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12° Nicosia,
19 June, 2024
 
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Was justice served or denied?

''Its duty (the AG's office), especially in this particular case, was to do the impossible to ensure that justice was served, even now.''

Eleni Xenou

Eleni Xenou

The question raised regarding the decision of the Legal Service not to proceed with criminal prosecution in the case of Thanasis Nikolaou is whether this decision should have been strictly a legal one, faithful to the letter of the law, or if it should have primarily considered the spirit of the law, which refers to the definition of justice. One of the most substantial lessons I learned during my studies at Law School was precisely this. And that when we talk about law, it does not necessarily mean that we are talking about justice.

And how a faithful and strict application of the law does not necessarily equate to the administration of justice. Therefore, even if we accept that the Legal Service did not proceed with criminal prosecution because it was indeed very difficult to establish a legal case against those potentially responsible for the death of Thanasis Nikolaou, the question remains crucial and unanswered: Should the Legal Service, in this case, have served only the law, or did it have a duty to look beyond the letter of the law and directly perceive justice? Because if the institution of the Attorney General, with all the independence it enjoys and all the privileges granted to it by the Constitution, does not serve as a guardian of justice, then why does it exist, and why does it enjoy such privileges? If the Attorney General does not prioritize the delivery of justice as its primary duty and merely functions as another esteemed legal professional, then this means that instead of serving the institution it represents, it attempts to downgrade the institution to its own standards to serve itself. Citizens no longer trust the institutions and feel angry towards independent officials because they now believe that they too have been infected by the virus of corruption and collusion. The case of Thanasis Nikolaou now reinforces this belief and strengthens the citizen's sense that they cannot find justice anywhere. Because even if we accept that it was extremely difficult to obtain testimonies, the question remains: Why did the Legal Service not proceed with criminal prosecutions against those who failed to do their job at that time? The ECHR ruled that the investigation conducted then into the death of Thanasis was inadequate and even condemned Cyprus to pay a fine to the victim's family.

"...if the institution of the Attorney General, with all...the privileges granted to it by the Constitution, does not serve as a guardian of justice, then why does it exist...?"

And because the investigation was inadequate, evidence and testimonies were lost, and his death was recorded as a "suicide" in a casual manner. However, eighteen years later, with the persistence of a mother who does not give up, the case of Thanasis was reinvestigated, and independent investigators concluded that criminal activity could not be ruled out. Their findings were handed over to the Legal Service. The Legal Service closed the case, leaving the family to handle it on their own through private prosecutions. According to the spirit of which law is this interpreted as justice? Why did the Legal Service not proceed with prosecutions against those who were responsible for the investigation of the case at that time? Even if the evidence against them was not deemed sufficient by the Legal Service, from the moment there was a decision from the ECHR stating that the previous investigation was inadequate, the Legal Service was obligated to bring them before the court. Its duty, especially in this particular case, was to do the impossible to ensure that justice was served, even now. And the justification that no testimonies connecting the individuals potentially responsible for the death of Thanasis emerged can only be interpreted in one way: that at best, the Legal Service remains trapped in the letter of the law, disregarding its spirit and justice, and at worst, not even that... 

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  crime

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