Diyarbakır Prosecutor's Office refers Uludere case to military
Thirty-four people who were killed in an airstrike in Şırnak province due to an intelligence failure were buried following the noon prayer in Şırnak’s Ortasu cemetery in this December, 2011 file photo. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Kürşat Bayhan)
The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has ruled that a case concerning the killing of 34 civilians in a military air strike in late 2011 in Uludere is outside of its jurisdiction and decided to refer the case to military prosecutors.
The office, which had been investigating the tragic death of the 34 victims, on Tuesday decided to send the Uludere case to the General Staff Military Prosecutor's Office, claiming that the case is outside of its jurisdiction.
Retired judge Reşat Petek in initial comments about the prosecution's decision recalled that a parliamentary commission investigating Uludere had released an unsatisfactory report. “There is the Uludere report from Parliament and there is also the judicial investigation. The parliamentary report was not adopted by unanimous vote. The prime minister told everyone to wait for the outcome of the judicial investigation. The jurisdiction ruling is about procedural methods. It doesn't mean that there is no crime, rather it means that the investigation falls under the scope of the military judiciary.”
Petek said that by its nature, a ruling that states that a case is outside one's jurisdiction indicates that the person who committed a certain crime has not yet been identified. “So this is not about closing the case. It is only saying the military judiciary is in charge of this investigation. Although the judicial scope of the military judiciary was narrowed in the  referendum, the military court of the General Staff is still functional. After this point we should look at this within the scope of military trial procedures. If the military court also rules the case out of its jurisdiction, the case might be referred to a court of disputes,” Petek explained.
A retired prosecutor from the Supreme Court of Appeals, Ahmet Gündel also stated that the prosecutor has only announced a decision that it is not his job to investigate Uludere. “Now the General Staff will assign the task of investigating this case to the military prosecutor's office and if that office decides that the case is within its own jurisdiction, it will carry out the investigation. If it also rules it out of its jurisdiction, then a court will decide which court should hear the case.”
However, Gündel also noted that the civilian prosecutor didn't have to wait this long to decide whether it should be the prosecutor's office or the military judiciary investigating the case. “Most probably they thought it was their job initially, but later they decided that this wasn't the case. But the people who died were killed in an airstrike. This was obviously done by military individuals. This is why they should have made this ruling earlier.”
Thirty-four men and boys were traveling back to their villages in Şırnak's Uludere region from cities in northern Iraq after a day of trading in late 2011 when Turkish jets bombed the border-crossers, later saying that the commanders mistook them for Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists.
The parliamentary sub-commission investigating the incident said in its report in March that the killings were not deliberate although it listed numerous flaws in the decision-making leading up to the incident.