ECHR orders Turkey to regulate use of tear gas, pay compensation to victim
DAILY NEWS PhotoThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Turkey to pay 65,000 euros for the tear gas canister-related death of a passerby during a protest in 2006, also ruling that “Turkey must regulate the use of tear-gas grenades.”
The victim, Tarık Ataykaya, was passing through a demonstration when he was hit in the head by a tear-gas canister fired by police as they sought to disperse demonstrators who were protesting the death of 14 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Diyarbakır on March 29, 2006. Ataykaya succumbed to his injuries a few minutes later.
The police officer responsible for Ataykaya’s death was never successfully identified due to the fact that the “type No. 12” tear-gas canister cartridge he fired at the victim’s head bore no distinguishing marks.
On Jan. 30, 2008, the police disciplinary board decided to close the investigation and not impose any disciplinary sanction on the 14 suspects, on the grounds that there was no evidence to prove their involvement in the death. Many of the police officers present were wearing balaclavas at the time, the court noted.
Arguing that he did not have an effective remedy in domestic law that would allow him to sue the perpetrator who fired the fatal shot, Mehmet Nesip Ataykaya, the victim’s father, applied to the ECHR, which ruled that Turkey had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards the right to life.
Besides this “substantive aspect” of the verdict, the court also ruled that the Turkish authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation, delayed the process, and failed to order an expert report. The court also stressed that “the domestic authorities had deliberately created a situation of impunity, making it impossible to identify the police officers” by allowing them to wear balaclavas.
No instructions for tear-gas use
Meanwhile, the ECHR added that “Turkish law lacked any specific provisions governing the use of tear gas grenades during demonstrations and did not lay down any instructions for their use” at the time of the events. It noted that the investigation file was still open at the national level, meaning that fresh investigative measures ought to be taken in the Ataykaya case.
In addition to the 65,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages, Turkey has been ordered to pay 5,000 euros in legal costs and expenses.
Referring to two previous cases, the court “insisted on the need to reinforce, without further delay, guarantees of the proper use of tear-gas grenades, in order to minimize the risks of death and injury stemming from their use.”
Under Articles 43 and 44 of the European Convention on Human Rights, chamber judgments are not final. During the three-month period following a judgment’s delivery, any party may request the case be referred to the grand chamber of the court.