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HRW Report Calls for Turkey to End Impunity for State Killings

  • Dorian Jones

Human rights activists hold a banner with a portrait of Erdal Eren, a leftist executed during the military rule after the coup in 1980, as they demonstrate in front of a courthouse in Ankara, April 4, 2012.

Human rights activists hold a banner with a portrait of Erdal Eren, a leftist executed during the military rule after the coup in 1980, as they demonstrate in front of a courthouse in Ankara, April 4, 2012.

ISTANBUL — U.S.-based Human Rights Watch is calling for Turkey's government to hold to account those responsible for serious human-rights violations during the country's 1980 military coup and against Kurdish civilians in the 1990's.

Human Rights Watch says Turkey's government should lift a 20-year statue of limitation for prosecutions of members of security forces and public officials for killings, disappearances, and torture

The author of a new HRW report, Emma Sinclair Webb, says action is urgently needed. "We know most of the cases happened in 1993 and '94 so that leaves the prosecutors with this huge legacy of hundreds, even thousands, of killings and disappearances by security, mainly in the southeast of the country during those years," she stated.

The 68-page reports details many case studies of extra-judicial killings, and people taken from their homes and streets and never seen again as part of the Turkish state's war against the Kurd guerilla group, the PKK.

The group began a guerrilla campaign for an ethnic homeland in the Kurdish heartland of south-eastern Turkey in 1984. The United States and the European Union classify the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Hazi Dogan's 14-year-old brother was seized by soldiers in the middle of the night in 1995.

He says soldiers used powerful lights so he could not see their faces, but he saw their uniforms. He says they took his brother away and he was detained the next day and saw his brother who was very badly beaten. He says he never saw him again.

The report says until recently efforts by families and friends to find out what happened to those who disappeared were met with a wall of silence.

Human Rights Watch says former security force members have come forward with information about disappearances, leading to the discovery of bodies many believe to be victims of extra judicial killings.

Retired colonel Cemal Temizoz and six others are standing trial for the murder and disappearance of 20 people.

Human Rights Watch senior legal advisor Aisling Reidy says the case is groundbreaking. "We really genuinely see this as an opportunity that cannot be lost. What we have seen come out of the trial, the first real effort to begin to address some of the violations. And we think if you can get this dynamic correct now in Turkey, if you can find the political will, this is real opportunity that should not be lost," said Reidy.

But the HRW report says the case also reveals short comings. It says witnesses have been subject to intimidation and none have been offered protection. It also criticized the pace of the trial currently in its fifth year.

Justice Minster Sadullah Ergin has promised that some of the concerns would be addressed in the government's fourth judicial reform package, but warned a resurgence in fighting with the PKK may limit the scope for reform.

Monday, 10 Turkish soldiers were killed in a PKK attack in southeastern Sirnak province.

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