On October 10, 2015, at around 09:40 hours, two consecutive explosions occurred as crowds were gathering in front of the Ankara train station to form processions for the “Peace Rally” to be held in Ankara that day.
Based on the fact that the explosions took place at two distinct locations and caused a large number of deaths in a narrowly defined area, two separate suicide bombers are suspected of being involved. This is confirmed by eye witness accounts and physical evidence on site. According to the information available to us as of 10.10.2015, 16:00 hours, 86 lives have been lost (the death toll had risen to 97 as of 13.10.2015). Many more are wounded and are currently being treated at the local hospitals.
As a group of attorneys who arrived at the scene of the incident, we evaluate below the legal violations that we have identified in the initial stage of the prosecutorial process. As we know, the minimal/basic principles to be observed by the UN General Council in the context of suspect deaths such as extra-judicial and summary executions are elaborated in the Minnesota Protocol. We describe below our findings taking into account this instrument of human rights law:
The investigation of the bombing(s) must be immediate, impartial and effective. It was observed at the scene of the incidents that absolutely nothing had been done to secure the area affected by the blasts, there were no investigative teams nor was the prosecutor present at the scene, and no protective measures had been taken to safeguard the people at the scene. Only after 1.5 hours did the investigative teams arrive at the scene. Yet they were not able to begin their work because the prosecutor had still not arrived. The chief prosecutor arrived 2.5 hours after the incident and stated that other prosecutors were tasked with the prosecution.
Attorneys who asked to be present during the investigations at the scene in order to prevent any loss of evidence and ensure a thorough, in-depth investigation were sent away and only three attorneys were allowed access to the investigation. Even during the examination of the bombing scene, the only security measures taken were aimed at the attorneys and their acquaintances.
The teams focused on the removal of the dead. The scope of the criminal investigation was kept narrow despite the wide reach of the explosions: tissue samples and objects required for the identification of the bodies as well as other physical evidence required for reconstruction of the crime were excluded from the investigation. Given that no measures were taken to secure the evidence at the scene, it is clear that the scene of the investigation was contaminated and that nothing was done to prevent this. Similarly, we observed that many individuals were walking over the evidence. Funeral vehicles were also observed approaching the corpses by driving over the evidence on the ground.
As attorneys, we have not only been kept in the dark about the prosecutorial investigative process, but our demands for the immediate collection of visual footage and other evidence remained unanswered. Similarly, the attorneys who went to the Ankara Courthouse were referred to “the prosecutor on call” and have been unable to find a prosecutor properly tasked with the effective and swift prosecution of the incident. According to information received from the chief prosecutor on call, the focus was only on the autopsies and not on the prosecutorial investigation. Despite the gravity of the situation, nobody was available at the governor’s office.
Given the extensive area covered by the scene of the incident and the amount of physical evidence, we observed that the number of forensic experts and investigative teams as well as the number of prosecutors assigned to the task were all inadequate.
Attorneys were hindered in their attempts to be present during autopsies, and the entire process was not conducted in conformity with existing law.
According to the accounts of attorneys and witnesses present at the scene of the incident, following the explosions the riot squad used tear gas and rubber bullets against the participants in the rally who were at the scene. In the area near the Arena Sports Field the police failed to assist first aid efforts, for example by clearing the way for ambulances. Ambulances were blocked by the riot squad and delayed from reaching the scene. Law enforcement personnel fired into the air numerous times to scatter people in the area. The intervention of the riot squad caused people to trample over the dead as they sought to escape. The manner in which the security forces intervened at the scene in the aftermath of the explosions added to the chaos, delayed the provision of first aid to the injured and caused further injuries to those seeking to flee.
It has been reported that during the examination of the crime scene the riot squad provoked people in the Sıhhiye area of the train station, that some law enforcement officers acted disrespectfully towards the dead, that the evidence was deliberately trampled upon and that insults were hurled at people.
The attorneys’ request to take statements about the officers was hindered by the head of the investigative team. During the investigation, officers who were evidently from the riot squad took off their squad vests and ran from the scene in their civilian clothes (red T-shirts), in so doing trampling over the dead and the evidence.
Immediately afterwards, the attorneys present for the investigation at the scene were assaulted by the police. Special security forces prevented access to the hospitals and to information about the injured and the dead.
These legal/procedural violations identified at this early stage are a cause for grave concern with regard to the destruction of evidence.
Actions were undertaken without the required promptness and thoroughness and lacking the minimal/basic planning needed for an effective investigation. Furthermore, the absence of an official briefing suggests that the conduct of the investigation may be concealed from public scrutiny.”
It is clear that an investigation overshadowed by concern about public indignation and the security of the prosecutor cannot be independent.
Att. Nuray Özdoğan
Att. Senem Doğanoğlu
Att. Teoman Özkan
Att. Deniz Özbilgin
Att. Sevinç Hocaoğullari
Att. Sercan Aran
Att. Mehmet Ümit Erdem
Att. Hürmüz Biçer
Att. Dönsel Umucu
Att. Özlem Şen
Att. Ayhan Güneş
Att. Halil İbrahim Vargün
Att. Sertaç Ekinci
Att. Emrah Öner
Att. Candan Dumrul
Att. Evin Konuk
Att. Murat Yilmaz Att. Pinar Akdemir
Att. Atiye Arikan
Att. Serbay Köklü
Att. Tekin Yasin Çelikkaya
Att. Cengiz Yürekli
Att. Baturay Altinok
Att. Öztürk Türkdoğan
Att. Riza Yalçin Koçak
Att. Özcan Algül
Att. Günfer Karadeniz
Att. İlyas Danyeli
Att. Saliha Şahin
Att. Gülistan Koç
Att. Ceren Şimşek
Att. Kenan Maçoğlu
Att. Alişan Şahin
Att. Gülşen Uzuner