The northern area of the Republic of Cyprus, under military occupation by Turkey since 1974, has been experiencing an unprecedented construction and "property sale" boom. The vast majority of the properties affected by this boom are owned by Greek Cypriots who were forcibly expelled from their homes due to the Turkish invasion. These displaced people are to this day prevented by the Turkish Armed Forces from returning and repossessing their homes and properties. A recent development is that the occupied area has become a haven for corrupt and unscrupulous businessmen out to make a quick profit from the illegal "sale" of Greek Cypriot property.
DISPLACED PERSONS PROPERTY
According to the 1964 Land and Registry record, approximately 82% of the privately owned land in the territory now under Turkish occupation was owned by persons belonging to the Greek Cypriot community, while persons belonging to the Turkish Cypriot community owned approximately 16.7%. That position still obtained in 1974. The building and "sales" boom exploded after the submission, in 2002, of a controversial United Nations plan to solve the Cyprus Problem. The proposed Plan only minimally facilitated the legal right of displaced persons to get property restitution. The Plan's provisions favoured the transfer of property titles to the current occupiers of these properties. A large proportion of the properties from which Greek Cypriot owners were expelled were unlawfully distributed to and are currently being used by the 120,000 Turkish settlers illegally brought into the occupied area by Turkey, to change the demographic structure of Cyprus. Had the UN Plan been implemented, it would have allowed for the settlers to continue to stay on such properties, thus legitimising Turkey's policy of ethnic cleansing in Cyprus. Moreover, the Plan propagated the separation of Cyprus into two indigenous communities of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
In August 2004 Ahmet Uzun, the so-called "finance minister" of Turkey's puppet regime in the occupied area, stated that the UN Plan provided an incentive to build on Greek Cypriot property located there, because persons investing in such property could have had priority over the legitimate Greek Cypriot refugee title-holder in its ownership. Such provisions were indeed an incentive, and facilitated the rush to build on usurped properties and to "sell" them mainly to British and other European citizens seeking a home in the sunny Mediterranean.
On 23 August 2004, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Cypriot affairs, Abdullatif Sener, was reported by Milliyet as having stated that the amount of properties that foreigners had "bought" in the occupied areas of Cyprus had increased tenfold over the last two years!
Nonetheless, anyone who has "bought" or is seeking to "buy" Greek Cypriot owned property in the occupied part of the Republic does so illegally. As first discovered by a British couple in October 2004, anyone contributing to the ongoing plunder of such properties becomes a potential target for criminal and civil law suits in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus. The resulting arrest warrants and decisions could then be judicially enforced abroad.
The rights to restitution of the properties and homes of Greek Cypriot displaced persons have been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights. The Court found Turkey guilty of depriving Greek Cypriot refugees of the use of their properties. The Government of Turkey is obliged to compensate the refugees for the time period of the deprivation of use and to allow them to return home. Ankara has not done this, thus violating the fundamental human rights principles with which an EU Candidate Country must comply in order to start accession negotiations.
The right of refugees to restitution the world over was reaffirmed in August 2004. The UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights unanimously approved "Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons" and declared that these principles "emphasized the importance of restitution as a form of restorative justice". They reflect the view that a human rights approach to return and restitution will yield equitable and sustainable results in achieving the restoration of housing and property rights for refugees and displaced persons and in creating long-term stability."
UNLAWFUL MISAPPROPRIATION OF PROPERTY
1. Aggravation of continuing violations of the home and property rights of lawful owners in a manner that could potentially engage both criminal and civil responsibility of all persons assisting in the illegal development by supplying goods, services and capital to the actual trespassers.
2. Potentially prejudicing, on a daily basis, a just and law-conforming settlement of the Cyprus problem that will respect and safeguard the twin freedoms of establishment and property ownership/possession across the country.
3. Creation of conditions which encourage the transfer of labourers from Turkey who end up settling down and colonizing the occupied territories with Turkey's blessing and in direct violation of international law.
4. Destruction of the natural environment and of archaeological sites to make room for unbridled development.
5. Construction upon mass graves, reportedly containing the remains of Greek Cypriot missing persons murdered during Turkey's military invasion of 1974, desecrating their memory and complicating efforts to identify and transfer their remains to their loved ones for proper burial.
EVIDENCING ILLEGAL PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT