Turkish Justice Ministry: Uludere killings ‘mistake,’ but not ‘unfair’
Ferit Aslan DİYARBAKIR / ŞIRNAK
DHA PhotoThe Justice Ministry has described the killing of 34 villagers by a Turkish military airstrike in 2011 in the southeastern province of Şırnak as a “mistake,” though it was not necessarily an “unfair use of force.”
The ministry’s statement on the matter was sent to the Constitutional Court upon an appeal by relatives of the victims of what is known as the Roboski massacre. The top court conveyed the statement to the complainant families and asked for their counter statement.
“Even if they [the military] hadn’t yet encountered an attack during a terror or an arrest operation, they were permitted to use force to attain their goals, as cited in the second clause of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, in this case, they should have a sincere conviction that their use of force was based on strong reasons that seemed valid during that time. Understanding later that there was a mistake cannot automatically make the use of the force unfair; thinking otherwise would burden the state with an unrealistic charge, which could harm their lives and that of others while fulfilling their duties,” the Justice Ministry said in its 28-page report on the issue.
“However, conditions surrounding the incident show the presence of a reasonable conviction that required the use of force,” the ministry also stated.
Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights covers the right to life.
“Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary: (a) in defense of any person from unlawful violence; (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; (c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection,” says the second clause of the same article.
In its document sent to the Constitutional Court, the Justice Ministry noted that it drafted its opinion by taking a letter and documents prepared by the General Staff in 2014 as a basis.
In January 2014, the General Staff’s Military Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the investigation into the massacre, saying in its ruling that military officers made an “inevitable” mistake while performing their duty. At the time, the families of the victims filed a formal objection against the military prosecutor’s dismissal.
The air strikes were carried out near the Turkish-Iraqi border in the village of Ortasu (Roboski in Kurdish) in Şırnak’s Uludere district on Dec. 28, 2011, and cost the lives of civilian villagers after they were allegedly mistaken for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants while smuggling goods into Turkey.
Compensation sent back to Prime Ministry account
It also emerged this week that the compensation sent by the Prime Ministry to the families in February 2012 was returned to the Prime Ministry’s account, because the families refused to take it.
Upon a decision by the Damage Assessment Commission of the Şırnak Governor's Office, the total compensation of 4,182,000 Turkish Liras was returned to the Prime Ministry’s account.
Ferhat Encü, who lost his 17-year-old brother, along with many other relatives in the attack, recalled that at the time they told President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was then prime minister, that they would not accept compensation as long as the perpetrators are not tried before justice.
“The compensation that they wanted to pay was meant to be hush money. We didn’t take it because we view it in this way,” Encü said.