ANDRONICOU AND CONSTANTINOU v. CYPRUS (86/1996/705/897) 9 October 1997: alleged unlawful killing of a young couple by officers of a special police unit in the course of a rescue operation. Court only concerned to establish whether in circumstances authorities had taken appropriate care in planning and control of rescue operation.

Cyprus – alleged unlawful killing of a young couple by officers of a special police unit (MMAD) in the course of a rescue operation

I. GOVERNMENT'’S PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS

II. ARTICLE 2 OF THE CONVENTION

Reiteration of Court’s case-law on principles governing use of lethal force by security forces.

B. Planning and control of rescue operation

Court only concerned to establish whether in circumstances authorities had taken appropriate care in planning and control of rescue operation including decision to deploy MMAD officers to minimise any risk to lives of couple – not appropriate to assess alternative ways of handling situation with benefit of hindsight.

Authorities conducted prolonged negotiations in knowledge that were dealing with a young couple - negotiations carried out in a reasonable manner in view of circumstances – however, as situation became increasingly fraught with danger authorities could reasonably conclude that decisive action needed to bring an end to incident in view of failure of negotiations phase – justified fear that young man, known to be armed, would kill his fiancée at midnight and commit suicide – decision to send in MMAD officers only taken after careful reflection and high level consultation.

Although officers armed with machine guns it was never intended that these weapons be used – officers given clear instructions to use only proportionate force and to open fire only if life of young woman or their own lives in danger.

Not shown in view of above considerations that rescue operation had not been planned and organised in a way which minimised to greatest extent possible any risk to lives of couple.

C. Administration of force

Officers’ use of force was direct result of young man’s decision to open fire when rescue team entered flat – officers had to take split-second decisions to save life – officers’ honest, even if mistaken, belief at the time that young man constituted a real and immediate danger to life of young woman and to lives of officers – valid reasons for this belief in circumstances and for officers’ conclusion that it was necessary to kill young man to save young woman’s life as well colleagues’ lives - clearly regrettable that Officers 2 and 4 used as much fire power as they did – however, Court cannot with detached reflection substitute its own assessment of situation for that of officers confronted with agonising dilemma and the need to neutralise any risk presented by young man to lives of others.

Use of lethal force in circumstances did not exceed what was absolutely necessary for purposes of defending life of young woman and lives of officers.

Conclusion: no violation (5 votes to 4).

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