Top court rules for investigation into senior officials for negligence after Van quake
Mesut Hasan Benli ANKARA
Twenty people were killed when the Bayram Hotel collapsed during a 5.6-magnitude aftershock following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Van in 2011. DHA photoThe high court has made a landmark decision ruling for an investigation into the then-governor and other senior bureaucrats, after an appeal from the family of a victim who died during the 5.6 magnitude aftershock in Van on Nov. 9, 2011.
The initial 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Van on Oct. 23, 2011, killing over 600. The aftershock that followed toppled the Bayram Hotel, killing 24 people, including Selman Kerimoğlu.
Upon the review of an individual appeal from the Kerimoğlu family, the Constitutional Court on Oct. 30 referred to the case concerning slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in January 2007, citing the state’s responsibility to protect the right to life for all individuals. In both cases, applicants had no domestic remedy to appeal because legal authorities did not allow investigations into officials suspected of being responsible for deaths for not taking the measures required.
Underlining the state’s responsibility to protect the right to life for all individuals in the face of risks, the Court said it was obvious that people would reside at the hotel following the first quake.
“In this case, it can be expected of responsible persons to conduct a damage assessment for the hotel within 16 days after the first earthquake and decide if evacuation is needed,” the court said.
Accordingly, the court ruled for the payment of 20,000 Turkish Liras to Kerimoğlu’s spouse and children as compensation and also judged to send the case file to the Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals to have the investigation opened against both the then-governor and officials from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), a body affiliated with the Office of Turkey’s Prime Ministry. The court referred to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in which it ruled the country was liable for failing to protect Dink’s life and freedom of expression.