(CN) – Breaking a stalemate in a 14-year-old triple murder, the European Court of Human Rights faulted Turkey on Tuesday for ignoring requests by Cyprus to extradite suspects.
Decided this morning by the Grand Chamber in Strasbourg, the ruling notes that the Jan. 15, 2005, murders of Elmas, Zerrin and Eylul Guzelyurtlu have remained unsolved despite the near immediate identification of eight suspects by Cypriot investigators.
Though the Turkish-Cypriot family were killed in the Cypriot-controlled district of Larnaca, all of the eight suspects are either Turkish nationals or citizens of a region of Cyprus controlled by a Turkish occupation force.
Turkey released the suspects in February 2005 for lack of evidence after Interpol red notices led to their initial arrests.
Over the years, as Cyprus has continued to demand extradition, Turkey has requested that Cypriot authorities turn over the case file to bolster its own investigation.
Proceedings over the case have been underway at the European Court of Human Rights since 2007. After a seven-judge panel of the court blamed both the Turkish and Cypriot governments for the impasse in 2017, Turkey took all the blame today in a partial reversal from the 17-judge chamber.
“Turkey did not make the minimum effort required in the circumstances of the case and therefore did not comply with its obligation to cooperate with Cyprus for the purposes of an effective investigation into the murder of the applicants’ relatives,” the 77-page majority opinion states.
The panel fined Turkey more than $21,000 per family member.
Hailing from Turkey and the Czech Republic, the two judges who dissented Tuesday said Cyprus should share the blame.
“Despite the ample evidence collected and suspects identified and arrested in connection with this horrible crime, the investigations both in Cyprus and in [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] have reached a stalemate because both Cyprus and Turkey were not prepared to make any compromise on their positions and find middle ground owing to the longstanding and intense political dispute between them,” the dissenting judges wrote.
Still a Cypriot judge on the panel argued in a concurring opinion that his home country did not have any obligation to transmit evidence to authorities in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, under the principle of nonrecognition.
“It is to be underlined that the illegal occupation of northern Cyprus by Turkey… must cease,” he wrote.
The majority meanwhile stopped short of such a finding.
“The court does not consider it desirable or necessary in the present case to elaborate a general theory concerning the lawfulness of cooperation in criminal matters with unrecognized or de facto entities under international law,” the lead opinion states.