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Turkey: "Disappearances"

12 September 1980 to 12 September 2000

The "Trilogy" under the main heading "The Right to Life" in Turkey and the three subheadings

"Disappearances" Deaths in Custody Killings by Armed Groups
The corresponding lists can be found at the bottom of the document(s).

There were only a handful of cases of "disappearances" (DISAP) in Turkey in the 1980s, but a high number of deaths in custody (DIC). These deaths occurred despite the fact that the primary intention of torture was (and is) not the death of the suspect, but to obtain "confessions".

The various methods to this end include in more "psychological" terms: sexual humiliation, torture or threats of torture against relatives and friends and creating the "fear of death". The victims must get the impression to be killed (either as the result of physical suffering or by shooting, drowning or other methods) if they remain silent.

Most deaths in custody occurred under these circumstances and, if official explanations such as suicide or illness were not possible, it may well have happened that the police officers involved agreed to secretly dispose of the corpse of the victim.

While for most cases of DIC it can be said that the victims were unintentionally killed, in case of DISAP murder was the intention (sometimes from the very beginning, sometimes after some kind of interrogation). Just like extra-judicial executions an atmosphere was created that whether detained, "kidnapped" or not the life of a dissident was always in danger. This increased the pressure on detainees who were made to believe that police officers and soldiers of the gendarmerie could kill anyone at any time without a real risk of being held responsible for it.

In the 1990s a further argument was added. Detainees being held incommunicado (without a contact to the outside world) were told that they could be killed and buried secretly so that nobody would ever find them again. To indicate that this argument was serious the known cases of "disappearances" were used.

The "inflation" of cases of "disappearances" in the 1990s has a number of reasons:

  • The police (or gendarmerie) mostly denied to have detained someone;1

  • In Western Turkey political prisoners could be held (legally) for up to 15 days without a contact to the outside world; in the region under emergency legislation (the region with the armed conflict) the period was 30 days;

  • Cases of "disappearance" were covered widely in the press pointing at the HRA as the place of complaint; therefore many people who had "lost" a member of the family rushed to the HRA (even if there was no political background);

  • They would not come back and inform the HRA, once the person had been discovered (dead or alive);

  • Relatives and friends of political suspects would not wait for the maximum lengths of detention to see whether someone would be imprisoned or released, but raise allegations of "disappearances" at an early stage and the press would report on another case of "disappearance";

  • The HRA noted all complaints rarely "checking" the information at a later stage.

While looking at the cases of "disappearances" the first condition should be whether there are good reasons to believe that someone was detained. Compared to the list of the HRA the annual reports of the HRFT include only few cases of DISAP. That means that uncertain information or cases with an "update" (when someone was found dead for instance) were not included. Yet, I have taken the list of the HRA as the basis after I got convinced that the information had been "updated" on a minimum level by comparing it to publicly available sources. I have checked the list with the sources at my disposal and removed several cases (details below). However, my private archives is not very rich and, therefore, cases of EJE or people discovered alive (as prisoners for instance) can still be part of the list.

Changes to the HRA list of DISAP

The official findings

On 20 December 1996 an "Office to Research Cases of Missing Persons" was founded in the Office for General Security in the Directorate for Human Rights and Foreign Relations. This "Office" announced to have looked at all cases found in the monthly reports of the HRA in 1995 and 1996. It was certainly the aim of this initiative to whitewash the security forces and discredit the protest against DISAP and not to get to the root of the problem and find a way of detection and solving the serious cases. Yet, it should be the first task to compare the official information with the allegations that the HRA had received.

The "Office" did not find any information on some 150 of 360 cases.2 In another 80 cases it was said that no information on the detention of these people could have been obtained (in other words "no information available"). One could therefore say that the "Office" did not provide information on 230 of 360 cases. I found 8 cases in the list of the HRFT that the "Office" had been unable to identify. The list of the HRA carries 61 cases. That shows that 19 of the cases with "no information available" were excluded from the revised list. I assume that the HRA received information on the 19 cases that indicated that they were no longer missing. One such case is Ramazan Yazici, whose corpse was found in November 1998 (see below).

