STRASBOURG (AFP)–The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday condemned Turkey for expelling about 15 Kurdish villagers from their homes under a 1994 state of emergency and for preventing them from recovering their property.
The decision is the first with a bearing on the inability of hundreds of Kurds to return home to their villages in southeastern Turkey until July 2003.
Ankara "had the essential duty and responsibility of guaranteeing the conditions–and providing the means–to allow the plaintiffs to return home of their free will–in security and with dignity…or to voluntarily make a new home elsewhere in the country," the court ruled.
Some 1,500 similar deman’s have been brought before the court–about one-fourth of the total cases it is hearing against Turkey–which hosted a two-day NATO summit in Istanbul that ended Tuesday.
Ankara–bidding to join the European Union–has faced an uphill struggle over its human rights record.
The European judges Tuesday ruled unanimously that Turkey infringed the right to the protection of property and failed to respect family rights.
The plaintiffs were expelled from the village of Boydas–near Hozat–during clashes between security forces and Kurdish separatist sympathizers.
The villagers "were deprived of all the resources essential to their livelihood," the court said–adding that the Turkish authorities failed to provide alternative housing.
The court noted that draft legislation on compensation for damages resulting from the "fight against terrorism" was still under consideration and offered no remedy.
For 15 years–Southeastern Turkey was the scene of heavy fighting between the Turkish army and rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party–who sought self-rule in the mainly Kurdish region.
The PKK announced a unilateral ceasefire in 1999 and withdrew from Turkey–but its successor–the Kongra-gel–announced last month that it was ending the truce as of June 1.
Clashes have been on the rise in the region.