An analysis of human remains discovered in Turkey’s south-eastern Şanlıurfa province on 22 July revealed that they came from at least three different adult men, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Friday.
The discovery was made by locals in the Hilvan district, in a part of the Tutumlu neighbourhood believed to have been used by the infamous Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Unit (JİTEM) for a wave of extrajudicial killings in the 1990s.
The land is owned by the Bucak tribe, a family of village guards alleged to have ties with JİTEM. Several other discoveries of human remains have been made in the same area over the years.
At least 40 families have appealed to the Human Rights Association’s (İHD) local branch for their loved ones who disappeared in custody within Şanlıurfa’s bounds in the 1990s, at the height of Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish forces.
“Some of the people who disappeared in the 1990s were last seen exactly where these remains were discovered, between Siverek and Hilvan,” news website Gerçek Gündem cited İHD Şanlıurfa branch co-chair Mustafa Vefa as saying.
The remains have been sent to the province’s forensic medicine institute for DNA testing and to determine when the deaths occurred. Six families whose relatives disappeared between 1993 and 1994 have appealed to the Hilvan chief public prosecutor’s office to be tested for a match.
According to statistics İHD has kept, at least 940 people have disappeared under custody in the aftermath of Turkey’s 1980 military coup. Some 500 bodies have been discovered, while the fate of the rest are unknown. Meanwhile, at least 253 mass graves have been discovered throughout the country, where at least 3,248 bodies have been buried.
While later efforts to shed light on this dark period in Turkey’s history have led to charges being brought against JİTEM, most cases have resulted in dismissals or minimal sentencing.
In several cases, JİTEM operatives would execute detainees after they were subjected to too much torture to be released back into the public, a former JİTEM member and a suspected killer of Kurdish writer Musa Anter said in a recent interview.