European Court of Human Rights finds Turkey in breach of Article 2 over alleged political assassination

Tuesday 3 May 2016

This case concerns the fatal shooting of Sefer Cerf on 3 October 1994. Mr Cerf was a Turkish national and local politician for the People’s Democracy Party in Turkey. His wife, Yaşar Cerf, brought a claim against the Turkish state relying on Article 2 (right to life). She was represented by Paul Troop of Garden Court Chambers.

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On the day of the killing the prosecuting authorities concluded an incident scene investigation and launched an investigation. 17 days later they issued a standing search order in relation to the killings.

Eventually, in January 2000 following a number of operations carried out against Hizbullah, an outlawed organisation in Turkey, a man, M.D, was arrested who confessed to killing Ms Cerf’s husband. On various dates in 2000 criminal proceedings were thus instituted against M.D., as well as against four other suspects, for membership of Hizbullah and for carrying out illegal acts on behalf of that organisation. They were all convicted between 2009 and 2013 and given sentences of imprisonment varying between five and a half years and life.

Relying on Article 2 (right to life), Ms Cerf submitted that her husband had been killed because of his political affiliation, either by the security services or by Hizbullah aided by the authorities, and that the ensuing investigation had been ineffective. She submitted in particular that, on the day of the killing, neither the police nor anti-terrorism officers had been patrolling in the area, which had been unusual and that eyewitnesses to the incident, as well as herself and her daughter, had been subsequently harassed and threatened by the police.

She also submitted that the suspects’ confessions, which had been the only significant evidence revealed by the State during the criminal proceedings against them, had been dubious as four of them had subsequently retracted, alleging that the statements they had made had been extracted from them under torture.

Following submissions by Paul Troop of the Garden Court Chambers International Team on behalf of Ms Cerf, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that Turkey had violated Article 2 (right to life) in its procedural aspect due to the delay in bringing criminal proceedings. A dissenting judgment by Judge Lemmens expressed concern that the court had failed to respond to the applicant’s allegations that the Turkish state was partially responsible for the killing due to its support of Hizbullah in Turkey.

Paul Troop was instructed by Saniye Karakaş and Catriona Vine of the Democratic Progress Institute.

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