CYPRUS: ECHR holds Turkey responsible for non-cooperating in banker’s assassination

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously held Turkey responsible for failing to cooperate with Cyprus in bringing those to justice who executed a Turkish Cypriot banker and his family by the roadside.

In January 2005, Elmaz Guzelyurtlu, 52, his wife Zerin, 50, and their 15-year-old daughter Eylul were found dumped beside the main Larnaca-Nicosia motorway early in the morning.

They were all still wearing pyjamas and had been shot at close range, prompting Cypriot police to suggest they had been the victims of a Mafia-style hit.

The suspected killers fled to the Turkish-held north but escaped justice because of the island’s division and the fact Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.

Guzelyurtlu had been living in the south since 2000 when he fled the north following the collapse of his Everest Bank with debts estimated by the Turkish media at $42 million.

The failure of Everest and other banks left many Turkish Cypriots penniless and sparked an economic crisis and civil unrest in the breakaway north.

Although initially in its Chamber judgment of April 4, 2017 the Court had ruled that Nicosia was also responsible in the case of Guzelyurtlu, in Tuesday’s final judgment Grand Chamber judges said with 15 votes to 2 that Cyprus did all that could be reasonably expected.

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. Tuesday’s judgment is final.

The ECHR ruled 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’ 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.