The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously held on Tuesday Turkey responsible for failing to cooperate with Cyprus in a murder case which dates back to 2005. Although initially in its Chamber judgment of April 4 2017 the Court had ruled that Nicosia was also responsible in the case of Güzelyurtlu and Others v. Cyprus and Turkey, in today’s final judgment Grand Chamber judges said with 15 votes to 2 that Cyprus did all that could be reasonably expected.
In January 2005 Elmas Güzelyurtlu, his wife Zerrin, and their daughter Eylül were shot dead on the Nicosia-Larnaca highway and after the incident, their killers fled back to the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus.
In its Chamber judgement of April 4, 2017, the Court stated that Cyprus and Turkey were obliged to cooperate effectively to facilitate an effective investigation, however neither government had been prepared to compromise and find middle ground.
On September 18, 2017, the Court accepted the requests of the governments of Cyprus and Turkey that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber. Today’s judgment is final.
In today’s Grand Chamber judgment, the European Court 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.
In their case before the European Court, the applicants, which are relatives of the victims, 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.
According to the Court, the Cypriot authorities could not be criticised for refusing to submit all the evidence and to transfer the proceedings to the authorities of the regime in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus 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,” the ECHR said.
Turkey, on the other hand, had not made the minimum effort required in the circumstances of the case and according to ECHR, “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.”
Turkey was ordered to pay each applicant €8,500 in respect of non-pecuniary damage. It further awarded the applicants a combined sum of €10,000 in respect of costs and expenses. Cypriot Judge Serghides expressed a concurring opinion, while the Judges of Turkey and the Czech Republic expressed a joint dissenting opinion.
Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus’ northern part since they invaded in 1974, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.