Main Page :- Articles :- European Commission of Human Rights - Cyprus v. Turkey - Commission Report, 10 July 1976


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Chapter 3 - Deprivation of life

A. Submissions of the Parties

I.          Applicant Government

315.        The applicant Government submitted that mass killings of civilians who were unconnected with any war activities was a systematic course of action followed by the Turkish army: not only unarmed soldiers, who had surrendered, but also civilians, including children between 6 months and eleven years, women and old men up to the age of 90, even paralysed cripples, mentally retarded and blind people, had been killed. Hundreds of killings of Greek Cypriots by Turkish forces had been reported by eye-witnesses [461]. The acts complained of included killings of persons who had attempted to visit areas under Turkish military control in order to collect their belongings from their homes [462].

316.        The Government also feared that a large proportion of the Greek Cypriots who had last been seen in the Turkish occupied area and were still unaccounted for (at least 3,000, a considerable number being civilians) were victims of such killings [463]. There was evidence showing that such persons had fallen into the hands of the Turkish army but the Turkish authorities denied any knowledge about them [464]. The category of missing persons assumed to have been killed by Turkish forces included persons arrested by such forces when going near to the Turkish controlled area or strayed into it, insofar as no particulars as to their fate had subsequently been given by the Turkish authorities [465].

II.         Respondent Government

317.        The respondent Government, who for the reasons stated above [466] did not participate in the proceedings on the merits, have not made any statement with regard to the above allegations.

B. Relevant Article of the Convention

318.        The facts alleged by the applicant Government raise issues under Art. 2 of the Convention which states as follows:

"1.         Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.

2.         Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

(a)         in defence of any person from unlawful violence;

(b)         in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;

(c)         in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection."

C.  Evidence obtained

I.          Evidence of killings

319.        The Commission has already stated [467] that it had to restrict its investigation of the violations alleged in the present case. As regards evidence of killings the Delegates, during the period fixed for the hearing of witnesses in Cyprus, heard eye-witnesses only concerning the incident in the Elia neighbourhood. Evidence on this killing of twelve male civilians in the presence of the families of some of them on 21 July 1974 was given by Mr. and Mrs. Efthymiou [468] and Mrs. Kyprianou [469].

320.        Mrs. Kyprianou stated that in this killing she lost her husband, her father, two brothers-in-law and an uncle. She and a group of co-villagers were made prisoners by Turkish soldiers when they tried to reach the mountains fleeing from bombardment. All arrested men were civilians wearing civilian clothes. The Turkish soldiers told them that they were to wait for the orders of their officer who would decide on their fate. When the officer arrived he seemed to be in an angry mood and ordered the soldiers to lie down, which they did, loading their rifles. Another soldier, whom she described as a "good man", intervened and the Turkish soldiers discussed for half an hour. Then they separated the men from the women and,  in front of the women, they started shooting at the men killing twelve of them. Some of the men were holding children while being shot and three of these children were wounded [470].

321.        Mrs. Kyprianou's statement was fully corroborated by the evidence given by Mr. and Mrs. Efthymiou, Mr. Efthymiou having been the only man who escaped the shooting of the group of civilians. They stated that the daughter of the Efthymiou couple was wounded when Mr. Efthymiou's father, who was holding the child, was shot [471]. This incident is also described in written statements submitted as evidence [472].

322.        Two further cases of group killings are reported in two written statements of persons who affirm to have been eyewitnesses and whose names and addresses can be disclosed by the applicant Government. According to the first statement five men (two shepherds aged 60 and 70 respectively, two masons aged 20 and 60, and one plumber aged 19) were killed by Turks at Trimithi [473]. According to the second statement 30 Greek Cypriot soldiers, who were held as prisoners at Palekythron, were killed by Turkish soldiers [474].

323.        In addition witness Stylianou, Chairman of the Pancyprian Committee of Enclaved Persons, spoke of mass killings in Palekythro and indicated names and addresses of persons who, according to him, had been eye-witnesses[475].

Two of these incidents concerned executions of soldiers of the National Guard who had surrended to the advancing Turkish troops. The incidents were reported to the witness by soldiers who escaped the shooting. In each case 30 - 40 soldiers were shot. In the second case the soldiers who had surrendered were transferred to the kilns of the village where they were shot dead and burnt in order not to leave details of what had happened.

