Top court finds rights violation in investigation into alleged enforced disappearance

Black vans have become the symbols of the abduction and disappearance in Turkey's post-coup crackdown targeting the Gülen movement.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has found a rights violation due to the lack of an effective investigation into the alleged enforced disappearance of a person who went missing in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016, Turkish Minute reported, citing Deutsche Welle Turkish edition.

The court ruled that Turkey has not conducted an effective investigation to find a former analyst at the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), identified only by the initials A.O., in a petition to the court filed by his family. A.O is one of the dozens of people who are believed to have been abducted by the Turkish authorities due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement following the coup attempt.

Enforced disappearances, which were common in Turkey during the 1990s, made a comeback following the failed coup of July 2016.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, of being behind the abortive putsch and designates the group as a terrorist organization. The movement denies any involvement with the coup or any terrorist activity.

The application to the court was filed by A.O.’s sister, Ayla Oran Özgün, in March 2019. The court ruled that she be paid TL 90,000 ($4,800) in non-pecuniary damages.

After the July 2016 attempted coup, 30 people — 11 of them in Ankara — were reportedly abducted in black transporter vans according to eyewitness reports or security camera footage in the area.

According to the top court, the state’s obligation to protect life and the right to an effective remedy were violated in A.O.’s case, both guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution.

The court also criticized Turkey’s Security Directorate General for not helping the investigation to proceed by refusing to send the footage of MOBESE, which has a vast network of CCTV cameras spanning cities and towns across Turkey, to the prosecutors investigating the disappearance of A.O.

A.O. was working in Greece when he was called back to Turkey in June 2016 due to an investigation into him due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement. Following his return to Turkey, he was fired from his job and subsequently detained due to his alleged Gülen links. A.O. was released on judicial probation after remaining in police custody for several days.

On the day of his disappearance, Nov. 1, 2016, A.O. told his wife that he was going to meet one of his friends in Kızılay in central Ankara, but he failed to show up and never returned home.

His wife, who claimed that her husband was kidnapped, filed a missing persons report at the Etimesgut Police Station in Ankara the next day. The wife, who petitioned the prosecutors in Ankara, said her husband left her a will indicating that if something happens to him, MİT must be held responsible for it.

A.O.’s car was found abandoned in a street in the Çankaya neighborhood of Ankara in 2018.

A detention warrant was issued for A.O. in 2020 by Ankara prosecutors on charges of terrorist organization membership and “espionage.”

Meanwhile, V.K.A., a suspect who was detained due to links to the Gülen movement and was allegedly tortured by the police, claimed he was shown the interrogation footage of A.O. when he was in custody. However, despite the request of A.O.’s wife, the prosecutor’s office did not question V.K.A.

Some victims of enforced disappearances following the coup, after they were found, said that they were subjected to torture during the time they were “missing.”

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