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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Background to the case:

The case originated in two applications lodged against Turkey on 15 December 1993 by two Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin, Mrs Keje Selçuk and Mr Ismet Asker. They complained that the security forces had burnt down their homes down and forcibly expelled them from the village of Islamköy where they lived, in the region of the Kulp district, in the province of Diyarbakir in south east Turkey.

The applications were declared admissable on a seperate basis but were then joined on 8 March 1996. In its report of 28 November 1996, the Commission was of the opinion that there had been a violation of articles 8 (right to respect for family and life and home), 3 (freedom from torture), 6 (access to Court), 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention and of article 1 (right to property).

Principle facts of the case:

The applicants complained that on 16 June 1993, soldiers from Kulp acting under the command of Recep Cömert, Commanding Officer of the Kulp Gendarmerie, deliberately burnt their homes in Islamköy village and that they returned ten days later to burn the mill partly owned by Mrs Selçuk.

The soldiers first went to the house of Mr and Mrs Asker and they set it on fire causing the destruction of the property and most of its contents despite the Asker's attempts to save some of their possessions. The gendarmes then proceeded to Mrs Selçuk's house and despite her protests, they poured petrol over it and set it on fire as well. Her house and its contents were completely destroyed and the villagers were prevented by the security forces from putting out the fire. the clear message from the gendarmes was that the villagers should leave the village which they did the following day.

On or about 26 June 1993, gendarmes returned to the village and set fire to a mill which was owned by Mrs Selçuk and three other villagers. In April 1994, upon the applications being communicated to the Government, the Kulp Prosecutor opened an investigation file. In Nove,mber 1994, a decision of non jurisdiction was issued by the Prosecutor and the file was transferred to the Kulp District Governor in November 1995. To date, the Court was never provided with any evidence suggesting that this body had taken any action in connection with the complaint.

The Government submitted that the applicant's homes and possessions were destroyed by the PKK as a punishment and a warning, since the villagers had generally good relations with the security forces. Furthermore, at the time of the event, the sons of the applicants were either doing their military service or employed by the army, an activity which the PKK urged the people in the region to avoid.

Alleged violations of the Convention:

Before the Court, the applicants alleged a violation of article 3 (on account of the circumstances in which their homes were destroyed and the circumstances surrounding their eviction from the village), article 8 and article 1 of Protocol 1 (on account of the destruction of their homes), article 6 and 13 (on account of their having been denied an effective remedy) and article 14 in conjunction with the above articles as well as article 18 (on account of their being discriminated against because of their Kurdish origin).

Judgement of the Court as regards the merits of the application:

As regards article 3, the Court found the burning of the applicants' homes in their presence to be acts of violence and deliberate destruction. They noted in particular the traumatic circumstances surrounding the burning of Mr Asker's house, which put him in danger from the fire as he and his wife tried to save some of their belongings, bearing in mind his age and infirmity (aged 60 years old at the time of the incident). Accordingly, the Court found that the applicants had been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 3.

This is the first case involving the destruction of houses and property where the Court found a violation of article 3 on account of the distressing circumstances in which the burning occurred and the utter disregard paid for the safety and welfare of the applicants.

The Court also found Turkey to be in breach of article 8 and 1 of Protocol 1 as the acts committed by the security forces were grave and unjustified interferences with the applicants' rights to respect for family life and homes and peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.

The Court also found that the State had failed to carry out a thorough and effective investigation into the events and concluded that article 13 had been violated. However, the Court found no violation of article 14 in conjunction with articles 6,8,13 and 18. The applicants not having made any application to the national courts, the Court found it impossible to determine whether any violation had occurred in relation to article 6.

As regards compensation:

The Court awarded pecuniary damages to the aplicants to the sum of £17,760 for Mrs Selçuk and £22,408 for Mr Asker. In addition, the applicants were awarded £10,000 each for non-pecuniary damages but the Court rejected the claims for punitive and aggravated damages, as well as that for the restoration of rights, in accordance with the article 50 judgement delivered in the case of Akduvar v Turkey of 1 April 1998.

The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) has assisted these applicants in bringing their case before the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg.