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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Cyprus Debates ECHR Decision

Cypriot papers today set aside space to debate the recent ECHR Judgment against Turkey and the possible ramifications from the court’s decision. The views were for the most part, positive. Here is what the Cyprus Weekly had to say about the matter.

Turkey guilty

By Alex Efthyvoulos

Turkey was found guilty yet again yesterday by the European Court of Human Rights of violating the rights of Greek Cypriot refugees by denying them the right to return and to regain use of their homes in the occupied north of Cyprus.

The judgement dealt with the application of Famagusta refugee Myra Xenides-Aresti who fled her home at the time of the Turkish invasion in 1974 and has not been allowed to return, or to regain her property ever since.

The Court based its judgement on previous similar cases by Greek Cypriot refugees, like the one by Titina Loizidou.

But in what is regarded as a major development the Court, while reaffirming that Turkey “continued to exercise overall military control over northern Cyprus, added that “the fact that the Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan Plan did not have the legal consequence of bringing to an end the continuing violation of the displaced persons' rights,'' as claimed by Turkey.

The Court reserved sentencing Turkey for these violations giving it six months “to introduce a remedy, which secures genuinely effective redress for the Convention violations identified in the instant judgement.''


But in yet another major development the Court went on to link Turkey's compliance in the Xenides-Aresti case with all the 1,400 other similar applications by Greek Cypriot refugees pending before it.

The Court said it could not ignore the fact that there were already approximately 1,400 property cases pending before it, brought primarily by Greek-Cypriots against Turkey.

The Court considered that Turkey had to introduce a remedy which secured, in respect of the Convention violations identified in the judgment, genuinely effective redress for the applicant as well as in relation to all similar applications pending before the Court, in accordance with the principles for the protection of the rights laid down in Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. “Such a remedy should be available within three months and redress should occur three months after that.''

The Court also rejected Turkey's claim that property rights could be settled through the intercommunal talks. It declared that “the inter-communal talks cannot be invoked in order to legitimate a violation of the Convention.''

Compensation law

The Court also rejected Turkey's claim that the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state should be given the opportunity and the time to consider their compensation law for Greek Cypriot refugees, as well as the claim that a decision by the Rights Court for the payment of compensation to Greek Cypriot refugees “would seriously hamper and prejudice negotiations for an overall political settlement, including the complex property issue which it is hoped will be solved by diplomatic means.''

The Court ruled that Turkey, as the occupying power of north Cyprus, violated two articles of the European Convention of Human Right, Article 8, dealing with the right to respect for the applicant's home, and Article 1, dealing with the protection of property.

In connection with Article 8 the Court noted that since 1974 Xenides-Aresti “has been unable to gain access to, to use and enjoy her home.'' It consequently reaffirmed its earlier judgement in the case of Cyprus v Turkey, “that the complete denial of the right of Greek-Cypriot displaced persons to respect for their homes has no basis in law within the meaning of Article 8 of the Convention.''

Dealing with the violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the Convention, which guarantees every person's right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property, by the Court rejected Turkey's claims that property rights should be settled as part of a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

“The Court found no reason to depart from the conclusions which it had reached in previous cases, in particular the case Loizidou v. Turkey: As a consequence of the fact that the applicant has been refused access to the land since 1974, she has effectively lost all control over, as well as all possibilities to use and enjoy her property.

The continuous denial of access must therefore be regarded as an interference with her rights under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 [....] It has not [...] been explained how the need to rehouse displaced Turkish Cypriot refugees in the years following the Turkish intervention in the island in 1974 could justify the complete negation of the applicant’s property rights in the form of a total and continuous denial of access and a purported expropriation without compensation. Nor can the fact that property rights were the subject of inter-communal talks involving both communities in Cyprus provide a justification for this situation under the Convention.''

Accordingly, the Court concluded that there had been and continues to be a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 by virtue of the fact that the applicant is denied access to, control, use and enjoyment of her property and any compensation for the interference with her property rights.

The Court's judgement was reached with the dissenting opinion of one of the seven judges, Turkish judge R. Turmen.

Cyprus Weekly, December 2005

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