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European Court of Human Rights: Rulings Against Turkey

(July 2, 2008) On June 24, 2008, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued two judgments against Turkey. The judgments involve two cases, Isaak v. Turkey and Solomou v. Turkey. The facts of the case of Isaak v. Turkey involve the 1996 death of a 25-year-old Greek Cypriot who participated in a demonstration against the Turkish occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. According to his family's accounts and eyewitnesses' statements, the victim was repeatedly kicked and beaten by Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot policemen. The Government of Turkey argued that Isaak died because of a clash between Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot demonstrators.

The second case involved the death of another Greek Cypriot, Solomos Solomou, who was also killed by Turkish-Cypriot authorities. Solomou, after participating in the funeral of the first victim, entered the buffer zone where Isaak was beaten to death and climbed a flagpole that bore the Turkish flag. Turkish policemen shot Solomou immediately. The Turkish government argued, however, that the victim was hit in cross-fire between the two communities.

The ECHR, based on the facts of the two cases and the evidence submitted by the parties, noted that the victims had voluntarily entered the buffer zone but they were unarmed and had not attacked anyone. Therefore, the ECHR determined, the victims' deaths were not necessary in order to defend “any person from unlawful violence.” The ECHR did not accept the argument that the deaths were necessary measures to suppress violence due to the demonstrations. The ECHR noted that the first victim, Isaak, was beaten severely and there was no attempt to capture him. In the case of Solomou, the ECHR emphasized that he was the only protester who crossed the cease-fire line and he did not carry any weapons.

Therefore, the ECHR concluded that both victims had been killed by agents of the Turkish government and their use of force was incompatible with article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This article provides for the right to life. The Court also noted that the Turkish government failed to investigate the circumstances of the incidents and has not brought to justice the perpetrators of these acts, in violation of article 2.

Based on article 41 of the Convention on just satisfaction, the Court awarded €80,000 (about US$126,000) to Isaak's widow in pecuniary damages and €35,000 in non-pecuniary damages to his widow and parents. It also awarded €15,000 to Isaak's children. Solomou's father received €35, 000 and the victim's children €15,000. The applicants also received €12,000 for costs and expenses. (Judgment of Isaak v. Turkey (application no. 44587/98) and judgment of Solomou v. Turkey (application no. 36832/97), in Press Release, European Court of Human Rights Press and Information Office, Two Chamber Judgments Concerning Turkey (June 26, 2008), available at