Koku v. Turkey

Key Judgment

Legal Relevance

Keywords: Duty to Investigate | Obligation to Prevent | Deprivation of Liberty | Evidence | State/Non-State Agents | Effective Remedy

Themes: Characteristics of the Crime | Persons and Groups Affected | Related Crimes

The Court was unable to make a finding as to who was responsible for the victim's disappearance, due to the contradictory versions of events put forward by the applicant which made it impossible to shift the burden of proof onto the State. The Court argued that, although there was no proof that the victim has been killed, the disappearance and unacknowledged detention of a person suspected by the authorities of PKK involvement could be considered life-threatening in the context of south-east Turkey in 1993, finding that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the victim's disappearance. The Court further held that, although the inadequacy of the investigation into the disappearance of the victim may have caused his family feelings of anguish and mental suffering, it was not established that there were special factors which would justify a finding of inhuman treatment in relation to the victim's relatives. The Court was unable to find a violation of the victim's right to liberty and security since it did not establish who might have been responsible for his disappearance.

Judgment Date

August 31, 2005



Judicial Body

European Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 2 (procedural) [ECHR], Article 2 (substantive) [ECHR], Article 13 [ECHR], Article 38(1)(a) [ECHR]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 3 [ECHR], Article 5 [ECHR], Article 14 [ECHR]

Facts of the Case

Between March and April 1994, Mr. Hüseyin Koku, a founding member of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, was arrested, taken into custody, placed in detention on remand as accused of being involved in the PKK, and tortured. In May 1994 he was acquitted due to a lack of evidence against him. As a prominent politician, Mr. Koku was the subject of harassment by the police and by the local governor. He was also regularly followed by plain-clothed police officers and received anonymous telephone calls and threats. His brother, who worked with him for the Party, left Turkey because of political persecution. In October 1994, Mr. Koku reported an incident involving plain-clothed security forces to the local newspaper. On the following day, he was summoned to the office of the Mayor, and threatened to resign from the party and leave the area. Few days later, Mr. Koku was abducted in the street and drove away by plain-clothed police officers who told him they were going to the police station. A number of inquiries were made by relatives of Mr. Koku, but no information was given on his whereabouts. In November 1994, Mr. Koku's wife lodged a criminal complaint about the disappearance. A few days later, a call was made to Mr. Koku’s house: when his daughter picked up, she was made to listen to the voice of her father being tortured. Mr. Koku's family also received a number of other threats. The leaders of the party who took the place of Mr. Koku were arrested, subjected to torture, threatened by the police not to talk about Mr. Koku’s case, and told to resign if they did not want to suffer the same fate. Mr. Koku's decapitated body was found in April 1995. Despite a number of complaints, Mr. Koku's family has not been informed about any investigation being undertaken into his disappearance and murder. In 1996, three local politicians of the People’s Democracy Party were killed on their way back from a meeting where they made a statement about the abduction and murder of Mr. Koku.

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