Controversial 'mass grave' trial referred to Constitutional Court


VAN - An appeal has been filed at the Constitutional Court by the family and the lawyer of of Hozan Hogir. When all the appeals filed to open the mass grave in which the bodies of 41 Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members were buried remained inconclusive.

Following the fact that the 41 funerals, including German researcher Andrea Wolf and artist Hozan Hogir, who were buried in a mass grave in Van in 1998, were not given to their families despite the three applications, and that the courts ruled a decision of "non-prosecution" the trial has been carried to the Constitutional Court (AYM) by the family and the lawyer of Hozan Hogir.

Two new statements appear for the first time in the file. One of the two senior soldiers whose statements were taken by the Çatak Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on the day of the incident said that they had caught 5 or 6 people alive, as another military commander said in his statement that 4 people had been captured alive.


Lawyer Turan Ece demands the mass grave to be opened and the bodies to be handed over to their families with the appeal he filed as the Constitutional Court. The appeal includes the following statements: "According to PKK sources, 41 people died and 5 survived in the military operation carried out in Andiçen village in Çatak district of Van Province on October 22-23, 1998.Another claim about the controversial incident for years is that those who were captured, including Andrea Wolf, were killed by torture. However the authorities closed the investigation with the decision of non-prosecution with no further deepening, no further exploration, no further examination on the necessary issues which were given an 'active investigation' decision ruled by the European Court of Human Rights on June 8 2010,  The issues addressed by the criminal complaint of the mother Lieselotte WOLF-SONG were also disregarded with no further examination and research. They did not even question the soldiers who were a part of the operation."


Reminding the article of the Turkish Constitution which states that nobody can be subjected to pressure and ill treatment and also to no punishment which does not comply with the human dignity" the statements in the appeal continued as follows: "As the applicant was not informed on how his brother was killed by the security forces in 1998 he is being punished having not been able to hand over the deceased body. It is torture for the applicant who has not been given the bones of his brother. The applicant is the victim of the act of torture.

In no positive law system in the history of human kind it was never allowed not to hand people the deceased bodies of their family members. According to the applicant's belief, the dead had to be buried immediately, if not possible, in conformity with the Islamic religious rituals as soon as possible, while the funeral has been held open for 22 years. According to the applicant's belief, the deceased body has to be buried in conformity with Islamic religious rituals immediately or as soon as possible, but the body has been held for 22 years. The applicant could not say his last goodbye his brother by properly burying him, who was killed 22 years ago, in conformity with his religious belief. Therefore he has been experiencing severe mental pain and suffering, and could not complete the mourning phase because he did not bury his brother in the proper way based on his belief. It is an act of torture to prevent the applicant from reaching the bones of his brother, and the military and political authorities who prevent this are the perpetrators of this crime."


The statements of soldiers placed in the application documents filed at the Constitutional Court reveal many details regarding the day of the incident. In the statement he gave at the Çatak Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, Van Gendarme Battalion Commander R. A. explains, "I joined the operation as Gendarme Battalion commander. The conflict continued until the morning. According to the wireless report of the troops on the land search conducted in the region by the sunrise, I learned that around 40 terrorists died in the conflict. I heard that 5 or 6 terrorists were captured alive by the Şırnak Security Forces. I did not see the terrorists who died or surrendered. I do not know if there are foreign nationals among the dead terrorists. As we are already a commando unit, we have no judicial duty."


The Gendarmerie Command Third Lieutant H.G. explains that day with the following words: Because a long time has passed since the day of the incident and I have joined many operations during my military service, it is not possible for me to remember all the details of this incident. We circled a cave that we learned that the terrorists were inside, but until we came closer to the cave they did not surrender. Only when we reached to the entrance of the cave they began to surrender one by one. I remember that I saw 3-4 terrorists with no arms and their hands on top of their heads. I remember one of them was a woman, but I don't remember if she looked foreign or not. After the 3 or 4 terrorists that I saw to be captured alive they said that we could as there was no further need for our team."


The names and code names of some PKK members who lost their lives in the airstrike and operation on October 23, 1998 in Andiçen (Kelehê) District of Van's Çatak district were as follows: Evrim Açan (Rohat), Şêxmûs Hasan (Cembeli), Cazım Tatar (Hozan Hogir), Teyar Misto (Kamuran), Ayten Ene (Azime Savaş), Agirî, Botan, Kamuran İnalkoç (Kawa), Enver Süleyman (Şiyar), Leşker, Kemal, Tekoşer, Neriman Ahmet (Amed), İbrahim Ercan (Sea), Fevzi Muhammed (Gabar Afrin), Sipan, Selman, Habib İbo (Bahoz), Dilbirîn, Xezal, Şerife Erdoğan (Sozdar Urfa), Fatih Yalçınkaya (Agit), Şiyar, Andrea Wolf (Ronahi), Minteha Ali (Canda), Yervan Yıldız (Adife), Adife Aslan (Berfin), Cahide, Diyar, Newroz and Xelat.


After the incident, some villagers also expressed their own witnessing the day of the incident that the Turkish military used some kind of a gas that they did not know and spread that gas over region where the conflict took place by the helicopters. One of those villagers said, "It was a big operation. After the operation, clashes broke out. The dynamite that was placed under the cave, which was already destroyed by the helicopters, was completely demolished. Some bodies were left under the sun for days. We gathered the bones we found later, but the bodies of tens of people are still under the ruins of the cave."

Following these events, the members of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Van Branch visited the mass grave area and called on the families of PKK members whose names were announced to apply to the prosecutors for DNA tests.


The "Ronahî Monumental Cemetery", which was built on September 15, 2013 in the area where the mass grave was located and named after Andrea Wolf, was destroyed by the airstrikes of the helicopters on 29 November 2015. In addition to the memorial cemetery, the structures used as mosques, guesthouses and kitchens were also destroyed by the bombardment.

MA / Adnan Bilen