Asssociations ask new questions about alleged mass grave


The Bar Association Van branch’s Human Rights Commission and MAZLUMDER filed a criminal complain with the Van Republic Attorney General Office about hundreds of human bodies thought to be interred in a cave in Van’s Toprak Kale area. The bodies have probably been in the cave since 1994. Over 19 days have passed since they filed this complaint, but there has not been any investigation yet.
On April 15, applicant, lawyer and Commission Chair Abdulbasit Bildirici and on April 20, MAZLUMDER Chair Yakup Aslan, gave statements about the prosecution of this case.
Bildirici explained, “If there are bones in that cave, as we suspect, they will have been cleaned up by now. We have suspicions that the cave was used as an interrogation centre in the 90s.”
Remaining anonymous to protect his/her life security, a witness, who lost brothers in 1994, informed the commission about what he/she experienced. Bildirici explained his/her statement;
“There was a witness looking for his/her brother in Van and made an appeal to someone who had some relationship with some authorities in the state. As a result, he/she was blindfolded and taken on a half an hour walk in the mountains. They took his/her blindfold off after they came to a dark and wide cave. Then he/she encountered the smell of dozens of corpses. He/she was asked to search for his/her brother among the bodies. He/she wanted to leave this cave as this scene was too much for him/her to tolerate. Then his/her was blindfolded again and taken back to the city.”
The dark events regarding enforced disappearances in Kurdistan since the 1990’s are coming to the forefront of discussions and public attention. At that time, while human rights defenders, press members and politicians who were bringing this issue to the public’s attention and demanding that it be researched were being exposed to attacks and lawsuits, no procedures were being carried out against members implicated in such events (soldiers, village guards or JI?TEM – the Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter- terrorism Unit), and if anyone did anything about it, they were obstructed in short order. In reality, during that dark period,

everyone knew that people were being executed after being detained, but they remained silent. The inability of people who had been killed in the mountains to be identified by their spouses without fear, displayed the extent of the terror and fear that was created in those days.

Sevket Akdemir, the regional representative of the Association of Human Rights (IHD) that denounced this “nightmare” from the 1990’s when more than 4,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed, has stressed the manner in which the impunity of security forces has weakened the confidence of citizens in the law: “The most moving events to the conscience of the company were missing, murders were not solved, extra-judicial executions and mass graves” have been the consequence and result, he said.

Emma Sinclair Webb of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says the disappearances were part of a state policy to terrorize the local civilian population. “In the early 1990’s, there was a policy of rounding of hundreds and thousands of civilians, and giving no proper trial or judicial process, but rather taking them in, threatening them, torturing them. There was systematic torture throughout that period, and a lot of others simply were not heard of again and in that region, thousands disappeared or bodies were found too at the time, but not identified and there was no attempt to discover how the killings took place and who by. So there is massive legacy and impunity. For the past abuses, for the disappearances and killings”, Webb explains.

Turkey has been committing serious crimes against humanity in the Kurdish regions for the last 30 years. This has been proved once more after recent excavations of mass graves in the Mutki district of Bitlis province, where human bones were discovered. The Turkish government has been refusing to investigate unsolved political murders conducted from the 1990’s. Regardless of many complaints filed by the relatives of those forcibly disappeared and the confessions of clandestine intelligence and witnesses of these crimes, the Turkish government remains silent. Moreover, it has been trying to cover up the evidence. The perpetrators of these crimes are known to the government but it continues to fail in its commitment to comply with the Human Rights Convention by not investigating these matters.

Turkey knew of the presence of mass graves in 1989, a Kurdish journalist, Gunay Aslan, has revealed. Kasaplar Deresi (Butcher’s Creek), a place of discharge/refuse from the army in the province of Siirt, was the first mass grave discovered in which nine people were exhumed by the authorities, but the names of at least 73 others buried in this mass grave came to light. The guerrillas (killed in clashes) or people abducted by the security forces had been thrown here, sometimes from garbage vehicles. More than 100 bodies found in this mass grave were exhumed over the past 20 years.

These are not isolated, unrelated events. At least 31 mass graves have been discovered by human rights organizations and the inhabitants of the Kurdish region. Two mass graves were discovered in September 2010 in Diyarbakir, capital of the Kurdish region, where clothing and bones of PKK members had been found. According to eyewitnesses, the bodies were burned and abandoned by the army after heavy fighting near Zera, a village in the region of Diyarbakir. But justice has not yet been achieved for the dead.

The Association of Human Rights in Turkey claims to have been informed of the existence of more than 100 mass graves in Bitlis province, populated mainly by Kurds. The Kurdish media is trying to raise awareness and articulate the concerns of families of missing by reporting upon new revelations about mass graves and the evidence of the “war room”. Each story testifies to the atrocities of the Turkish army in the 1990’s. Testimonies from villagers and PKK guerrillas have revealed the locations of mass graves, in particular, in the cities of Bitlis, Siirt, Hakkari, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Batman and Bingol. Extrajudicial, summary executions, bodies burned, mutilated or crushed by tanks, severed heads, fighters and villagers thrown from helicopters or signs of torture and chemical weapons are listed as crimes against humanity and war by the witnesses. But the Turkish authorities and the media do not always come out of their silence.

IHD reports that mass graves are located in Newala Qasaba, Eruh town centre, Twan, S?awiran, C?evirimtepe (Girdika), Ergu?ven (Baluka), Kikan, Yes?ilkonak (Kadi?ya), Kurtalan, Harat, Ekmekc?iler (Bine?ve), Go?zp?nar, Yelkesen (Basixre?) and Bozatl? (Basne?) village countryside in Siirt, Hizan, Arsan River (Newala Ware? Hiro), Kokarsu (Arpe?t), B?ndaki mountain, the countryside of Tatvan, C?akalso?g?u?t (Xas?tax), between Hora S?e?xan and Hora Kurmanca, Cengiz Village, P?hok, Duav Pasture, Gu?roymak, Mutki and Dikilitas? zone in Bitlis. There are also 19 graveyards in different locations in Diyarbak?r, 9 in Van, 8 in Batman, 6 in Hakkari, 5 in Bingo?l, 4 in S??rnak, 4 in Mardin and 1 each in Elaz?g?, Ag?r?, Ig?d?r and Gaziantep.

The Human Rights Association (IHD) – Diyarbak?r Branch reported on February 2nd 2011 at its press conference in Diyarbakir that 469 corpses had been secretly buried in 114 mass graves in Turkey since 1989. Over the past years, authorities have unearthed 171 corpses from 26 mass graves.

Reyhan Yalc??ndag?, a lawyer and member of the IHD Honour Committee who witnessed the excavation of the mass graves, emphasized the physical and psychological consequences of the three-decade long war in the Region: “Turkey has violated all kinds of national and international rules and agreements during the war. The United Nations’ Declaration on Enforced Disappearances and the European Human Rights Convention 1998 were also violated by Turkey during this war. All files of trials conducted regarding the mass graves are kept secret. This confidentiality, which also violates due process of law, prevents the victims from seeking justice”, Yalc??ndag? said. “Is the government trying to avoid punishing those guilty because the crimes were committed by state officials?”, she asked. ANF

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