by Fréderike Geerdink
The Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) will apply to the public prosecutor to start a criminal investigation against the Turkish authorities for their late response to the earthquakes that hit the country on 6 February, causing more than 46,000 deaths.
“There is a criminal liability,” said İHD Diyarbakır (Amed) branch co-chair Rehşan Bataray during the international conference on ‘The EU, Turkey, the Middle-East and the Kurds’ held in the European Parliament this week, announcing that the association was preparing a report on Turkey’s negligence after quakes with evidence.
At the same panel on the opening day of the conference in which Meral Danış Beştaş, a pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP and a lawyer, also stressed that the Turkish government committed a crime, not only because of the late response to the devastating earthquakes but also because of the lousy preparation in the last two decades of its ruling. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) should have enforced construction regulations, Danış Beştaş said.
“We have for example carried out autopsies to define the hour that people lost their lives, which was often not at the time that the earthquakes happened but after a long time, which means their lives could have been saved if search and rescue teams would have been there faster,” said Bataray, who had previously visited the earthquake regions with an İHD delegation to gather evidence.
Furthermore, according to witness accounts and substantiated claims gathered by İHD, aid sent to the victims was confiscated or delayed by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority’s (AFAD) because AFAD was supposed to be in complete control of all search and rescue and aid operations.
The regions hit by the earthquakes have large Kurdish and Alevi populations, and discrimination against those communities was part of the investigations.
“The survivors complained that the government didn’t send support to them, unlike to villages where a majority had voted for AKP,” said Bataray. “This hurts the communities even more because they have facing discrimination at the hands of the Turkish government for a century already.”
People also worried that the government would use the newly initiated state of emergency to strengthen its hand in the run-up to the elections, scheduled (but not officially announced yet) for 14 May.
The İHD will release its earthquake report soon.