Since many detentions were either not officially recognized or (as in many cases of disappearances) not registered, the HRA had good reasons to keep the 61 cases. Yet, I have decided to delete the follow cases from "my list", since I have serious doubts as to the seriousness of the allegation that "agents of the State" apprehended the victims (it is also possible that they were "kidnapped" on rather personal grounds or by organizations such as Hizbullah or the PKK):

Teslim Demir

Mayıs 96


Hatice Kutan

19 Kasım 95


Lokman Saçaklı

22 Mart 95


Abdullah Anuk

18 Ocak 96



9 Ağustos 96


Hasan Kütri

9 Ağustos 96


Haluk Şener

11 Aralık 96


Hasan Yılmaz

18 Haziran 96


Sedat Akkoyun

5 Mayıs 96


Beko Özer

17 Kasım 95


İbrahim Özer

17 Kasım 95


Mazlum Özer

17 Kasım 95


Rıza Alhas

17 Kasım 95


Tacim Taş

17 Kasım 95


Tonguç Ok

Ocak 97


Sultan Ocar

10 Ocak 96


Mehmet Batıl

Aralık 96


Hıdır Göktaş

21 Temmuz 95


The case of Mehmet Ekti was mentioned twice in the list and, therefore, had to be removed, too. Ibrahim Malgir also had two entries with place and dates very close to each other. May be that two complaints were made on his behalf. I have taken the case for August 1996 out of the list. I have also removed the cases of Ahmet Ibak and Ahmet Özer for which only the year 1994 was given. Both cases look very similar to Ahmet Ibek and Ahmet Özdemir, mentioned for the same district in October 1994 (here the village is named). I have also removed the case of Gazal (no surname), because only the year was given (1980) and it is unclear, whether the incident happened before or after 12 September 1980. At the end of the list I removed the cases of Ebubekir Deniz, Serdar Tanis and Siddik Kaya, since they occurred after 12 September 2000.

The "research" of the "Office" found 49 people to have been released after up to 9 months in custody or prison. Among these 49 cases only the ones of Ramazan Avsar, Sait Avsar and Ilhan Avsar were still on the revised list of the HRA. They had been detained in Mersin on 11 April 1995 and appeared in the April 1995 report of the HRA. The information of the "Office" stated that they had been in custody for 8 days, followed by 6 months of pre-trial detention. I have removed these cases from the list.

In the case of Fahriye Mordeniz she was not included in the list of the HRA, even though the information provided by the "Office" was wrong. She had not been released, but was found dead in Cizre in November 1998 together with the corpses of her husband and Ramazan Yazici. All of them had "disappeared" in Diyarbakir in November 1996.

The "Office" found out that 50 persons were in prison. Among them the case of Hidir Öztürk was kept in the list of the HRA. In the report of November 1996 his mother is quoted saying that she wanted to see him in prison where he involuntarily stayed with "renegades" (confessing PKK members), but was informed that he "escaped" when the security forces took him out of prison for an "operation". The "Office" confirmed the dates of arrest, but added the formulation: "In an operation against the terrorist organization PKK he was taken out of prison without the possibility to benefit from him."

This, of course, was no confirmation that he was still in prison or had been killed during the "operation". Therefore, I have kept this case as well. There were two more cases, reportedly "in prison", which the HRA maintained. I have removed them. Kamber Turunc was reported to have been detained in Antep on 19 October 1996 and, even if at the beginning the relatives were not informed, it is possible that he was later arrested. The same applies to Sefer Altun who was reported to have been detained in Izmir on 18 June 1996.

The "Office" has some more categories in their answers. One is called "people who joined the (terrorist) organization". The report of the HRA for September 1996 had included the cases of Müzeyyen Kaya, Murat Ertan, Ayhan Aydemir and Sibel Kücükbilezikci reportedly detained in Bingöl on 18 September 1996. This page in the Internet listed "martyrs" (heroes of the PKK), born in Bingöl province. The names of Sibel Bilezikci, Murat Ertan and Müzeyyen Kaya are mentioned as "martyrs" (killed in the ranks of the PKK). Since three of the four "missing people" have died as militants of the PKK the names of all four should be taken from the list of the HRA. Müzeyyen Kaya had already been taken off the list.

