A recent report by Hafıza Merkezi (the Center for Truth, Justice and Memory) indicates that 1,353 persons have thus far been disappeared by forces directly or indirectly connected with the state since the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup.
The last half-century in Turkey was marked by widespread and grave human rights violations in the aftermath of military coups and rights violations centered on the ongoing Kurdish question in particular in the 1990s, the period that is known as the “dark era.” Thousands of individuals were abducted, forcibly disappeared or fell victim to unsolved murders for political reasons in those years.
According to the Center for Truth, Justice and Memory report titled “Zorla Kaybetmeler ve Yargının Tutumu” (Enforced Disappearances and the Conduct of the Judiciary) over 1,353 persons in southeastern regions of Turkey have disappeared since the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, a period that is identified in the report as the starting point of illegal state-originated activities in Turkey. The report states many paramilitary, clandestine structures within the state or military resorted to illegal acts as part of Turkey’s counter terrorism strategy during the 15-year Emergency Rule Region (OHAL) period in the Southeast. The report indicates that the bodies of 67 percent of the victims of forced disappearances have not been found, the bodies of 25 percent of the victims were found and delivered to the victims’ families, while the bodies of 8 percent of the victims were found, but their bodies have not been given to their families.
An analysis in the report based on the places, names and cases shows that provinces where acts of enforced disappearances took place most frequently are Diyarbakır with 28.1 percent of the total, Şırnak with 14.8 percent, Mardin with 13.7 percent, İstanbul with 6.05 percent, Batman with 5.75 percent, Hakkari with 5 percent and Tunceli with 3.3 percent.
The center says in the report that individuals in charge in the military, government and politics of the era have not been tried, punished or held accountable to the satisfaction of the public for the offenses they committed in that era. It also criticizes the judiciary for deliberately remaining ineffective in prosecuting forced disappearance incidents and extrajudicial killings that took place during this dark era.
Judiciary ineffective in revealing forced disappearances
According to the report, prosecutors did what they could to procrastinate when it came to uncovering the details of forced disappearances and unknown killings in that era. A statistic in the reports shows that 75 percent of investigations launched into incidents of forced disappearances are still stalled, while 8 percent of them still continue. A verdict of non-prosecution has been declared for 8 percent of forced disappearances, 6 percent of the cases have dropped as the statute of limitations had expired, the court acquitted the possible suspects for 2 percent of forced disappearance cases, while only 1 percent of cases have concluded with the punishment of perpetrators.
The center states in the report that investigation reports drawn up by Parliament and the Prime Ministry regarding the forced disappearance cases also verified the widely held public sentiment that the abductions, enforced disappearances and unsolved murders in that period were perpetrated by individuals and organizations connected with the state.
The report goes on to state: “In a parliamentary system, governments should have had political responsibility for these disappearances and murders via the legislative branch, and the parliamentary investigative commissions should have had the ability to access any information and documents and hear any witnesses relating to issues they inquire into. However, this is not how the process unfolded in the investigations conducted by the above-mentioned commissions. Even Parliament declared that it was prevented from accessing information that would bring this chaotic period into the open, and it was not able to hear the most important witnesses.”
The center also accuses the government of remaining ineffective with regard to preventing illegal acts during the dark era. The report states that although there were six prime ministers from 1991 through 2001, none of them took a major step to shed light on enforced disappearances and political murders, and they tried to ignore the cases.
The center released another report titled “Konuşulmayan Gerçek: Zorla Kaybetmeler” (The Unspoken Truth: Enforced Disappearances) on the same day as the report “Enforced Disappearances and the Conduct of the Judiciary,” during a press conference held on July 11. In this second report, the organization shares its details and data collected from families of victims of enforced disappearances and other witnesses.
One of the forced disappearance cases included in the report was the disappearance of a local in the Cizre district of Şırnak province, Ahmet Bulmuş, whose date of disappearance was reported in April 1994.
According to statements by eyewitnesses and family members, armed individuals took Bulmuş into custody in April 1994 in downtown Cizre. Two days after the incident, a team led by Cizre District Gendarmerie Commander Cemal Temizöz, who is under arrest as part of the case against Ergenekon — a clandestine network charged with plotting to overthrow the government — arrived at the Bulmuş family home, searched the home, threatened the family and reportedly told them Bulmuş was being detained and the family should not look for him. The report states that due to the climate of fear prevailing in Cizre at that time, the family could not file any petitions for investigation concerning the notification of detention.
The report shows JİTEM — an illegal organization formed within the gendarmerie responsible for thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Kurdish-dominated Southeast in the 1990s — as the major inner-state illegal structure responsible for the majority of forced disappearances. The report also states: “Another clandestine warfare organization used, trained and in fact allegedly founded by the state was Hizbullah. The name Hizbullah was mentioned in the context of many abduction, torture and murder cases and executions carried out, particularly in the OHAL region. A report titled “Susurluk report,” prepared by a parliamentary inquiry commission in April 3, 1997, clearly states that Hizbullah received political and military training from the military in Batman province.”
(Cihan/Today’s Zaman) CİHAN
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