International

Killing of Tahir Elçi and lack of effective investigation into his death

Who we wrote to

The Turkish authorities.

We've written this letter as part of a global coalition. For a full list of signatories, download the letter below.

What's the issue

Tahir Elçi was a prominent figure within the international and domestic lawyers’ community. He had practiced law for around 25 years. At the time of his death, he was the president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.

Mr Elçi was well known for having acted for victims in a number of leading cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the forced evictions of Kurdish villages, enforced disappearances, summary executions, and torture and ill-treatment by the security and/or state-affiliated forces.

As the president of Diyarbakir Bar Association, Mr Elçi helped to organise a press conference to draw attention to the damage inflicted on the cultural and historic heritage in the region during the armed clashes in 2015.

At this press conference, an armed clash took place between two armed PKK militia members and the police, during which Tahir Elçi was shot dead.

Despite assurances given by the Turkish prime minister that four investigators had been assigned to the case, no independent effective investigation was carried out.

The current prosecution did not begin until after a London-based group, Forensic Architecture, published its report on the incident in February 2019.

This report concluded, after a detailed forensic investigation of the video footage of the scene at the time Mr Elçi was killed, that three police officers were engaged in active shooting at the time of the killing. Following the release of this report, the three police officers were indicted. 

We're concerned that:

  • the indictment has many serious flaws, in its determination of the events, legal classification of the acts, and sentencing request against the police officers
  • in the indictment, the prosecution charged the three police officers with "negligent homicide”, which carries a lower sentence and does not correspond with the seriousness of the offence committed and its grave consequences

What we asked for

We've called on the Turkish authorities to make sure that:

  • the case is heard by an independent, impartial, and competent court that is capable of establishing the facts and truth around the killing of Mr Elçi
  • all future hearings comply with international standards regarding the right to a fair trial, in which the victims’ rights are also recognised
  • the lawyers for the Elçi family are given reasonable opportunities to be heard and to make their applications in relation to the procedure and the evidence
  • where submissions are refused, reasons for refusal are given in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights 
  • a fair judicial procedure is followed, that those who are responsible for Tahir Elçi's killing are held accountable and serve sentences appropriate to the gravity of the crime committed
  • the Elçi family is provided with appropriate redress for the violations they and their loved one have suffered in accordance with the international obligations of Turkey and the Minnesota Protocol

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