European Court of Human Rights, Özel & others v. Turkey, 17 November 2015


This case law summary was developed as part of the Disaster Law Database (DISLAW) project, and is not an official record of the case.

Geographical Area
Europe and Central Asia
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
Case Name
Özel & others v. Turkey
Case Reference
Applications nos. 14350/05, 15245/05 and 16051/05
Key Facts
This case originated in three applications against Turkey lodged with the Court under Article 34 ECHR. In 1999, Turkey was struck by an earthquake. The town of Cinarcik is located in a region which is classified as a “major risk zone” regarding seismic a
Decision and Reasoning
The Court began by making reference to Article 2 and the positive obligations to take the necessary measures for the protection of the lives of individuals within their jurisdiction, even in the event of natural catastrophes (Budayeva & others v. Russia).

The Court referred to the State’s obligation to prevent disasters and protect citizens, and noted that the national authorities had known the risks to which the disaster zone was subject. The authorities had a role of primary importance in the prevention of risks relating to an earthquake. However, this part of the complaint was deemed to be out of time.

The Court also noted that the criminal proceedings had lasted more than 12 years. Five individuals were prosecuted, and two of the defendants were convicted, while the proceedings were time barred in the case of the three others. The Court held that the length of the proceedings did not satisfy the requirement of promptness.
The Court held there had been a violation of Article 2 under its procedural head on account of the respondent State’s failure to meet its positive obligations regarding the criminal proceedings conducted by the national authorities into the deaths of the applicants’ relatives resulting from an earthquake.

The Court awarded the eight applicants the total sum of €124,000 for non-pecuniary damage, and awarded three of the applicants €4,000 for costs and expenses.