Ownership status of Hotels and other Accomodation Facilities in the Occupied Part of the Republic of Cyprus
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus hereby publishes a list1 of hotels situated in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. The majority of these hotels belong to Greek Cypriot displaced persons who were forced to leave their properties following the Turkish invasion of 1974 or have been built illegally on properties belonging to displaced Greek Cypriots, in violation of the latter’s property rights and without their consent.
A number of hotels belong to Turkish Cypriots or have been built on land belonging to Turkish Cypriots.
The European Court of Human Rights, in its Judgment of 18 December 1996, on the individual application of the Greek Cypriot displaced owner from Kyrenia, Mrs. Titina Loizidou, against Turkey, and in the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus against Turkey of 10 May 2001, upheld the rights of the refugees to their properties. In the Loizidou case, the Court ordered the Government of Turkey to compensate the applicant for the time period of deprivation of use of her property and to provide full access and allow peaceful enjoyment of her property in Kyrenia. The right of the displaced owners to their properties was reconfirmed in the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (Dec. 2005) regarding the application of Myra Xenides- Arestis v. Turkey, and has since been repeatedly reconfirmed in a multitude of cases brought by Greek Cypriot owners of property in the occupied part of Cyprus against Turkey.
It should also be reminded that, according to the United Nations Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (the Pinheiro principles) “all refugees and displaced persons have the right to have restored to them any housing, land or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived..”.
Under Cyprus Law, Greek Cypriot property owners may bring legal actions before the competent Courts of the Republic against trespassers to their properties in the Turkish-occupied area, claiming damages and other legal remedies available to them under civil law. Judgments issued in favour of lawful property owners shall be recognized and enforced against property/assets of the defendants/judgment debtors in any EU member State, under the provisions of EC Regulation No.44/2001.
In the case of Meletis Apostolides v. Orams, regarding immovable property owned by Mr. Apostolides in the area of Lapithos, illegally held by Mr. and Mrs. Orams, the Nicosia District Court found the Defendants liable for trespass in the property of the Plaintiff, ordering them to demolish the villa and other buildings erected on the property, surrender vacant possession to the Plaintiff and pay damages. On 6 September 2006 a Judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in the UK issued his judgment on the Orams’ appeal against registration and enforcement in Britain of the Cyprus judgment in favour of Mr. Apostolides.
Mr. Apostolides filed an appeal against the first instance judgment and, in order to clarify the multiple issues of European Community Law raised in the case, the Court of Appeal referred to the European Court of Justice [ECJ] a number of questions for a preliminary ruling. On 29 April 2009, the European Court of Justice [Grand Chamber] issued its judgment on the preliminary reference, upholding the positions of Mr. Apostolides and the Republic of Cyprus, which, as a Member State of the European Union, intervened as of right before the Court. Following the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the court of Appeal, on 19 January 2010, issued its final judgment on the case. The Court emphasized the obligation to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, and affirmed the exclusive jurisdiction of Cypriot courts, even in cases concerning property rights of land situated in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus. At the same time, the Court held that, despite international support for the efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, there was no ground for non-recognition and implementation of a lawfully-made judgment of a Court in a lawfully constituted State, which is a Member of the European Union.
In that respect, the Court even argued that a refusal to recognize such s judgment by the Cypriot court would inflame the situation. At the same time, the Court stressed that UN Security Council resolutions, while urging negotiations and a settlement of the Cyprus problem, have consistently required respect for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus under a single sovereignty, which clearly encompasses respect of the courts as the judicial arm of a sovereign state.
It is also important to note that, under Cyprus’s Criminal Code, Cap.154, any person who, with intent to defraud, deals in immovable property belonging to another is guilty of a felony (“fraudulent dealings in immovable property belonging to another”) and is liable to imprisonment for up to seven years. Under the Law a person is deemed to be dealing in immovable property where he/she (a) sells to another, or rents to another, or mortgages to another or encumbers in any way, or makes available for use by another immovable property, or (b) advertises or otherwise promotes the sale or renting out or mortgaging or charging in any way to another of immovable property or the use thereof by another, or (c) concludes an agreement for the sale to another, or the renting out to another, or the mortgaging to another, or the charging in any way to the benefit of another, or the use by another of immovable property, or (d) accepts the immovable property which is the object of the dealing. Depending on the situation, it is also possible that European Arrest Warrants be issued against persons who may be prosecuted for the aforesaid criminal offence in the Republic.
In the light of the above and bearing particularly in mind that the right to peaceful enjoyment of one´s property is an inalienable individual human right protected under the Constitution of the Republic and the European Convention on Human Rights, Greek Cypriot property owners are entitled to legal protection against any form of unlawful interference with such rights. Persons responsible for such interference run a serious risk of facing legal proceedings, either in the form of civil action or criminal prosecution, with grave consequences, as already explained above.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus conveys a strong warning message to foreign citizens who wish to travel to the occupied part of Cyprus, that staying in the listed Greek Cypriot owned hotels or in hotels which have been built on Greek Cypriot property without the consent of the owners, is illegal and contributes and/or assists in the illegal exploitation/usurpation of Greek Cypriot properties contrary to domestic and/or International Law. Such foreign citizens are, therefore, advised to seek accommodation in hotels and other establishments lawfully owned by Turkish Cypriots.