‘Your face is burnt, but 30,000 is enough for you’

‘Your face is burnt, but 30,000 is enough for you’

A high-voltage transmission line snapped and fell on a first lieutenant walking on a street in 2002 in Istanbul’s Sarıgazi neighborhood. Shopkeepers responded and moved the wire away from him with a piece of wood; as such, the lieutenant survived. 

He was taken to a nearby hospital and then to the GATA military hospital. He was in the intensive care unit for 20 days; 10 percent of his body had first-degree burns. He could not go out into the sun for a year; he had to go to the hospital every week to have his dressings changed. He had other operations. He never fully recovered; scars and damage remained on 8 percent of his body, including his face.

The first application to the electricity distribution company, TEDAŞ, was not even answered. The lieutenant and his lawyer filed a case at the Ümraniye Peace Court for non-material damages.  

TEDAŞ said it regularly maintained the lines, adding that “there was no negligence on our part.” But there was an accident and even if TEDAŞ was not at fault, it is still responsible. 

In 2010, at the end of the court case that lasted seven years, the court decided on a 75,000-Turkish Lira settlement for non-material damages. TEDAŞ took it to the appeals court. The appeals court found 75,000 too much and reversed the decision. In 2013, the figure was lowered to 65,000 liras. It was again taken to the appeals court. In 2014, the Supreme Court of Appeals again reversed the decision on the grounds that non-material damages could not be used as a tool to become rich, meaning 65,000 was also too much. 

A retrial was ordered, and the judge said he was tired. “Whatever we decide they reverse it.” He ordered compensation of 30,000 liras. Both sides appealed this. TEDAŞ wanted to lower it. 

In 2015, the Supreme Court found 30,000 reasonable, commenting that this amount could not make anybody rich. 

The lawyer of the lieutenant believed justice had not been served. He again appealed to revise the decision. Two months ago the high court rejected him, saying there was nothing wrong in the decision. The lieutenant took it to the Constitutional Court (AYM) as an individual application as the last stop in domestic law. 

In normal times, the process in AYM takes about a year, but now, with the tens of thousands of applications in connection with the Gülen movement, it is difficult to estimate when this type of case will be reviewed. At best, it could take two years. Comparing it with other cases, they will probably decide there has been a violation of rights because of the long duration of the case, meaning 5,000 or 10,000 liras will be added to it.

 Clearly, though, this case is on its way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 

Realistically, however, the ECHR will not rule for five or six more years. In other words, this lieutenant’s attempt to win his rights will go on for at least 24 years. 

The reason the lieutenant and the lawyer are persistently following up this case is the major injustice, the contradictions and the lack of conscientious justice. 

In Turkish compensation law, courts order the minimum and rule in favor of the state and its institutions since there is no adequate public pressure. In other words, in this country, we do not have the rule of law, but we have the rule of the superior. Courts prioritize institutions over individuals and postpone justice. 

An officer who has lost his face and his career and who has permanent damages to parts of his body, is supposed to be pursuing this case just to become rich? 

The lieutenant is in an administrative post now. If this accident had not happened, he could have become a major in the time he spent in courts. 

An electric line stole his future, but the cost of that is 30,000 liras.  

And this is called justice, you say?