InsiderBusinessOpinion: Justice delayed is justice denied

Opinion: Justice delayed is justice denied

By Maria Hadjisavva

It seems that the above quote, attributed to the former UK Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, has become our brutal reality in Cyprus during the last two years.   This is clearly demonstrated if we consider a recent case which dominated local and international news and which shocked, not only the people of Cyprus, but also of the whole world.

I refer, of course, to the arrest and confession of the first known Cypriot serial-killer[1],  who committed the murders of five women and two children.  Equally as shocking as these terrible crimes, however, is the indisputable proof of the failure of the justice system as a whole as regards the case.  Particularly alarming was the failure of the police authorities to conduct an effective search to try to find the victims at the initial stage of their being reported missing.

Had the police acted in accordance with the rules and appropriate procedures, one might argue that, they could have prevented several of the deaths caused by the serial killer. They would also have safeguarded the human rights of the victims who were murdered.

Sadly, however, this is not the first time that Cyprus has been seen to violate the human rights of victims who needed the protection of the police authorities.  These recent events and the scope of damage caused to the victims, their families and to society as a whole, do however, provide strong evidence that it is high time for a change in attitudes and performance.

It is now evident through case law that unjust treatment leads to grave errors.  In Cyprus it is seen not only in this case, but also in the 2010 case of “Oxana”[2], which resulted in the death of the victim (Oxana). The defendants in the case of Oxana, were two police officers and her employer.

The Attorney General, after the tragic death of Oxana, requested that a criminal investigation into the death be conducted against the defendants.  It took police officials 15 years to conclude the said investigation.  Finally, even though, the defendants were charged and sent to trial, the Court, based on the evidence brought before it, acquitted them.

Not surprisingly, given the manner in which police officers handled the criminal investigation into Oxana’s death, the  European Court of Human Rights condemned Cyprus for the breach of Articles 2, 4 and 5 of the Human Rights Convention .

The notoriety of the “Metaxas” case has placed the Cypriot justice and police services firmly in the spotlight of the European Union and, indeed, of the whole world.  It is, therefore, high time to set the right example for the new generation through the introduction of a timely and impartial system of justice. The lives of innocent people should not to be wasted on the altar of irresponsible people whether they are with, or without, power.  Human rights exist to be respected and not to be breached.

Everyone has the right to be treated justly and in the same way as everyone else. Whether, they are foreigners or nationals there should be no difference in the delivery of justice, justice is, after all, supposed to be ‘blind’. The treatment of these cases by the police authorities and other involved parties, does not represent Cyprus as a country and it does not represent the Cypriot people. We have a duty of care to our “neighbours” who are our fellow citizens.  We ought to respect them and we ought to care for them, especially when it comes to the protection of children where the burden of responsibility is much greater.

Even though the Metaxas case differs from  the Oxana case in that the defendant (Metaxas) was convicted, rather than acquitted, and given seven sentences of life imprisonment, the fact remains that had the authorities taken all the appropriate steps sooner, in both cases, the outcomes for the victims may have been a lot different.

Therefore, it is crucial that professionals tasked with maintaining and upholding basic human rights, should act as representatives of the Law and of the people.  They should be defending individuals in order to safeguard their human rights.

In conclusion, it can be argued that the current deficient procedural standards of the police when dealing with cases concerning immigrants (either as victim or complainant) filing a complaint,  are not taken seriously until it is too late and significant human rights breaches have occurred.  Ultimately, delayed justice is given under clearly unsatisfactory circumstances. This inevitably leaves much to be desired and gives society a bitter sense of  justice having been denied.

Maria Hadjisavva is an Advocate / Associate, Litigation department, Limassol head office of  ELIAS NEOCLEOUS & CO LLC

[1] Criminal case of the Assize Court no. 10449/2019 Republic of Cyprus v. Nikolas Metaxas dated 24/06/2019.

[2] Case of Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia Application No. 25965/04.

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