The ruling announced by the European court concerns a case that originated with nine claims against Turkey lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights in January 1990.
The applicants are 18 Greek Cypriot nationals, nine of whom have been considered missing since they were taken captive by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) during military action in Cyprus in 1974. They have not been accounted for since. The other nine applicants are the parents or spouses of the missing applicants.
While dismissing the Turkish government's preliminary objections, the court held that there had been a continuing violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights -- which says that everyone's right to life shall be protected by law -- on account of the failure of the Turkish authorities to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances; that there had been a continuing violation of Article 5 of the convention -- which says that everyone has the right to liberty and security of person -- by virtue of the failure of the Turkish authorities to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of the Greek-Cypriot missing persons, in respect of whom there was an arguable claim that they were in Turkish custody at the time of their disappearance; and that there had been a continuing violation of Article 3 of the convention -- which says that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment -- in respect to the relatives of the Greek Cypriot missing persons.
Meanwhile, the Anatolia news agency reported from Strasbourg that Turkish officials have been preparing to appeal the ruling. After receiving the official appeal by Turkey, a six-judge chamber will decide whether the case will be referred to the 17-member Grand Chamber. Officials at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara were not available for comment when approached by Today's Zaman on Thursday afternoon.
The court's ruling is the first such ruling concerning Greek Cypriots' complaints over missing persons; thus it has a significant importance since it may set a precedent for similar cases opened against Turkey.
The ruling was made with six votes to one as Gönül Başaran Erönen, Turkish member of the seven-member chamber, stated a different opinion.
The court also held by six votes to one that Turkey is to pay the applicants within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final the amount of 4,000 euros per application for costs and expenses, plus any taxes that may be applicable.
According to the United Nations, 1,468 Greek Cypriots and 502 Turkish Cypriots are still listed as missing from inter-communal violence in 1963-64 and from the 1974 Turkish intervention. Unlike the Turkish Cypriot north, the Greek Cypriot south refuses to declare its missing as dead -- a point the north calls "purely political," but which Greek Cypriots insist is for humanitarian reasons.