A 16-page decision by an Ankara military prosecutor today proved once again that in Turkey the state can kill civilians and get away with it.
The decision to reject the prosecution of anyone for the aerial bombardment that killed 34 Kurdish men and boys in Uludere, on Turkey’s border with Iraqi Kurdistan, already comes two years after the December 28, 2011 incident. The prosecutor termed the bombing of villagers crossing the border back to their villages smuggling diesel fuel, tea, and sugar “an unavoidable error” for which no one is responsible.
The investigation has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning. In June the prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakir washed its hands of the case and passed the file to the military prosecutor’s office in Ankara.
Following a visit to Turkey in November 2012, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, concluded that “the most important and urgent challenge is the lack of accountability in cases of killings, both those perpetrated recently and those from the 1990s.”
Heyns dwelt at length on the Uludere massacre, urging: “An effective, prompt, impartial and transparent criminal investigation into the Uludere/Roboski incident should be undertaken as a matter of great priority. The individuals responsible should be held liable and sanctioned accordingly. Responsibility should include those implicated in the chain of command, irrespective of their position.”
The military prosecutor didn’t agree and preferred to follow the government line. The government has sought to bury this episode, apparently hoping people will forget the suffering the Turkish air force brought to the villagers of Ortasu (Roboski in Kurdish) and Gülyazı (Bujeh) that December night. The families of the victims are appealing the decision not to prosecute. If necessary they have vowed to take the case to the Constitutional Court, and if there is no justice in Turkey then yet another case of state-perpetrated killing of Kurdish civilians will go to the European Court of Human Rights.