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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

European Court condemns Turkey of human rights violations in Cyprus

(Financial Mirror) - The fourth section of the European Court of Human Rights issued today its decisions on two cases Greek Cypriots brought against Turkey, condemning Ankara of violation of the right to life, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human rights.

The first case, concerning the application of Kallis and Androulla Panayi against Turkey, the Court ruled that there was a violation of Article 2, of the Convention and awarded 35,000 euro each in respect of non-pecuniary damages and 9,888,30 euro for costs and expenses.

Androulla and Kallis Panayi's son, Stellios, 19, at the time serving with 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 it, as a result of which he died.

The Turkish government disputed the facts presented by the applicants, claiming that Panayi was ''fully armed, making gestures by hand and calling the Turkish Cypriot soldiers to go over to him.''

Disputing Turkey's allegations that Panayi was armed, the Court ruled ''that although Stelios 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 Stelios’ behaviour had not posed a threat to them; consequently the soldiers would have been able to stop him without jeopardising his life.''

''The Court found unanimously that Stelios 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 14 August 1996, during the tensions that followed the death Anastasios Isaak, kicked and beaten to death by Turkish-Cypriot policemen and counter-demonstrators three days earlier at a motorcycle rally in protest against the Turkish occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.

Although outside the buffer zone, she 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 UN Forces in Cyprus (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 notes.

Consequently, under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded Ms Andreou’s husband and children 585,68 euro (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damages, EUR 40,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damages and EUR 10,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

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