In the case of Hikmet Yakut the "Office" also was right in saying that he joined the PKK and, like the three juveniles from Bingöl he died in combat (see this page). The HRA had already removed the cases of Arzu Ok and Mehmet Özenc, also reported to have joined the PKK.

Among the names of people who according to the "Office" were being "wanted" the names of Edip Aksoy and Orhan Cingöz should be taken off the list of the HRA not because they are wanted, but because it must be assumed that they were killed, even if the description of their grave which the "confessor" Abdülkadir Aygan gave, did not allow a clear identification of the remains of four people found in one grave. On the other hand the names of Yakup Aslan and Sait Güngör should be kept, even though the "Office" listed them under "people wanted".

As far as the case of Kemal Macit is concerned it appears likely that the "Office" is right in saying that he was found dead on 19 June 1995 after having "disappeared" in Hakkari on 10 June 1995. I removed him from the list. The HRA had already removed the other 8 cases of people said to have been found dead. Unfortunately the "Office" made no remarks about the people who committed the killings, leaving the impression that members of the security forces may have been involved.

In the category "disappeared all of a sudden" ("ortadan kayboldu", e.g. without someone witnessing detention) the case of Selahattin Gümürcü who was not seen after leaving home in Diyarbakir on 25 November 1996 should be taken off the list. The same can be said about Sadun Keve who in July 1996 left his home in Van-Catak to get goods from Iraq. For similar reasons I have removed Yusuf Sut, Hatip Dogan, Hanifi Yaman, Haluk Akay, Binnur Cakici (Cakirer), Güllü Deniz and A.Kadir Ural. In the case of Bedri Balta the "Office" is wrong, because there was a witness to his detention. These were all cases in this category.

In summary, for the years 1995 and 1996 the HRA removed 77 cases upon the information from the "Office" or other sources. I removed another 36 cases.

I went a step further and looked into the monthly reports of the HRA from January 1995 to January 1997 to see whether there were serious reasons to believe that these people had been detained. I was in doubt about the cases of 16 people:

Ahmet Ata

Ali Yegül

Baki Ataç

Eyüp Çelik

Gürsel Şahinkaya

Harun Yıldız

Hüseyin Ateş

İsmail Şahin

İsmail Ece

İzzettin Akar

M. Ali Eser

M. Nuri Beyazıt

Nuray Aydoğan

Sadullah Ağaç

Salih Çelik

Selahattin Gök

But I also discovered that the HRA had already removed 26 cases from the list. In all, 145 names were removed from the list. If this figure is taken on the basis of the 360 names mentioned in the monthly reports of the HRA we could assume that 39.4% of the cases were an "error". My "clean-up" mainly concentrated on the years 1995 and 1996 (with the exception of cases with Hizbullah connection, more on this later). Since the cases reported from 1993, 1994 and 1997 were as high as in 1995 and 1996 an additional "clean-up" with similar categories should be done for these years as well.

Information from the HRFT

I have taken the information partly from the daily bulletins (summaries of the national press) and the annual reports. The annual report of 1996 states on page 359 (Turkish version) that some 200 people were found dead after they had been kidnapped between 1991 and 1996. The examples given on pages 359 and 360 for the years up to 1995 do not appear in the list of the HRA. On page 361 the following cases from 1995 were still on the list: Süleyman Abak and Abdullah Abak. The other cases on page 361 and 362 were not on the list.

On 1 July 2005 the daily Özgür Gündem (ÖG) presented revelations of the "confessor" Abdülkadir Aygan. He presented details on how Edip Aksoy and Orhan Cingöz had been killed on 7 June 1995 (cases I removed, see above). He also presented details on the death of Fethi Yildirim, who disappeared in January 1994. In March 2004 the corpse of Murat Aslan had been found after the revelations of Aygan. Murat A. had been killed on 10 June 1994. I've removed both cases from the list.

