Justice remains elusive for victims of police brutality 11 years after Turkey’s Gezi Park protests

Ali İsmail Korkmaz (L), Berkin Elvan

The families of teenagers Berkin Elvan and Ali İsmail Korkmaz, who were killed due to the disproportionate police response to Turkey’s nationwide 2013 Gezi Park protests, are still looking for justice 11 years on, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Thursday.

“I can’t bring myself to go to my child’s grave because I won’t be able to tell him that I have brought justice,” said Gülsüm Elvan, the mother of Berkin, who succumbed to his injuries after he was struck in the head with a gas canister fired by a police officer during the protests in İstanbul.

“It hurts. It has been 10 years since my son’s death, while his murderers are free.”

Elvan, who was 14 when he was shot by the police, died in March 2014 after remaining in a coma for 269 days.

Turkey has only convicted one police officer, Fatih Dalgalı, sentencing him to 17 years in prison for causing Elvan’s death.

Last year the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had violated Elvan’s right to life. The court also said Turkey failed to conduct an effective investigation into government officials’ possible roles in the death of the teenager.

The Elvan family was represented by lawyer Can Atalay, who has recently been denied release from prison despite winning a seat in parliament in last year’s elections. Atalay has been kept behind bars in disregard of repeated Constitutional Court orders for his release.

“I no longer have any faith in justice,” said Emel Korkmaz, the mother of Ali İsmail Korkmaz, who was beaten to death by police officers and civilian vigilantes in the central province of Eskişehir during the protests at the age of 19.

Police officer Hüseyin Engin was sentenced to seven months in prison due to his involvement in the incident.

“The sentences looked like rewards given the available video footage of Ali İsmail being beaten,” Korkmaz said. “The outcome of years of struggle for justice has deeply hurt us.”

The protests in 2013 erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in the Taksim neighborhood of İstanbul. They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.

Human rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish judiciary of granting impunity to law enforcement officers accused of involvement in incidents of disproportionate use of force, misconduct, mistreatment and torture, sometimes despite substantial evidence.

Many say there is no longer a separation of powers in the country and that members of the judiciary are under the control of the government and cannot make judgments based on the law.

Turkey was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in October, dropping one rank in comparison to the previous year

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