Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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18 February 2008
Human rights court rules against Turkey in case involving invasion missing persons
Once again, Turkey has been found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights for human rights violations in Cyprus, this time regarding those missing since the Turkish invasion of the island, in 1974.

London – “Once again, Turkey has been found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights for human rights violations in Cyprus,” reports Lobby for Cyprus, “this time regarding those missing since the Turkish invasion of the island, in 1974.”

Speaking on behalf of Lobby, Theo Theodorou said that Turkey was found guilty of violating the rights of nine Greek Cypriot missing persons and their relatives. He explained that the nine were combatants, except for Savvas Hadjipanteli whose remains have been identified. They were all seen alive after their capture by the Turkish army in Cyprus and in Turkey where they had been transported as prisoners of war. 

In the case of “Varnava and Others v Turkey,” the seven judge panel of the ECHR’s Third Section, with only the judge 
from Turkey dissenting, held Turkey responsible for the violation of the following articles of the European Convention on Human Rights:

• Article 2, for failing to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of the nine applicants, who disappeared in life threatening circumstances.

• Article 3, for subjecting the remaining nine applicants, relatives of the missing, to inhuman and degrading treatment by not informing them about the fate of their loved ones.

• Article 5, for failing to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of the nine applicants [in respect of whom there is an arguable claim that they have been deprived of their liberty and security at the time of their disappearance].

In its decision, Theodorou explained, “the ECHR stresses that Turkey was obliged under international treaties to respect the wounded, prisoners of war and civilians and specifically under the European Convention on Human Rights it was obliged to take reasonable steps to protect the lives of those not, or no longer, engaged in hostilities.” 

The judgment also rejects outright the Turkish position that the persons who disappeared during the 1974 Turkish invasion, and are still missing, should be presumed dead. 

Regarding the relatives of those who disappeared while under Turkey’s custody, the ECHR observes that they “must have undoubtedly suffered most painful uncertainty and anxiety and furthermore their mental anguish did not vanish with the passing of time.”

The full text of the ECHR decision concluded: “It should also be noted that the ECHR affirms its previous finding that the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP) could not be considered a satisfactory replacement for Turkey’s obligation to carry out an ‘effective investigation’ into the whereabouts of the missing persons.”

The ECHR also notes in its decision that even the exhumation and identification of remains, as was the case for one of the missing on the ECHR list, did not change this: “While it was true that the remains of Savvas Hadjipanteli had recently been discovered, that did not demonstrate that the CMP has been able to take any meaningful investigative steps beyond the belated location and identification of remains”… Nor had that event displaced the Turkish government’s accountability for the investigative process during the intervening period.”

Theodorou stated that Lobby for Cyprus supports the call by the government of the Republic of Cyprus “that the Committee of Ministers, of the Council of Europe, should assume an active role and set strict deadlines, demand information and lay down steps that need to be taken for Turkey’s full compliance to the aforementioned ECHR judgment. 

The Republic of Cyprus said the Committee of Ministers should, therefore, ask Turkey, at this stage, to do the following:

1. Promptly fulfill its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights and implement the judgment of the ECHR in the case of “Varnava and Others v Turkey.” 

2. Without delay inform the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of the investigation mechanism that it intends to set up in order to conduct effective investigation into the fate of the missing persons, bearing in mind that the CMP is not a substitute for the apparatus that Turkey itself is obliged to establish.

“This is another in the long string of cases that Turkey has lost in the human rights court,” said Theodorou, “beginning with the historic landmark case of Titiana Loizidou, in 1998.”

Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political organisation dedicated to the reunification of the island by the removal of the 43,000 man Turkish army in the illegally occupied north, the repatriation of the 160,000 Anatolian colonists imported into the north to change its demographics, and the return of all refugees to their homes.