On 2 July further cases of EJE were reported. Subsequently I removed Fikri Özgen from the list.

The revelations of Aygan continued in ÖG. Between 5 and 7 July he described the deaths of several people, but only the name of Hakki Kaya was still on the list of DISAP.

At the end of 2004 a mass grave was discovered near Alaca village in Kulp district (Diyarbakir). ÖG, Radikal and Sabah of 5 December 2004 reported on it. On 13 February Radikal reported that the DNA tests had revealed that the bones belonged to Mehmet Sah Atala (Sah Atalay), Nusrettin Yerlikaya, Turan Demir, Behçet Tutus, Bahri Simsek, Serif Avar (Serif Abar), Hasan Avar (Hasan Abar), Salih Akdeniz, Celil Aydogdu, Ümit Tas (Behçet Tas) and Abdi Yamuk who had "disappeared" in 1993. I removed the names from the list.

In the annual report of 1997 several people are listed as having been found "dead". Among these cases the list of the HRA included the cases of Ekrem Celik, Renas Ülgen (Halil Ülger) and Ali Ucar, which I have removed.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

There have been a number of cases of DISAP forwarded to the ECHR. I have looked mainly at judgments between 2003 and 2006 and found cases that were not mentioned in the list of the HRA (additional cases). On the other hand, the ECHR has frequently decided that the right to life (Article 2) was not violated, if the apprehension of a person by State agents could not be proven beyond reasonable doubts.

Although this is similar to "my category" of "sudden disappearance" (ortadan kaybolma) I have not excluded these cases from the list, since the relatives of the victims must have been convinced that the State was involved in the disappearance (otherwise they would not have filed a complaint).

A discussion about the ECHR judgments on cases from Turkey (also including DISAP) can be found on my website.

The list of the HRA contained some 15 cases mentioned as victims of Hizbullah. I removed them from the list, even though there may be an argument that the kidnappings and killings of Hizbullah served the purpose of the State (some would argue that they were conducted on State's orders). My "simple" argument is that if a case can be attributed to Hizbullah the victim must be assumed dead and, therefore, the category would change to EJE.

Additional cases

There may still be a large number of cases that should be removed from the list. There are a great deal of cases in the list of the HRA that have only the year (no months or concrete date) for the alleged DISAP. In some of them I found additional information in other sources. Therefore, I decided to keep the other cases as well.

I was somehow astonished that not only the HRFT and the ECHR revealed further information and additional cases, but also a small private archive of press reports that I kept between 1992 and 1999 pointed at additional cases. Overall, I found an additional number of 30 cases that the HRA had not included in its list. In other words, there are not only cases that need clarficiation and possibly have to be excluded from the list, but there is certainly also a number of unreported cases (dark number).

1 The situation did not change much after on 3 July 1995 the Ministry of the Interior had ordered that at all police headquarters a "unit to supervise detention" (gözalti izleme birimi) had to be established. Only in some places and after several years the citizens (or rather the Human Rights Association and lawyers acting on their behalf) were able to get confirmation or denial or detentions from these units.

2 It was stated that the "Office" had only been able to look at cases in areas under responsibility of the police (not the gendarmerie as the police force in rural areas).

Where to go from here:
The simple lists contain mainly name, date and place, while the commented lists are intended for people with knowledge of Turkish to make contributions or use it in their own work.

Texts (php) Simple Lists Commented Lists
The Right to Life "Disappearances"
rtf 922kB
xls 370kB
"Disappearances" Deaths in Custody
rtf 582kB
Deaths in Custody
xls 112 kB
Deaths in Custody Killings by Armed Groups
rtf 1,7mB
Killings by Armed Groups
xls 377kB
Killings by Armed Groups Killed Teachers
html 99kB
Killed Teachers
xls 41 kB
Killed Journalists
html 51kB
Killed Journalists
xls 46kB
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