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Court: Cyprus and Turkey’s cooperation failure led to ineffective murder investigation

Human rights judges say a lack of cooperation between Cyprus and Turkey resulted in an ineffective investigation into the murder of a family of three.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Guzelyurtlu and Others v. Cyprus and Turkey (application no. 36925/07) the European Court of Human Rights held:

by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 2 (right to life/investigation) of the European Convention on Human Rights by Cyprus

and,

unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 2 of the European Convention by Turkey.

The case was brought by the relatives of Elmas, Zerrin, and Eylül Güzelyurtlu, who were shot dead on the Nicosia-Larnaca highway in the Cypriot-Government-controlled areas on 15 January 2005.

As just satisfaction (Article 41), the European court held, by five votes to two, that each respondent government was to pay each applicant 8,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

The killers fled back to the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (the “TRNC”). Parallel investigations into the murders were conducted by the authorities of the Cypriot Government and the Turkish Government, including those of the “TRNC”. The “TRNC” authorities insisted that the case file containing the evidence against the suspects be handed over so that they could conduct a prosecution.

The Cypriot authorities refused. On the strength of the evidence gathered during their investigation, the Cypriot authorities sought the extradition of the suspects who were within Turkey’s jurisdiction (either in the “TRNC” or in mainland Turkey) with a view to their trial. The extradition requests were returned to the Cypriot authorities without reply.

The investigations of both respondent States thus reached an impasse in 2008.

The applicants, relatives of the victims, complained that both the Cypriot and Turkish authorities (including those of the “TRNC”) have failed to co-operate and conduct an effective investigation into the killing of their relatives.

The court found that, where – as in the applicants’ case – the investigation of unlawful killings unavoidably implicated more than one State, the States concerned were obliged to cooperate effectively and take all reasonable steps necessary to facilitate and realise an effective investigation into the case overall.

However, it was clear from all the material before the court, that both governments had not been prepared to make any compromise on their positions and find middle ground, despite various options having been put forward, including by the United Nations.

That position arose from political considerations which reflected the long-standing and intense political dispute between Cyprus and Turkey. A situation thus resulted in which the respondent governments’ respective investigations – which the Court found adequate up until the impasse – remain open. Nothing has therefore been done for more than eight years to bring to a close what is
ultimately a straightforward case.

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