European Court Rules on Property Cases Against Turkey
Nicosia, Jan 28 - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled, by majority vote, that Turkey violates the property rights of eight Greek Cypriots, who own land and immovable property in Turkish occupied Cyprus.
The Court has asked all of the applicants – three from villages in the occupied district of Famagusta on the east and five from villages in Kyrenia district on the north – and the Turkish government to submit, within three months from the date the Court judgment becomes final, their written observations.
The Court also held that the heirs to these Greek Cypriots could continue the present proceedings, instead of the applicants themselves.
The Court rejected Turkey’s argument that domestic remedies have not been exhausted and therefore the European Court should not have accepted the applications. Turkey maintains that a self-styled properties commission, set up by the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus, is an effective domestic remedy for property claims.
In previous judgments, the Court held Turkey responsible for what happens in occupied Cyprus by virtue of the effective control its troops exercise in this part of the country. It described the Turkish Cypriot regime as a local subordinate administration to Turkey.
The applicants brought their cases to the Court in May or June 1991, saying that the Turkish military, which occupies Cyprus’s northern areas since 1974, deprives them of their property rights and prevents them from enjoying their property.
The Court found - six votes to one - that Turkey has violated article 1 of protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which secures the right of every person to “the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.”
The article says, “no one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”
Some of these applicants, the Court heard, have made unsuccessful attempts to return to their properties and were prevented from doing so by the Turkish military.
In its judgments, the Court also established by majority vote that there has been violation of article 8 of the Convention, which provides for the “right to respect for his (a person’s) private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”