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Top court issues landmark ruling to investigate gov’t officials for negligence in femicide case

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has issued a landmark decision in the case of government officials accused of negligence in the murder of academic Serpil Erfındık, who was killed by her husband on December 15, 2013, ruling to relaunch the investigation into them, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Thursday.

The top court on Wednesday stated in its first decision holding government officials responsible for a femicide that the officials had violated Erfındık’s right to life by failing to effectively implement protective and preventive measures against violence against women in Turkey.

After the court issues its reasoned decision, expected to be released in the coming months, the prosecutor’s office that had previously closed the investigation into government officials for negligence will have to relaunch it, DW said.

The investigation into some police officers and gendarmes as well as a provincial chair from the Ministry of Family and Social Services, which was launched after Erfındık’s family filed a criminal complaint against them on charges of negligence, was closed because the İzmir Governor’s Office did not grant permission for the officials to be investigated.

The file was sent to the Constitutional Court after the prosecutor’s office issued a verdict of non-prosecution in the case, according to DW.

Although Erfındık, who married Vedat Atik in 2011 and divorced him in 2013 because she was being subjected to violence, requested protective measures multiple times, stating that her ex-husband was harassing her at work, her requests were denied by the local family court.

Atik, who who stabbed his former wife to death in her house in December 2013, was sentenced to life in prison on charges of “intentional murder,” DW said, adding that the court reduced his sentence to 28 years, five months and seven days for “good behavior and remorse.”

Speaking to DW, Erfındık family lawyer Aytül Arıkan underlined that the Constitutional Court’s decision was important in terms of preventing femicides and cases of violence against women in Turkey by drawing attention to the responsibility of government institutions and officials in that regard.

“This decision is important in a country like Turkey, where we hear about femicides on the news every day, and it will set a precedent. When it comes to taking protective measures [against violence targeting women in Turkey] and monitoring them, all the state bodies, including the Ministry of Family [and Social Services], should effectively and adequately take part in the process, in addition to the courts, prosecutors, police and gendarmerie,” she added.

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women get killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics say that the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he pulled the country out of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, on March 20.

The country on July 1 formally exited the 2011 accord, which has been signed by 45 countries and the European Union and requires governments to adopt legislation linked to the prosecution of crimes including marital rape and female genital mutilation.

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