Turkey ordered to pay damages 20 years after military disappearances

AFP , Tuesday 15 Apr 2014

The European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey Tuesday to pay 65,000 euros ($90,000) each to four families whose relatives disappeared after a battle with security forces more than 20 years ago.

The court ruled the families of those who went missing after a night of fighting between the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces should be compensated because Turkey violated the "right to life", guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The group disappeared on June 14, 1993, the day after fierce fighting destroyed the village of Selcik in eastern Turkey.

According to the case heard at the Strasbourg-based court, the relatives were arrested in front of the villagers and taken into custody at the nearby Gorumlu police station.

The case was brought by 18 Turkish nationals from four families -- most of whom live in Silopi, a district which borders Iraq and Syria -- who have not heard from their family members since that night.

In the weeks after their disappearance, Amnesty International launched an appeal with the families to try to find out what had happened, and since then a number of legal cases have been brought to court but none had yet been succesful.

In 2009, a new investigation was opened after the discovery of further evidence in the case, and as a result, criminal proceedings have been opened against members of the armed forces, some of whom are accused of murder. That case is still before a court in Ankara.

Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe -- of which the ECHR is the judicial arm -- since 1949.

All Council of Europe member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The outlawed PKK, which wants greater autonomy for Turkey's Kurds, declared a ceasefire a year ago amid efforts to resolve a conflict that has claimed 40,000 lives in three decades.

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