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Resident Judge in the Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus rejects torture claim against the Ministry of Defence

21/05/19

The Resident Judge in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (“SBA”) in Cyprus handed down judgment on 17 May 2019 in a claim brought under the Human Rights Ordinance (9/2004), which governs Convention claims in the SBA .

The Plaintiff, a taxi driver, was the victim of a violent attack in 2013, following a dispute about the payment of a fare. Her attacker was a British soldier serving in Cyprus at the time.

The Plaintiff alleged that the Secretary of State for Defence had unlawfully interfered with her Convention rights (Articles 3 and 5) via a breach of the:

  1. Negative obligation to prevent the Plaintiff being assaulted (and then detained) by a serving British soldier. The Plaintiff asserted that the soldier was on duty at the relevant time and that the assault was carried out under colour of official authority.
  2. Positive obligation to prevent the attack through the actions of a guard at the gate of the base, who witnessed some elements of the incident.

The Judge rejected both limbs of the claim. He held that the soldier had not acted under colour of official authority and that the guard had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the incident. He went on to find that the claim for damages was significantly inflated in any event.

Tim Johnston appeared for the Secretary of State for Defence at the trial.