Human Rights victory for the family of a murdered Kurdish father in South-East Turkey Nicola Rogers - Immigration Team

Tuesday 2 November 2004

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The facts are disputed. The applicant maintained that on the morning of 30 October 1995 his father and one of his sisters were made to board a military vehicle by a soldier and a village guard. They, and a number of other people, were taken to a place where they were tortured. His sister was subsequently released, but the applicant and his family received no further news of Süleyman Seyhan.

On 6 November 1995 the applicant's mother asked the Dargeçit Public Prosecutor to bring proceedings. An investigation was launched and a statement taken from Mrs Seyhan. She said that three village guards, whose names she supplied, had been present on the morning her husband disappeared. The public prosecutor took statements from the guards and from gendarmes identified by a third party.

On 6 March 1996 Süleyman Seyhan's decomposing and decapitated body was found under stones at the bottom of a well in the village of Korucu. An autopsy was performed, but no cause of death was determined, owing to the advanced state of decomposition. However, the pathologist was able to say that Mr Seyhan had been killed. The circumstances surrounding his death have yet to be established.

The Turkish Government denied that the authorities were in any way implicated in Süleyman Seyhan's disappearance and death.

Relying on Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicant alleged that his father had been killed by security forces while in custody and complained of the authorities' failure to carry out an investigation into his death. He further complained of a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and that he had been deprived of an effective remedy in breach of Article 13 (right and effective remedy).

Having regard to the material before it, the Court found that it had not been established beyond all reasonable doubt that the Turkish Government's responsibility had been engaged in the kidnapping, disappearance and death of Süleyman Seyhan. It accordingly held unanimously that there had been no violation of Article 2 on account of his death.

As to the investigation into the circumstances of the death, the Court noted that although at first sight the initial inquiries appeared to comply with the requirements of Article 2, the conduct of the investigation thereafter, once the authorities had been informed of the suspicions concerning the village guards, could not be considered to have been exhaustive or satisfactory. The public prosecutor had failed to organise a face-to-face meeting between the village guards and the applicant?s mother, who had identified them, and relied on their statements without seeking to establish the precise sequence of events on the day in question. Nor was there any evidence that they had sought to check the truth of the guards' statements or made any attempt to interview possible witnesses. In those circumstances, the Court found that the Turkish authorities had not conducted an adequate and effective investigation into the disappearance and death of the applicant?s father and held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 on that account.

The Turkish State could not be regarded as having conducted an effective criminal investigation, as required by Article 13, the requirements of which were greater than the obligation imposed by Article 2 to conduct an investigation. Consequently, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 13.

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the Court awarded the applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 5,000 for costs and expenses, less EUR 625,04 he had received from the Council of Europe in legal aid. (The judgment is available only in French.)

The Applicant is represented by Nicola Rogers, 2 Garden Court Chambers

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