Roboski families apply for a retrial

On December 28, 2011, 34 people were killed in Roboski when the Turkish air force bombed a caravan of mostly underage border traders. All trials brought before civilian and military courts have been discontinued.

The relatives of the victims of the Roboski massacre want to obtain a retrial. According to a lawyer for the families, an application for a retrial is to be submitted to the Constitutional Court in Ankara today. In addition, a subsequent press statement is planned in front of the courthouse in the Turkish capital.

On Dec. 28, 2011, 34 people were killed in the village of Roboski in Şırnak province when the Turkish Air Force bombed a caravan of mostly underage border traders. The victims had loaded their mules with two canisters each of diesel fuel, a kilo of tea and a kilo of sugar. In return, tons of bombs rained down on them just before the turn of the year. All lawsuits brought before civil and military courts were dropped. After all domestic legal avenues had been exhausted, an application was filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Because the legal counsel for the victims' families submitted missing documents two days late, the ECtHR rejected the application in May 2018.

Relatives in prison

The legal proceedings concerning the Roboski massacre are emblematic of the judicial system in Turkey. None of those responsible has been brought to justice. Veli Encü, who lost his brother Serhat in the air strike, and Barış Encü, whose brother Nevzat died, are in prison for protesting the massacre. A case is underway against 34 people for protesting against then District Governor Naif Yavuz. The charges are "organizational propaganda, insulting the army and attempted murder". Another 16 relatives were charged with participating in a commemoration ceremony. Dozens of relatives have been sentenced to fines.

Turkish army: "Regrettable confusion"

19 of the 34 victims of the Roboski massacre were minors. Only four survived the attack with serious injuries. The young men, aged between 13 and 38, whose families made a living from border trade, were returning from southern Kurdistan when the bombardment by Turkish fighter jets began at 9:37 p.m. and continued until 10:24 p.m.

Erdoğan thanked for bombing

The Turkish General Staff later explained that the decision was made to attack them since the group had taken a route also used by the PKK, which resulted in the victims being considered "terrorists." Hours before the first airstrike, however, drone images had already been analyzed at 6:39 p.m. and clearly showed the people to be border traders. The local military police (Gendarmerie) were also aware of each group of smugglers, as they collected illegal customs duties. In any case, the guerrillas do not use large routes like the border traders and do not move in such conspicuous groups with mules. The military leaders in charge in Ankara must have been aware of this as well. The current head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, promised to clarify the incident. However, it was also Erdoğan who personally thanked the chief of staff for the bombing.