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Reasons Why the Regional / Provincial Governors of Martial Law are Criminally Responsible

When the Military Coup of September 12, 1980 took place, the martial law had already been in place in nineteen provinces. On September 12, martial law was declared on the remaining forty-eight provinces as well. While martial law was gradually lifted in the provinces in Western Turkey from March 14, 1984 to July 19, 1987, it remained in place in Bingöl, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Hakkari, Mardin, Siirt, Tunceli and Van. 

The number of provinces governed by martial law rose to thirteen as other provinces such as Batman, Şırnak, Bitlis and Muş were added to the list. Here, the martial law governance continued from July 19, 1987 to November 30, 2002 when it was finally lifted; the martial law governance period in the region was extended for a total of forty-six times, and the residents of some provinces were made to live under martial law conditions for twenty-three solid years.

In the period of September 12, with the intention to silence political opponents and destroy their human dignity, violence was exercised in enormous levels. Forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions were common during the period, but it would not be wrong to say that the main type of violation that bore its firm mark on the era was torture. Hundreds of thousands of people were subjected to systematic and widespread torture while they were held under custody and/or in prison, and it was this systematic and widespread character that placed the crimes of this period within the category of crimes against humanity.

On the other hand, in the period of the martial law, in the climate of fear that was created, the state extended its repertoire of violence in an even more unlimited manner. From the beginning of the 1990s, from civilians to intellectuals, human rights defenders to political leaders, the Kurds were subjected to a tremendous amount of violence. During this period, in addition to the tortures carried out in prisons and places of custody, the main types of grave violation of human rights were forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and the forceful emptying of villages, which meant the forced displacement of millions of Kurdish citizens, and their deprivation from means of subsistence.

The Coup of September 12 thus continued well into the 1990’s with its changing context and changing security / ‘counterterrorism’ concept. For this reason, the regional governors of martial law were included in the list of individuals politically responsible of the atrocities of the period, together with the military and political authorities of the time.