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Media Watch 2006

24 October 2006
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 24 October 2006.
‘Turkey to blame for Isaak’s death’
"ECHR allows wrongful death case to go ahead. Turkey bears the responsibility for the August 1996 killing of Greek Cypriot demonstrator Tassos Isaak, in a case brought by his relatives which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found admissible, lawyers for the family said yesterday."

"ECHR allows wrongful death case to go ahead

TURKEY bears the responsibility for the August 1996 killing of Greek Cypriot demonstrator Tassos Isaak, in a case brought by his relatives which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found admissible, lawyers for the family said yesterday.

Isaak, 25, was beaten to death by on August 11, 1996 while taking part in an anti-occupation demonstration at Dherynia

His family’s claim against Turkey cites loss of life, violation of the right to family life and racism.
In its report, released yesterday by the family’s lawyers, the ECHR concluded that on the day of the demonstration civilians from both sides had violated the ceasefire line and entered the buffer zone.

“To this extent both sides bear responsibility for the tragic course the demonstration took,” the Court said.

However it said that UNFICYP reports clearly showed that Turkish forces had allowed Turkish Cypriot demonstrators armed with batons and iron bars and the ‘TRNC’ police to cross a restricted Turkish military area and enter the buffer zone.

The UN reports also showed that members of the Turkish Cypriot police had “unequivocally” taken part actively in the beating of Isaak.

“Moreover it transpires from the case file that despite the presence of the Turkish armed forces and other TRNC police officers in the area nothing was done to prevent or stop the attack or to help the victim,” the ECHR conclusions said.

“The complaints by the applicants fall within the jurisdiction of Turkey and entails their responsibility. The court considered that the application raises serious issues of fact and law under the convention” and no grounds to deem it inadmissible had been found.

The report said that on the Sunday of the demonstration, behind the ceasefire line of the Turkish forces a mob gathered comprised of Turkish Cypriot and Turkish civilians many of them carrying hunting rifles and air guns, iron bars, wooden sticks, batons, stones and catapults. Armed Turkish soldiers and Turkish Cypriot police were also present.

According to the UNFICYP statements cited in the ECHR report, the Turkish forces had allowed around 1,000 people in buses to pas through their 3km-wide military zone and assemble there. Some of them belonged to the Turkish extremist group, the Grey Wolves.
Stones were thrown from both sides and shots were fired against Greek Cypriots, the report said.

“At around 3.30pm the armed mob entered the buffer zone together with uniformed policemen and managed to isolate several Greek Cypriots whom they started beating,” it added.

Between 15 and 20 people including five uniformed police, surrounded the Isaak who had gone in to the buffer zone throwing stones and shouting abuse.

He fell on the ground after becoming entangled in a barb wire fence while being chased by the mob and “for five minutes he was kicked and beaten on every part of his body”.

An Irish civilian police officer from the UN tried to intervene and started pushing some of the attackers away but Isaak was already unconscious with blood coming from his mouth and nose.

Even as the Irish officer chased the attackers away, the Turkish Cypriot officers continued to beat him and before leaving the area one of the attackers threw a large stone on Isaak’s head, said the ECHR report.

According to an UNFICYP officer, the attacker had a large stone held in both is hands, “raised it above his head” and threw the stone on Isaak, striking him on the head.

Said another UN officer: “There was no difference between the behaviour of the Turkish civilians in the buffer zone and the Turkish Cypriot officers there in uniform”.

Once he had been removed to the Greek Cypriot side, Isaak was rushed to hospital but there was no sign of a pulse and he wasn’t breathing.

The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt trauma to the head.

The ECHR said Greek Cypriot police had also allowed demonstrators into various parts of the buffer zone on the same day. It said police had manned the ceasefire line but had left the checkpoint itself unmanned.

Turkey responded to the Court that it had no jurisdiction in the ‘TRNC’, which was an autonomous entity and denied that Turkish troops and Turkish Cypriot police officers were involved in any act that caused the death of Isaak.

Turkey also said domestic remedies had not been exhausted in the case.

However the ECHR said the existence of the remedies must be sufficiently certain “both in theory and in practice, failing which they will lack the requisite accessibility and effectiveness”.

“It is incumbent on the respondent government claiming non-exhaustion to indicate to the court with sufficient clarity the remedies to which the applicant has not had recourse and to satisfy the court that the remedies were effective an available in theory and in practice at the relevant time.”"