Getting away with a fine after killing 45 people

Getting away with a fine after killing 45 people

As we close 2015, a court ruling has arrived to pierce our hearts.

The prison sentences for two contractors and one engineer in the case of the Dağ apartment building which killed 45 people at the Van earthquake in eastern Turkey in 2011 were converted to fines. 

The families of the victims of the Dağ building had sought justice after the earthquake. The public prosecutor wrote his indictment of “eventual intent.” This meant that the person did not want to kill but created an environment that caused the deaths. For instance, you go and plant a bomb somewhere, you do not want people to die but that bomb explodes and people die. This is eventual intent. 

However, the court did not even go to “conscious negligence” and reached its decision from “simple negligence.”

In conscious negligence, the perpetrator, even though he can predict what will happen, acts with self-confidence and thinks the feared will not happen. In other words, he says, “Nothing will happen, come on.”

In simple negligence, as in this case, the perpetrator cannot foresee or cannot predict what will happen. 

In other words, the court in this case said, “The defendants did not want the building to collapse and kill 45 people. That did not even cross their minds. But while they were building the structure they did not exert the necessary attention and care.” 

Behind this “good-willed” approach of the court lay the fact that the families of the defendants also resided in the Dağ building. Expert reports wrote, “If a person also lives in the same building, that person genuinely acts with the belief that this building will not collapse.” 

In a country of reckless contractors, “tolerating” this situation unfortunately does not serve justice. 

When a contractor is constructing a building, he has to be far-sighted. If you are constructing a building in an earthquake zone, you have to be extremely careful and sensitive. If you are not, if you act so unconsciously while constructing in a first-degree quake zone, then this is what can be evaluated as conscious negligence. 

Regardless of your being in the building, regardless of your family living in the building, if 45 people lost their lives because of your negligence, the court should not reach a ruling that would correspond to “The guy would not have wanted this to happen…”

For instance, in the case of the Bayram Hotel, which collapsed and killed 24 people, the court sentenced the defendants based on conscious negligence. Moreover, the Supreme Court of Appeals asked for the 10-year sentences to be increased.

While the defendants at the Bayram Hotel received 15-16 year jail sentences, in the case of the Dağ apartment building, where 45 people died, they got away with the lowest fines. Three people received 10 years initially; this was reduced to eight years because of good conduct. The six-year sentence of one of them was further reduced and was converted to a fine; whereas, the court here could have given 15 years because the high number of casualties. 

The eight-year sentence was converted based on the lowest fine, 20 Turkish Liras a day. The court is giving this message: “Go and build whichever way you want to; let 45 people die and then I will fine you at most 60,000 liras.” 

Punishments should have deterrent features. If people who are responsible, this way or that way, for the death of 45 people can go on with their lives by paying 60,000 liras, then punishments have no deterrent effect in this country.