Turkey to re-investigate 1994 deaths after European court ruling

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2013 10:33 AM
Turkey to re-investigate 1994 deaths after European court ruling

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey said on Wednesday it would re-open an investigation into the deaths of 33 Kurdish villagers killed in an air strike 19 years ago, after the European Court of Human Rights found that government forces had carried out the attack.

The international court in Strasbourg on Tuesday rejected Turkey's claim that the villagers had been killed by armed rebels and said Turkish authorities had failed to investigate the incident effectively.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin told reporters during a visit to Strasbourg that recent legal changes in Turkey would allow authorities to investigate the case again and that they would do so, CNN Turk television reported.

Judges ordered Turkey to pay 2.3 million euros to the plaintiffs, who included three people wounded in the attack and relatives of those killed, according to a court judgment.

The deaths occurred in two villages in the province of Sirnak near the Iraqi border in March 1994, at the height of a war between Turkish forces and the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Survivors said they heard military planes before the bombardment. But Turkish prosecutors had determined that the attack was carried out by PKK militants.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, and more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, died in the fighting.

In March, the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and the European Union, called a ceasefire amid government negotiations with its jailed leader.

In December 2011, 34 civilians were killed in a Turkish military air strike in Uludere, a district close to the Iraqi border, after reportedly being mistaken for PKK members.

A parliamentary report earlier this year said the Uludere attack was not intentional, and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has signaled he was not aware of the operation.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; editing by Andrew Roche)