Another incident reported by Mr. Stylianou was the killing of seventeen members of two neighbouring families including ten women and five children aged between two and nine years. Mr. Stylianou also submitted a document which he identified as the English translation of a written statement made by a boy of sixteen years who survived this killing [476].

324.        The last mentioned incident was also reported by Mrs. Soulioti [477] and further mentioned in handwritten notes which witness Dr. Hadjikakou submitted as part of his evidence [478]. Dr. Hadjikakou recorded cases of ill-treatment, rapes and killings related to him by patients who were either victims or eye-witnesses of the incidents and whose addresses could be obtained from him. As regards the above killing of seventeen civilians at Palekythron, Dr. Hadjikakou noted the name of a person who found the bodies in a yard.

325.        Further killings described in Dr. Hadjikakou's notes were, inter alia,

-         the execution by Turkish soldiers of eight civilians taken prisoners in the area of Prastio one day after the ceasefire on 16 August 1974 [479];

-         the killing of several civilians by Turkish soldiers at Ashia [480];

-         the killing by Turkish soldiers of five unarmed Greek Cypriot soldiers who had sought refuge in a house at Voni [481];

-         the shooting of four women, one of whom survived pretending that she was dead [482].

326.        Further killings were reported by witness Soulioti, President of the Cyprus Red Cross Society, and by Mr. Pirkettis, both of whom indicated names of persons stated to have been eye-witnesses [483].

327.        Some of the persons interviewed in the refugee camps also reported killings:

-         "Witness" B stated that Turkish troops killed many in her village. "They went into the houses and killed people." [484]

-         "Witness" D of Palekythron said that about 18 persons of his village were shot, but he was not present when this happened [485].

-         "Witness" E said that Turks shot a shepherd [486].

-         "Witness" F stated that Turks took her husband and her son-in-law to a river bank and shot them [487].

328.        The Commission finally notes that, apart from the written statements mentioned in para. 8 above, a great number of further written statements were submitted in support of both applications, describing killings of civilians in homes, streets or fields [488], as well as the killing of persons who were under arrest or in detention [489]. Many of these statements were by alleged eye-witnesses [490], and most of the others from persons who described how they found relatives, friends, co-villagers killed. Eight statements described the killing of soldiers not in combat [491]. Five statements referred to a mass grave found in Dherynia [492].

329.        All these written statements were taken by witness Hadjiloizou [493] or on his instructions by other police officers.

II.         Evidence concerning missing persons

1.         Information provided by Cypriot organisations dealing with problems of missing persons

330.        The applicant Government submitted a file, prepared by the "Pancyprian Committee of Parents and Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons" and dated August 1975 containing "a selection of facts and other evidence relating to undeclared Greek-Cypriot prisoners-of-war and missing persons". At Annex A of this file, the names and other details of 2,197 persons declared to be missing are given. The file also contains:

-         data concerning missing students;

-         photos of Greek Cypriots taken prisoner by the Turkish army. Some of the prisoners are identified and declared to be missing. Most of these photos were published in newspapers, including the "Special News Bulletin" issued by the Turkish Cypriot authorities on 4 September 19'/4 and the Turkish Magazine "Hayat" of 19 September 1974;

-         a list of "persons who spoke from 'Bayrak' (Turkish radio station) and (are) still missing";

-         statements about the arrest, by Turkish soldiers and Turkish Cypriots, of persons declared to be missing.

331.        Mrs. Soulioti, Chairman of the Cyprus Red Cross Society, stated before the Commission's Delegation on 2 September 1975 that two thousand five hundred persons were reported missing. She was afraid that a majority of them had been killed, taking into account the reports on killings given to Red Cross officers on the telephone by persons who were in the Turkish-occupied area at the second phase of the Turkish military action [494].

332.        Mr. Stylianou, Chairman of the Pancyprian Committee of Enclaved Persons, stated that his committee listed two thousand and some hundreds of cases of missing persons [495].

2.         Proceedings in the United Nations

333.        A report by the Secretary-General to the Security Council of the United Nations of 5 August 1974 [496] stated that UNFICYP had established a special office to deal with the problem of missing persons. About 800 persons, including both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, had then been reported missing, some 300 missing persons had been located.

334.        At the inter-communal talks in Vienna in 1975 both sides repeatedly affirmed that they were not holding any undeclared prisoners-of-war or other detainees and agreed mutually to extend full facilities for searches in response to information. given by the other side [497].

