Page last updated at 22:00 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Kurdish 'grave sites' to be dug

By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul

Map of Turkey

A Turkish prosecutor has ordered the digging up of several sites where it is believed the bodies of Kurds killed in the 1990s may have been dumped.

Hundreds of people disappeared at the height of the fighting in the mainly Kurdish south-east.

Human rights lawyers say many were last seen with security forces members.

The Kurdish conflict, which began in the 1980s when insurgents started fighting for a separate Kurdish state, still continues today.

Close to 40,000 people have been killed.

More than 70 families applied to a prosecutor in the town of Silopi after information emerged suggesting the location of their relatives' bodies.

The prosecutor has ordered the excavation of two old well-shafts behind an abandoned roadside restaurant.

Another site to be dug is on the grounds of a storage facility of the Botash oil company.

Human rights lawyers also want to examine parts of a municipal cemetery where they believe a mass grave of the missing could be found.

Missing politicians

Hundreds of Kurdish civilians have been missing, presumed dead, since the height of the Kurdish conflict in the region in the mid-1990s.

Lawyers began pushing for permission to dig certain sites after a former security officer, now in hiding abroad, gave information about the torture and execution of Kurdish civilians.

They were also boosted by the unprecedented arrest of military members, retired and active, in connection with an alleged plot to topple the government.

Several of the men now in custody were in command in the Kurdish conflict region in the 1990s.

The lawyers argue prosecutors should broaden the scope of that coup trial to include a full investigation of the alleged crimes against the Kurds.

Most recently two politicians disappeared in 2001 after they were called for questioning at the local headquarters of the military police.

In that case and others the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of violating the right to life, but here in Turkey itself the families of the missing have never found justice - or the bodies of their relatives.

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