Amnesty: Turkey's Uludere bombing
investigation lacks credibility
Locals gather in front of the bodies of people who
were killed in a Turkish warplane attack in the Ortasu
village of Uludere, in the Sirnak province [Turkey
Kurdistan], on December 29, 2011. Turkish warplanes
killed 34 Kurdish villagers in an air strike near
the Iraqi Kurdistan border, Photo: EPA.
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LONDON, — Amnesty International has
written to the Turkish authorities expressing grave
concern regarding the investigation into the bombing
of civilian Kurds by a Turkish warplane in the
district of Uludere/Qileban in the south-eastern
province of Şırnak.
On the night of 28 December 2011 a Turkish warplane
carried out a bombing in the district of Uludere/Qileban
resulting in the death of 34 civilians, 18 of whom
were children. No military target was hit in the
attack which the authorities at first claimed to
have struck armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)
members. The authorities later admitted that
civilian smugglers were hit after entering Turkey
from neighbouring Iraq.
Amnesty International called for the authorities to
conduct a thorough, independent and impartial
investigation and to ensure reparations, including
compensation, for the victims of this attack. Turkey
has obligations under international human rights law
to ensure that allegations of human rights
violations are investigated promptly, thoroughly and
effectively through independent and impartial
bodies, and to ensure reparations, including
compensation, for the victims and that those
responsible are held accountable.
Amnesty International welcomes the fact that
financial compensation has been arranged for the
families of those who died in the attack. However,
the organization is gravely concerned regarding
other developments since the announcement of the
which raise doubts about whether it is thorough and
impartial and will be effective in identifying what
happened and those responsible.
Statements by witnesses to the bombing provided to
civil society delegations including opposition
political parties, bar associations and a commission
of human rights organizations have indicated that
soldiers knew that people present at the scene were
civilians. Witness statements indicated that
soldiers were aware of and tolerated smuggling
activities carried out habitually by villagers and
also knew that on the day of the bombing villagers
engaged in smuggling activities were at the scene.
Witness statements also indicate that the villagers
who had crossed the border from Iraq were prevented
by soldiers from re-entering the village of Ortasu/Roboski,
requiring them to remain in the area that was
Human rights organizations seeking to investigate
the incident reported that delegates were denied
permission to visit the scene of the bombing by
soldiers citing “security concerns”. Governments may
not prevent representatives of civil society
organizations with a mandate to monitor adherence to
human rights or humanitarian standards from entering
areas where there are reasonable grounds to believe
that violations of human rights or humanitarian law
have been committed. Amnesty International has
sought clarification from the authorities as to why
the delegates were denied access.
The conduct of the investigation by prosecutors also
increases concerns that the full circumstances of
the bombing will not be revealed.
Prosecutors have reportedly not taken witness
statements, more than a month after the bombing took
place. Prosecutors must ensure that witness
statements are thoroughly investigated and that
military personnel are brought to justice if there
is evidence that they negligently or intentionally
allowed civilians to be targeted.
Additionally, according to reports, prosecutors did
not conduct an investigation of the scene, citing
“the anger of local residents assembled in the area
and the risk of terrorist activity at the location”.
Such a justification is reminiscent of the failure
to conduct a prompt crime scene investigation
following the death of Ceylan Önkol a girl killed
while grazing cattle near her home, allegedly by a
mortar fired by the Turkish armed forces in 2009.
Amnesty International notes that in this case the
criminal investigation has not yet been concluded,
more than two years after the death of Ceylan Önkol.
Amnesty International is also concerned at reports
that prosecutors have relied on military units to
provide evidence from the scene of the bombing,
threatening the independence of the investigation.
Amnesty International has sought clarification from
the authorities as to why a “secrecy decision” has
been applied to the investigation thus rendering it
closed to both public scrutiny and to lawyers acting
on behalf of the victims’ families.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, PUBLIC STATEMENT, AI index:
EUR 44/001/2012, 3 February 2012
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