The family of a murdered national guardsman has asked the 2023 presidential candidates to give their position on revising procedures and legislation that could prevent similar crimes in the future.
The case of Thanasis Nicolaou, 26, who was found dead under a bridge in Limassol in 2005, remains under investigation. Authorities initially attributed his death to a suicide, but last year the investigation pointed to murder.
His mother, Andriana Nicolaou, said she was appealing to the presidential candidates to know whether they intend to change some things to prevent another family from experiencing what hers has been going through.
Despite the fact that it was eventually proved to be a murder, as the mother insisted from the beginning, she has not yet seen significant steps from the authorities to solve the case.
We expect the police to hand over the case file to the Attorney General to study it and call us for an update, Nicolaou told CNA, questioning whether there was a deliberate delay in the proceedings.
In the open letter, the family calls for a constitutional or other legal revision so that the institution responsible for criminal prosecutions is not appointed by the executive, but is selected through an open process, with transparent criteria, by all parties in parliament.
It is also requested the findings of the criminal investigators be given to affected relatives or others without delay and that complaints procedures be implemented on what is happening in army camps.
Moreover, a competent independent commissioner should be appointed with the responsibility to investigate complaints and issue binding decisions against members of the national guard, the family proposed.
A code against harassing, abusive and extortionate behaviour within the camps should also be drafted and cameras should be placed at key points in the camp to be examined by the commissioner. In addition, the letter also suggested a flexible way of filing anonymous complaints be adopted.
The family favours an in-depth investigation by independent non-Cypriot investigators into possible drug trafficking within the army camps and the implementation of “mandatory disciplinary procedures against public officials who refuse to enforce the law, refuse to conduct criminal investigations into serious offences, encourage victims or their relatives not to proceed with complaints”.
Academics specialising in criminal law and human rights should also draft a binding code of procedure that will be adopted for criminal investigation, from the moment a complaint is lodged until the judicial process, the family said.
Before his death, the soldier had been bullied but had misgivings about reporting it to his superiors. After finally having papers thrown in his face by fellow soldiers, Thanasis filed a complaint to his commanding officer, his mother had said in a previous interview.
Although the bullying claims were examined by the police during the initial investigation, statements had not been taken from all the soldiers serving in his unit.
On September 29, 2005, Nicolaou was found dead under a bridge in Alassa, Limassol about 12 kilometres from his home and barracks. He was meant to report back to his unit after an overnight leave.
His death had been ruled a suicide by authorities, but the finding was fiercely disputed by his family who succeeded in exhuming the body in 2020. The specialised scientific tests proved it was a criminal act.