More unsolved political murder cases likely to be dropped under new legislation

The controversial legislation proposed by the government that recently abolished specially authorized courts and led to the release of individuals convicted in coup trials, among others, also means that thousands of unsolved murder cases, particularly in Turkey’s southeastern region, are even more at risk of being dropped due to the statute of limitations, according to a report by Today’s Zaman.

With the abolishment of the specially authorized courts, prosecutors leading investigations into murder cases that have remained unsolved for many years also lost their positions and their authority to proceed with the investigations.

Prosecutors in Turkey’s southeastern region have begun to send the case files to the offices of chief public prosecutors in a number of provinces to redistribute the cases to the offices of prosecutors in the cities and towns where the murders took place.

Over the past two years, there have been numerous calls from rights groups and bar associations from the region to accelerate the legal proceedings to avoid having the cases dropped due to the statute of limitations.

The Turkish Penal Code (TCK) includes a statute of limitations of 20 years on murder cases. If no suspect is identified or apprehended within that period of time, the case is permanently abandoned 20 years and one day from the date of the murder. No further criminal legal proceedings may be initiated. Once a murder case is dropped due to the statute of limitations, nothing more can be done to pursue it in court even if a suspect is later captured.

Turkey’s history is filled with unsolved murders, and the figures on the exact number of such murders are contradictory. According to a report from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) released last year, the number of unsolved murders rose drastically in the 1990s. A total of 1,901 unsolved murders were committed just between 1990 and 2011 in Turkey, but Kurdish researchers in the Southeast argue that the number of unsolved murders in the country exceeds 20,000.

Tahir Elçi, head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, last year complained that cases were being closed one by one due to the statute of limitations. With the recent abolishment of specially authorized courts, the number of cases dropped is expected to rise as many ongoing investigations have come to a sudden halt and the assignment of new prosecutors for the cases could take at least a year, experts suggest. Since many of these cases are approaching the 20-year deadline, it is likely that even more murder cases will remain unresolved and that there will be no justice for the victims.



About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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