ECHR condemns Turkey over G/C man’s murder
Nicosia, Nov 23 (CNA) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously on Tuesday that Turkey violated the right to life of the European Convention on Human Rights in the killing of Greek Cypriot Petros Kakoulis in 1996 in the buffer zone, and that there was inadequate investigation into his death.
The court also ordered Turkey to pay his widow, Chriso Kakoulli 20,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,500 to each of his three children, also applicants in respect of non-pecuniary damage. It further awarded the applicants jointly EUR 20,000 for costs and expenses.
In the ruling, the ECHR held that there was a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the killing of the applicants’ relative by a Turkish soldier in the buffer zone between northern and southern Cyprus.
It also ruled that there was violation of Article 2 concerning the inadequate investigation into his death but no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention.
In its decision, the Court said that the Turkish Government submitted that the applicants had not exhausted domestic remedies as they had filed their application without having recourse to the local remedies which were available to them within the judicial system of the ''Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'' (''TRNC'').
The Court observed it said, that for Convention purposes, the remedies available in the ''TRNC'' could be regarded as “domestic remedies”.
However, it underlined that that decision was not to be seen as in any way putting in doubt the view of the international community regarding the establishment of the ''TRNC'' or the fact that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus remained the sole legitimate government of Cyprus.
Furthermore, the Court considered that the question whether the criminal investigation could be regarded as effective under the Convention was closely linked to the substance of the applicants’ complaints. It therefore decided to address those questions in its examination of the applicants’ complaints under Article 2.
Regarding Kakoulli’s killing, the Court said that at the time of the incident, the buffer zone between the two sides in Cyprus was not very peaceful and accepted that “border policing undoubtedly presented the authorities with special problems, such as unlawful crossings or violent demonstrations along the borderlines”.
However, it stressed that this “did not give law-enforcement officials carte blanche to use firearms whenever they were confronted with such problems”.
On the contrary, it added, they were required to organise their actions carefully with a view to minimising a risk of deprivation of life or bodily harm. Accordingly, “the Court could not accept the Turkish Government’s argument for justifying the use of lethal force against civilians who breached the borderlines”.
The Court did not find it necessary to determine whether Petros Kakoulli was in possession of a garrotte and a bayonet prior to his death or whether they were planted by the Turkish security forces subsequent to his death. “The Turkish security forces were obliged to avoid using disproportionate force with the intention of killing or with reckless disregard for the life of Petros Kakoulli”, the ruling said.
The soldier in question, said the Court, used lethal force while there was no imminent risk of death or serious harm to himself or others. It noted that the Court was particularly struck by the fact that the last shot was fired several minutes after the two shots, which had already wounded the victim and neutralised him, at a time when it could have been possible to carry out an arrest.
The Court therefore concluded that the use of force against Petros Kakoulli was neither proportionate nor absolutely necessary for the purpose of “defending any person from unlawful violence” or "effecting a lawful arrest". There had therefore been a violation of Article 2.
The ECHR said it found that there were a number of significant omissions which raised doubts about the effectiveness and impartiality of the investigation into Petros Kakoulli’s death.
In the light of the foregoing, the Court considered that the investigation conducted by the ''TRNC'' authorities into Petros Kakoulli’s killing was neither effective nor impartial. It accordingly dismissed the Government’s objection of non-exhaustion and held that there had been a violation of Article 2.