The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued a final ruling in the Guzelyurtlu murder case against Turkey and Turkish Cypriot authorities in the north, holding both financially liable while clearing the Republic of Cyprus over lack of cooperation allegations.
The case was filed in 2007 by relatives of the victims, represented by two UK-based lawyers - a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot - who say the Republic of Cyprus, along with Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot administration in the north “failed to conduct an effective investigation into the killing of their relatives.”
In 2005, a Turkish Cypriot family living in the south was found brutally murdered along the Nicosia-Larnaca highway. The victims, 52-year-old banker Elmas Guzelyurtlu, his wife Zerin and daughter Eylul, were shot to death after being kidnapped from their residence in Agios Dhometios. According to unconfirmed reports, Guzelyurtlu who fled the north five years earlier following a banking crisis was also rumoured to have sold census data of Turkish nationals living in the north by handing them over to a Greek Cypriot contact.
The Republic of Cyprus 'had done all that could reasonably have been expected of it' in requesting the extradition of eight suspects, the court held
Both sides carried out investigations following the murder but Greek Cypriot authorities in the Republic of Cyprus refused to turn over material, while Turkish Cypriots refused to hand over eight suspects, with both sides claiming jurisdiction over the case.
“The Cypriot authorities could not be criticised for refusing to submit all the evidence and to transfer the proceedings to the authorities of the ‘TRNC’ 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 final ruling said.
The Republic of Cyprus “had done all that could reasonably have been expected of it” in requesting the extradition of eight suspects, the court held.
Failure to cooperate
According to an earlier finding by the ECHR, the UN had made attempts to suggest ways to break the impasse but failed to convince the sides to cooperate.
Officials in the south had rejected suggestions to meet at Ledra Palace in the buffer zone to conduct video interviews of suspects or share copies of material evidence, while Turkish Cypriots were requesting evidence before they could put the suspects on trial, citing jurisdiction based on the original Cypriot constitution.
All sides, which were initially found responsible by the ECHR, referred the matter to the Grand Chamber seeking a more direct ruling. The court amended the previous ruling that blamed both north and south, with Tuesday’s Grand Chamber final decision saying Turkey and the north had not made the minimum effort required, by ignoring an extradition request issued by the Republic of Cyprus.
A Red Notice request had been submitted to Interpol in 2005 without any success and three years later the Republic of Cyprus issued an extradition directly to Turkey. The request, which was to be delivered to Ankara via Athens, had failed to be handled properly. A driver had taken the extradition document outside the Turkish embassy in Athens with the Turkish side arguing the file was left outside with a person who was not authorized to receive it. It was not clear whether the file had been opened but it was said it never reached proper officials.
“The extradition requests were returned to the Cypriot authorities without reply,” the court said, adding that a state should examine and provide a reasoned reply to any extradition request regarding suspects wanted for murder who were known to be present on its territory or within its jurisdiction.
Based on the final ruling, Turkey is ordered to pay each applicant €8,500 in damages and pay the applicants a combined total of €10,000 to cover their court fees.