335.        On 9 December 1975 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 3450 (XXX) on missing persons in Cyprus [498].

336.        It appears from the Report of the Third Committee [499] that the draft of the above resolution, introduced by the representative of Cyprus on 12 November 1975, contained the following phrase in the third preambular paragraph:

"Gravely concerned about the fate of over 2,000 Cypriots who are missing as a result of armed conflict in Cyprus." [500]

337.        The representative of Turkey, on 14 November 1974, proposed that this paragraph should read as follows [501]:

"Deeply concerned about the fate of missing persons as a result of violence and conflict in Cyprus";

The representative of Cyprus, at the same meeting, revised his draft and proposed to say:

"Gravely concerned about the fate of a considerable number of Cypriots who are missing as a result of armed conflict in Cyprus;" [502]

338.        On 19 November 1975 the Committee rejected the Turkish amendment by 26 votes against 20, with 73 abstentions, and adopted the draft resolution, in its revised form, by 98 votes against one (Turkey) and with 21 abstentions [503].

3.         Other evidence

339.        Several of the refugees heard by delegates stated that relatives or co-villagers were missing [504].

340.        Dr. Hadjikakou, in his handwritten notes, mentioned reports concerning cases of persons who were taken away by Turks and had not been heard of since [505]. Inter alia, some villagers of Ashia, who were ordered to bury co-villagers outside the village, never returned [506].

341.        Witness Pirkettis stated that when he left the detention camp in Amasya/Turkey about 20 people were held back but he thought they were released afterwards [507].

342.        Witnesses Soulioti, Hadjiloizou, Dr. Hadjikakou and Anastasiou all said that due to the lack of co-operation by the Turkish side no investigation by Greek Cypriot organs, e.g. identification of dead bodies found in mass graves or elsewhere, had been possible in the Turkish-occupied area [508].

D. Evaluation of the  evidence obtained

I.         Evidence of killings

343.        As regards the killing of twelve civilians near Elia [509], the Commission notes that the three eye-witnesses, although personally affected by the incident, gave evidence in a disciplined, calm and precise manner. Their statements were not contradictory and their elaborate and detailed account of the incident is credible in itself. The Commission is satisfied that their testimony was true and correct.

344.        The testimony received from witness Stylianou on the killing of seventeen civilians at Palekythro [510] is corroborated by the evidence given by Dr. Hadjikakou and by a person interviewed in a refugee camp (Witness D). The knowledge of Mr. Stylianou and Dr. Hadjikakou was based on hearsay but they proposed to indicate the names and addresses of eye-witnesses.

345.        The refugees who gave evidence on killings had been chosen at random and had no time to prepare their statements. They all appeared to be honest and trustworthy and the Commission finds no reason to doubt the correctness of their statements.

346.        The written statements submitted about other killings have for the reasons already stated [511] not been further investigated. However, together with the above evidence and that given by Mrs. Soulioti, they constitute strong indications of killings committed on a substantial scale.

II.         Evidence on missing persons

347.        The evidence before the Commission [512] does not allow a definite finding with regard to the fate of Greek Cypriots declared to be missing. This is partly due to the fact that the Commission's Delegation was refused access to the northern part of Cyprus and to places in Turkey where Greek Cypriot prisoners were or had been detained.

348.        In the present Report the Commission is only concerned with the fate of persons declared to be missing as from the beginning of the military action of Turkey on 20 July 1974. It is not concerned with any person missing due to the coup d'etat which on 15 July 1974 preceded the above action.

349.        It appears, however, from the evidence that:

-         it is widely accepted that "a considerable number of Cypriots" are still "missing as a result of armed conflict in Cyprus" [513]; i.e. between Turkey and Cyprus;

-         a number of persons declared to be missing have been identified as Greek Cypriots taken prisoner by the Turkish army [514].

E. Responsibility of Turkey under the Convention

I.         Killings

350.        The evidence shows that killings were committed near Elia by Turkish soldiers acting under the order of an officer [515].

It further appears that the victims were, at the material time, under the "actual authority and responsibility" of Turkey, in the sense of the Commission's decision on the admissibility of the present applications (4). These killings are therefore imputable to Turkey under the Convention.

In the other cases [516] Turkish soldiers were also described as being responsible.

II.         Missing persons

351.        The Commission considers that there is a presumption of Turkish responsibility for the fate of persons shown to have been in Turkish custody. However, on the basis of the material before it, the Commission has been unable to ascertain whether, and under what circumstances, Greek Cypriot prisoners declared to be missing have been deprived of their life [517].

