ECHR finds Turkey guilty of violating right to life in 2000 prison operation
STRASBOURGThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty for violating the right to life in a notorious police operation at an Istanbul prison in 2000.
Twelve people, relatives of the victims of the December 2000 police operation known as “Hayata Dönüş” (Return to Life) in Bayrampaşa Prison, had applied to the court.
The operation came after prisoners in various Turkish jails went on a hunger strike in October 2000 in protest at plans for “F-type” prisons, intended to introduce smaller detention units for inmates. In December 2000 a team of mediators held talks with the strikers and a delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) travelled to Turkey. However, no solution could be found.
The governor of Bayrampaşa Prison subsequently asked for an intervention by the security forces to put an end to the hunger strike.
The “Hayata Dönüş” operation was simultaneously launched in about 20 prisons on Dec. 19, with the participation of close to 10,000 soldiers and police officers. Some 32 inmates and two troops died in the operation. In Bayrampaşa Prison alone, 12 inmates were killed and around 50 were wounded, some by gunfire.
According to a report prepared by the fire service, a fire had been lit by the prisoners and, according to the autopsy reports, those who died had succumbed to carbon dioxide poisoning, gunshots or explosives. A criminal trial is still ongoing.
Criminal proceedings over abuse of power were brought against prison security staff and the gendarmerie officers who took part in evacuating the prison, but eventually exceeded the statute of limitations.
The relatives of the deceased subsequently opted to apply to the ECHR, relying in particular on Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. In their application, the relatives criticized the authorities for using excessive and disproportionate force during the operation in Bayrampaşa Prison.