Turkish military prosecutors dismiss investigation into Uludere massacre

Turkish military prosecutors dismiss investigation into Uludere massacre

Turkish military prosecutors dismiss investigation into Uludere massacre

Relatives of the Uludere/Roboski massacre victims attend to the opening of a monument in Diyarbakır, Dec 30, 2013. Cihan photo

The General Staff’s Military Prosecutor’s Office has dismissed the investigation into the Uludere/Roboski massacre, in which 34 civilians were killed in an air strike, saying in its ruling military officers have made an “inevitable” mistake while performing their duty. 

The decision for the raid was made following a meeting of the top brass at the General Staff, military prosecutors also said, thoroughly detailing the process of the decision-making in the ruling. 

Following the approval at the senior commanders’ meeting, the decision was then submitted to the Chief of General Staff, who was attending a meeting of the National Security Council (MGK), military prosecutors said. 

“A map has been sent to the [Chief of General Staff’s] office, the air operation was approved by the General Staff and all these procedures were finalized around 8 p.m.,” the ruling said. 

The air strikes eventually carried out near the Turkish-Iraqi border in the village of Ortasu (Roboski nin Kurdish) in the Şırnak's Uludere district on Dec. 28, 2011, cost the lives of thirty-four civilian villagers after they were allegedly mistaken for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants as they smuggled goods into Turkey. 

“It was understood the actions of the members of the Turkish Armed Forces involved in the incident did not necessitate opening a civil law suit, as they fell into an inevitable error while performing their duty in line with the Parliament’s and Cabinet’s decrees,” military prosecutors said in the ruling.

It also said military aircraft dropped four bombs on the villagers during the airstrike, which ultimately resulted in the most tragic massacre in Turkey’s recent history.

Bar readies to contact ECHR

The decision outraged relatives and lawyers as the Diyarbakır Bar Association announced they will appeal to the European Court of Human Right if their individual complaint to Turkey’s Constitutional Court bears no fruit. 

“We had already said the [prosecution] could not be carried out objectively and neutrally by a military prosecution. Therefore, although this is an unacceptable decision in terms of justice, it was not a surprise for us,” Diyarbakır Bars head Tahir Elçi said in a press statement. 

“We will use every legal path: internal, as well as external mechanisms,” he said. 

The co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Sebahat Tuncel also blasted the decision as a new blow to the search for justice. 

“For two tears, the mothers and fathers [of the victims] have launched a walk for justice, traveling across Turkey and even going to Parliament. The state wanted to pay compensation, but they refused, asking for justice,” Tuncel said. 

“Forgetting the massacre means forgetting humanity. Forgetting justice means forgetting peace,” Tuncel added, referring to the ongoing Kurdish peace process. 

Tuncel alleged the prime minister was the one who gave the final decision. “Will you try the prime minister? It is understood that the government and the military have made and agreement and the truth will be covered."

‘Killer state cleared again’

The decision caused outright outcry after it was announced by a relative of victims via Twitter earlier Jan. 7.

“The investigation into Uludere has been finalized. It was ruled to dismiss the charges. It was said that the Turkish Armed Forces were not at fault,” said Ferhat Encü, who lost two brothers and other nine relatives in the airstrike. 

The government has been widely criticized for the approval of a report drafted by a sub-commission of the Human Rights Inquiry Commission that cleared the army in the massacre.

The Parliamentary report issued on March 2013 after 15 months of inquiry concluded no evidence was found to prove the attack was intentional. It eventually decided “poor coordination” between the army and intelligence as the main reason behind the deaths.

Last June, a civilian court in Diyarbakır conducting the investigation issued a controversial decision of non-jurisdiction on the case, transferring it to military prosecutors.

The CHP’s Kurdish deputy head said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should be held responsible for the situation in the first degree, while Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel should be counted as responsible in the second degree. “They are acquitting each other,” Tanrıkulu said. 

“In the statement I made a year-and-a-half ago, I said, ‘the Diyarbakır court will rule on non-jurisdiction, the military court will dismiss the investigation.’ We now see all that happening,” Tanrıkulu said. 

Encü attested via Twitter after speaking with his lawyers who checked and confirmed that the probe had been dismissed.

“The killer state has been acquitted once again. What can be said? We have been fighting for two years, howling for a conscience. Does anyone hear?” Encü asked.

‘Erdoğan will be tried for war crimes’

Citing a decision from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Tanrıkulu argued Erdoğan may even be tried for war crimes at an international tribunal. 

“The ECHR said such an operation was even contrary to the laws of war. I am claiming Prime Minister Erdoğan will sooner or later be tried at the International Criminal Court for this incident as someone who has committed crimes against humanity,” Tanrıkulu said. 

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş accused Erdoğan of knowing who gave the instructions for the air strike. 

Erdoğan has met with families of the Roboski massacre victims during a fast-breaking dinner in July, where he reportedly said he was not the one who had ordered the strike.

The dismissal of the investigation also comes amid an ongoing Kurdish peace process that seeks to bring a solution to the four-decade long conflict.