F. Conclusion

352.        Art. 2 (1), second sentence of the Convention, provides that no one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law. Para. (2) of the Article contains further exceptions as regards deprivation of life in three categories of cases.

353.        The Commission, by 14 votes against one, considers that the evidence before it constitutes very strong indications of violations of Art. 2 (1) of the Convention by Turkey in a substantial number of cases. The Commission points out that it restricted the taking of evidence to a hearing of a limited number of representative witnesses and that the Delegates, during the period fixed for the hearing of witnesses, heard eye-witnesses only concerning the incident of Elia. The evidence obtained for this incident establishes the killing of twelve civilians near Elia by Turkish soldiers commanded by an officer contrary to Art. 2 (1).

354.        In view of the very detailed material before it on other killings alleged by the applicant Government, the Commission, by 11 votes against one, draws the conclusion from the whole evidence that killings happened on a larger scale than in Elia.

355.        There is nothing to show that any of these deprivations of life were justified under paras. (1) or (2) of Art. 2.

356.        The question whether any of the above acts were "deaths resulting from lawful acts of war", within the meaning of Art. 15 (2) of the Convention, is reserved for consideration in Part III of this Report.

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[461] Particulars II. p. 4.

[462] Particulars I p. 8.

[463] Particulars II p. 5.

[464] Ibid. p. 4.

[465] See Part I, para 23.

[466] See Part I. para 77

[467] Verbatim Record, pp. 203-222. The Efthymiou couple are the authors of Statements I, Nos. 60 and 82.

[468] Verbatim Record, p. 197.

[469] Verbatim Record, pp. 198-201.

[470] Verbatim Record p. 214.

[471] Statements I, Nos. 20, 59.

[472] Statements I, No. 5. See also No. 92.

[473] Statements I, No. 48. See also No. 119.

[474] Verbatim Record, pp. 29-31.

[475] Addendum, pp.. 33-35.

[476] Verbatim Record, pp. 19-20.

[477] Addendum, p. 41.

[478] Addendum, p. 39

[479] Addendum pp. 41-42.

[480] Addendum, p. 43.

[481] Addendum, p. 44.

[482] Verbatim Record, pp. 17-21 and p. 50.

[483] Addendum, p. 4.

[484] Addendum, p. 10.

[485] Addendum, p. 11.

[486] Addendum p. 12.

[487] Statements I, Nos. 1-4, 15, 16, 21, 32-38, 41, 43, 45, 54, 55, 58, 62, 71, 80, 86, 92, 96, 98, 99, 102-105, 111, 113, 119, 120 and Statements II, Nos. 10, 11, 13.

[488] Statements II, Nos. 9, 19.

[489] Statements I, Nos. 35, 40, 46, 49, 50, 56, 57, 59, 72, 86, 87, 91, 94, 122 and Statements II, Nos. 2, 4, 5, 7, 15.

[490] Statements I, Nos. 41, 45, 48, 64, 70, 80, 103, 119.

[491] Statements II, Nos. 6-10.

[492] Verbatim Record, pp. 58-71.

[493] Verbatim Record p. 17.

[494] Verbatim Record p. 31.

[495] S/11353/Add. 15 (at p. 3, pars. 9).

[496] U.N. Security Council Dos. S/11684, Annex (Press Communiqué of 5 May 1975), and Doc. S/11789, Annex (Press Communiqué of 2 August 1975).

[497] Reproduced at Appendix XI.

[498] Doc. A/10284/Add. 1.

[499] Loc. cit. p. 17.

[500] Loc. cit. p. 18.

[501] Ibid.

[502] For details of these votes see loc. cit. pp. 18-19 and 22-23.

[503] Addendum pp. 2, 4, 13.

[504] Addendum p. 41.

[505] Addendum, p. 42.

[506] Verbatim Record, p. 56.

[507] Verbatim Record, pp. 10, 65, 106, 152.

[508] See paras. 319-321 above.

[509] See para. 323 above.

[510] See paras. 77 and 319 above.

[511] See paras. 330-342 above.

[512] Cf. paras. 335-338 above.

[513] Cf. para. 330 above.

[514] See paras. 319-321 above.

[515] See Appendix I, para. 10 of The Law.

[516] See paras. 322-324 above.

[517] See Chapter 2, para. 306 above.