarriages. Kerem İnan was killed by a noncommissioned gendarmerie officer when he did not obey the order to gather in the main square.

The relatives told the European court that the security forces set fire to their homes. Cemal Sevli, Reşit Sevli, Aşur Seçkin, Salih Şengül, Yusuf Çelik, Naci Şengül and Kemal İzci were loaded into military vehicles by the soldiers to be taken to a nearby military base. On the way to the base, the soldiers stopped two cars in which ten villagers were traveling. They allowed the four children who were in the cars to leave but took Hayrullah Öztürk, Abdullah İnan, Mirhaç Çelik, Seddik Şengül, Casım Çelik and Hurşit Taşkın with them. The soldiers then set fire to the villagers' cars.

The rest of the people in the village were then forced by officers to leave Turkey and had to cross the border into Iraq.

Between 1994 and 1997, the villagers lived in the Atrush refugee camp, established by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in northern Iraq. In March 1997, following the closure of the camp by the UN, the villagers moved to Sulaymaniyah, a city in northern Iraq. In the fall of 1997, they finally returned to Turkey and began living in Şemdinli.

Fourteen relatives of the missing villagers -- Meryem Çelik, Zübeyda Uysal, Misrihan Sevli, Emine Çelik, Marya Çelik, Hamit Şengül, Fatma Şengül, Besna Sevli, Hanife İzci, Şakir Öztürk, Kimet Şengül, Hazima Çelik, Şekirnaz İnan and Hamayil İnan -- appealed to the ECtHR on Sept. 10, 2002, having exhausted all domestic legal options.

The applicants claimed that Turkish state security forces were responsible for the forced disappearance and suspected deaths of their relatives. They asserted that their rights, protected by Articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), had been violated.

The court found that the state was liable under Article 2 of the ECHR for the disappearance and deaths of the applicants' relatives and for failing to meet its obligations as outlined in Article 2. The court also found that Article 5 of the ECHR had been violated on account of the unlawful detention of the missing villagers. Additionally, the court decision ruled there had been a violation of Article 3 of the ECHR on account of the suffering of the applicants upon the disappearance of their relatives.

The court awarded 11 applicants 60,000 euro each in pecuniary damages. It also found that the applicants had suffered non-pecuniary damages and awarded 11 applicants each 65,000 euros in this regard. The court also awarded Şengül and Öztürk 32,500 euros each and İnan 20,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages.

The court also awarded the applicants a collective sum of 5,200 euros to cover their legal fees for the court proceedings they were a part of before taking their case to the ECtHR.