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Cyprus and Turkey: Court judgement in triple murder human rights complaint

Human rights judges say authorities in Turkey failed to cooperate with their counterparts in Cyprus in the investigation of a triple murder case.

In its 29 January Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of Güzelyurtlu and Others v. Cyprus and Turkey (application no. 36925/07), the European Court of Human Rights held:

by 15 votes to two, that there had been no 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 Convention by Turkey.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Turkey was to pay each applicant 8,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. It further awarded the applicants a combined sum of EUR 10,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

The applicants are Cypriot nationals of Turkish Cypriot origin who live in the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) or in the United Kingdom.

The applicants are all relatives of Elmas, Zerrin, and Eylül Güzelyurtlu, who were shot dead on the Nicosia-Larnaca highway in the Cypriot-Government controlled areas of the island on 15 January 2005. Elmas was found dead in a ditch and his wife, Zerrin, and daughter, Eylül, in the back seat of their car, which was parked on the hard shoulder.

The three victims were all Cypriot nationals of Turkish Cypriot origin. The killers fled back to 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”.

Both investigations reached an impasse in 2008.

In their case before the European Court, the applicants, the victims’ relatives, alleged that the refusal of Turkey and Cyprus to co-operate meant that the killers had not faced justice.

The court considered that both States had had an obligation to cooperate with each other.

It found that Cyprus had done all that could reasonably have been expected of it to obtain the surrender/extradition of the suspects from Turkey, submitting “Red notice” requests to Interpol and, when this proved unsuccessful, extradition requests to Turkey.

The Cypriot authorities could not be criticised for refusing to submit all the evidence and to transfer the proceedings to the authorities of the “TRNC” or Turkey.

That would have amounted to Cyprus waiving its criminal jurisdiction over a murder committed in its controlled area in favour of the courts of an unrecognised entity set up within its territory.

Turkey, on the other hand, had not made the minimum effort required in the circumstances of the case. They had ignored Cyprus’s extradition requests, returning them without reply, contrary to their obligation under Article 2, read in the light of other international agreements, to cooperate by informing the requesting state of its decision and, in the case of rejection, to give reasons.

 

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