European Court condemns Turkey of human rights violations in Cyprus
Nicosia, Oct 27 – The fourth section of the European Court of Human Rights issued its decisions on two cases Greek Cypriots brought against Turkey on October 27, 2009, condemning Ankara for the violation of the right to life, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human rights.
In the first case, concerning the application of Mr. and Mrs. Kallis and Androulla Panayi against Turkey, the Court ruled that there was a violation of Article 2, of the Convention and awarded 35,000 Euros each in respect of non-pecuniary damages and 9,888,300 Euros for costs and expenses.
Mr. and Mrs. Panayi's son, Stellios, who was 19 at the time that he served in the armed forces, was killed in June 1996 by the Turkish occupation forces when he entered the UN buffer zone, while off duty and unarmed. When members of the UN Peace keeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) attempted to reach him in order to provide medical treatment needed to save his life, the Turkish armed forces fired and did not allow the UNFICYP to come to his aid, as a result of which he died.
The Turkish government disputed the facts presented by the applicants, claiming that Stellios Panayi was “fully armed, making gestures by hand and calling the Turkish Cypriot soldiers to go over to him.”
Disputing Turkey's allegations that Stellios Panayi was armed, the Court ruled ''that although Stellios had been wearing uniform and hence one could have assumed that he might have carried a gun, that fact alone could not in the circumstances have justified the shots fired at him,'' adding ''the Turkish soldiers had been in complete control of the area and Stellios’ behavior had not posed a threat to them, so the soldiers would have been able to stop him without jeopardizing his life.”
“The Court found unanimously that Stellios Panayi had been killed by representatives of the Turkish authorities who had used excessive force, not justified by the circumstances of the case, in violation of Article 2,” the judgment said.
The second case concerns Georgia Andreou, now deceased, a British national who was shot by Turkish soldiers on August 14, 1996, during the tensions that followed the death of Anastasios Isaak, a civilian who was kicked and beaten to death by an organized Turkish mob as well as by Turkish forces, three days earlier at a motorcycle rally in protest against the Turkish occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.
Although outside the buffer zone, Ms. Andreou sustained a serious gunshot wound to her abdomen; she was immediately taken to hospital where she was operated on. Moreover, according to a press release issued following the incident by the UNFICYP, two of its high-ranking members had seen uniformed Turkish or Turkish-Cypriot military personnel kneeling down and firing in the direction of the demonstrators inside the UN buffer zone.
As a result, two British UNFICYP soldiers and two Greek-Cypriot civilians (one of whom was the applicant) were hit by gunfire. According to the ECHR, this version of events was also confirmed in a report by the UN Secretary General.
“The indiscriminate and unwarranted firing into the crowd, which was gathering inside and outside the buffer zone, had put numerous lives at risk. The fact that the applicant had not been killed was fortuitous. Nor was the seriousness of her injuries, corroborated by the medical reports, in dispute between the parties. The Court therefore considered that, irrespective of whether or not the soldiers had actually intended to kill Ms. Andreou, she had been the victim of conduct which by its very nature had put her life at risk, even though, in the event, she had actually survived. Article 2 was therefore applicable in the applicant’s case,'' the Court ruling noted.
Consequently, under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded Ms. Andreou’s husband and children 585,680 Euros in respect of pecuniary damages, 40,000 Euro in respect of non-pecuniary damages and 10,000 Euros in respect of costs and expenses.