USA Drones Assisted Roboski Massacre
On December 29, 2011, Turkish warplanes killed 35 Kurdish boys and men in an air strike near the Iraqi Kurdistan border, Roboski (Uludere), when smugglers were mistaken for PKK militants. An article dated May 12, 2012 in Wall Street Journal reported that it was a U.S. Predator drone that spotted the caravan and American officers alerted Turkey. Report also claimed the U.S. helps provide intelligence for operations in Turkey but plays no direct role in any strikes.
Roj TV reported that the dead were among a group of up to 35 people, ranging in age from 16 to 20, who were engaged in smuggling gas and sugar across the mountain border with Iraq. The Firat news agency released photos showing bodies wrapped in blankets, lying on the snow side by side. The bodies, some of them burnt beyond recognition or dismembered, were transported to their hometown on mules.
Shortly after the airstrike, two civilians escaped to Iraq. The third survivor, 19 year old Servet Haci Encü, returned to his village. Servet explained the smuggling business and said the smuggling action was well known by the security forces at the border. He said that the people in his village and neighboring settlements are in smuggling business for many years and generations because of financial need. In impoverished Kurdish villages of southeastern Turkey, smuggling is one of the few ways to earn a living.
The Turkish military says they usually don’t bother villagers crossing the border as long as people aren’t moving weapons or drugs. But PKK militants also cross the border in those areas. No information by the Turkish government has been released to the public regarding what safeguards were in place, if any, to assess whether lethal force was absolutely necessary and how loss of life could have been minimized.
On March, 2012, the Turkish parliamentary sub-commission investigating the massacre passed by five votes to three a controversial report which concluded that the massacre happened due to lack of coordination between military officials and civilians intelligence officials which led to the bombing.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying, failure to conduct an effective investigation, on top of the circumstances of the bombing and killings themselves, indicate a failure by Turkey to live up to some of its most fundamental obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to safeguard the right to life.
On top of the shoddy investigation and full impunity for whoever were responsible from the massacre, Turkish government recently fined the families of the victims of 3 thousand Turkish Liras for visiting the site of the bombing for a commemoration to mark the 500th day of the massacre.
The families walked to the border between Turkey and Iraq to mark the 500th day of the massacre and left flowers on the soil in memory of their loved ones.