Today, before the Diyarbakir 10th Heavy Penal Court, a hearing in the case concerning Tahir Elci’s killing is taking place. Despite of declarations from high officials, both the investigation and the trial in Court raise serious doubts on its transparency and its correctness. Therefore, the European Association of Lawyers (AEA-EAL) issued a letter to Minister of Justice of the Republic of Turkey pointing out a number of problems noticed by independent organisations supervising the trial.
We also endorsed a UN urgent action letter on Failure of Turkey to effectively investigate Tahir Elçi’s killing and calling United Nations to undertake urgent steps to secure the fair trail.
Both letters can be found below for download:
Tahir Elçi ((1966 – 28 November 2015) was a Kurdish lawyer and the Dean of Diyarbakır Bar Association.
In 1993 he was became a lawyer, and a member of the Cizre Bar Association and defending people against the Turkish state at the European Commission of Human Rights (ECHR). In November 1993 he was detained and on the 10 December 1993 he was remanded to prison accused of links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s armed wing. He was released from custody on 17 February 1994 together with other defendants. Between 1996 and 2006 he was active at the Diyarbakir Bar association as a manager and in 2012 he was elected its Dean.
On 23 March 2014, he was the lawyer in the Kuşkonar massacre case in the ECHR, in which Turkey was condemned for massacring Kurdish civilians and blaming the PKK. Elçi was detained several times and received death threats after saying the banned PKK should not be regarded as a terrorist organization. In October 2015, Elçi was detained by Turkish authorities and accused of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” after having said in an interview with CNN Türk, that the PKK was not a terrorist organization.
He was killed in the Sur district of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey on 28 November 2015. He was shot during a shootout between police and members of the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), the PKK’s youth wing, following a press statement during which he had been calling for an end to violence between the PKK and the Turkish state.
Two members of the YDG-H shot and killed two police officers and fled down the Yenikapı street, where Tahir Elçi was holding the press conference beside the “Four-legged Minaret” of the Sheikh Matar Mosque. As the YDG-H militants ran down the street and past the scene of the press conference, police officers opened fire on them. Elçi was shot in the back of the head during the shootout and the YDG-H militants escaped.
The same day, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDA) condemned the assassination and called for an independent investigation. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) called the shooting a “planned assassination,” and protests erupted in Turkey after Elçi’s killing. Elçi’s brother Ahmet Elçi was quoted as saying that his brother was “murdered by the state.”
Following the murder, Turkish authorities announced the “we aren’t ruling out the possibility that a third party directly targeted him.” In June 2016, Turkish authorities claimed that a captured militant witnessed PKK militants Uğur Yakışır and Mahsum Gürkhan open fire upon Tahir Elçi the moment he was killed. But in 2019, Forensic Architecture conducted an independent investigation on behalf of the Diyarbakır Bar Association and analyzed the killing. They concluded that the likely fatal shot probably came from police officers involved in the shootout and not from the escaping PKK militants. The investigation did not conclude whether the shot that killed Elçi was deliberate.