The Council of Europe and the Cyprus Question

The Republic of Cyprus joined the Council of Europe on May 24, 1961 soon after its independence. Since then, Cyprus remains an active member of the Council and on four occasions has presided over the Commission of Ministers. The "Situation in Cyprus" has been for many years an item of the agenda not only of the European Committee but also of the Assembly of the Council of Europe. Most importantly within the Council of Europe the European Human Rights Court has dealt with the human rights violations resulting from the Turkish invasion and continued occupation of a large part of the Cyprus territory.

1. Decision of the European Court of Human Rights: Cyprus vs. Turkey (Strasbourg, 10 May 2001) Turkey's invasion in 1974 and the continued military occupation of the 35.83% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus resulted in the violation of the human rights of thousands of people in Cyprus, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Thus, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus submitted in the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe four interstate applications against Turkey, for its continuing human rights violations in Cyprus, in 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1994 respectively.

The decisions on all four applications of Cyprus against Turkey proved, in the most unequivocal way, that Turkey was guilty of numerous violations of basic articles of the European Convention of Human Rights. Reference should be made here to the most recent Application of the Government of Cyprus (Application No.25781/94), a case that proved to be of a great importance for the people of Cyprus and their struggle for the just solution of the Cyprus problem. This Application was filed in November 1994 and was first heard by the Human Rights Committee on June 28, 1996. After a long legal process, the European Court of Human Rights, on 10th May 2001, pronounced, for the first time, on the overall legal consequences of Turkey's invasion and continued military presence in Cyprus.

In this milestone decision, the Court underlined that Turkey, which has "effective overall control over northern Cyprus", is responsible for securing all human rights under the Convention and Protocols she has ratified and violations of such rights by her own soldiers, or officials, or by the local administration are imputable to her.

Turkey has been continually violating a significant number of articles of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as well as articles of the additional Protocol to the aforementioned Convention.

Among this long catalogue of violations reference should be made to the following:

A. Missing Persons:

Turkish authorities failed to investigate effectively with an aim to clarify the whereabouts and fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances was a continuing violation of the procedural obligation under Article 2 to protect the right to life.

This failure of the Turkish authorities was also a continuing violation of Article 5 of the Convention in respect of any missing persons who where arguably in custody at the time they disappeared.

In addition, the Court underlined that "the silence of the authorities…in the face of the real concerns of the relatives of the missing persons attains a level of severity which can only be categorized as inhuman treatment within the meaning of Article 3."

B. Displaced Persons, Homes and Properties

The continuing and total denial of physical access by displaced Greek Cypriots to their property is a clear interference with their right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol N.1.

Article 13 was also violated because Greek Cypriots not residing in northern Cyprus had no remedy and could not contest interferences with their rights to property and to respect for their homes.

C. The Living Conditions of the enclaved Greek Cypriots in the occupied areas

The Court's findings about the treatment of the few Greek Cypriots and Maronites still resident in the occupied are among its most significant. The right to respect for family life of enclaved Greek Cypriots was seriously impeded by measures imposed by the secessionist entity to limit family reunification denying the possibility of leading a normal family life.

The Court also noted that the Greek Cypriot community was monitored in respect of its contacts and movements and that surveillance even extended to the presence of State agents in homes of Greek Cypriots on the occasion of social or other visits.

The Court observed the view of the UN Secretary-General that the severe restrictions entailing the exercise of basic freedoms had the effect of ensuring that inexorably, with the passage of time, the Karpas community would cease to exist, referring in particular to the prohibition on bequeathing property to relatives outside the north and to the denial of the right of ultimate return of children who left to obtain secondary education.

The enclaved of the Karpas community have also been found to suffer from discriminatory treatment; thus the Court noted a violation of Article 3 for degrading treatment on grounds of ethnic origin, race and religion. The Court also held that the Greek Cypriots of the Karpas had had their rights to freedom of religion under Article 9 violated by restrictions which prevented organization of Greek Orthodox religious ceremonies in a normal and regular manner. In addition, Article 10, for the freedom of expression has been violated as well as Article 1 of Protocol N.1 because the enclaved Greek Cypriots are not allowed to enjoy peacefully their possessions.

A particularly serious violation, having regard to its impact on family life, is the denial of appropriate secondary-school facilities to Greek Cypriots resident in northern Cyprus.

2. Titina Loizidou vs. Turkey

Reference should be also made to the well-known case of Titina Loizidou; a case which remains open before the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, almost six years after the first decision of the Court, due to the continuing denial of Turkey to comply with the Court's judgment.

In July 1998 the European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to pay the applicant, before 28 October 1998, specific sums for damages and for costs and expenses; Mrs Loizidou has been denied her right to property and of its peaceful enjoyment and possession, in the occupied town of Kyrenia, since the Turkish invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974.

Three interim resolutions were adopted following the decision of the Court, which urged Turkey to review its position and comply fully and without any further delay with the Court's judgment. The first interim resolution was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the 6 of October 1999, the second on the 24 of July 2000, and the third on the 26 of June 2001). Despite these resolutions, the numerous discussions on the issue and other efforts of the Council of Europe, it seems that not enough pressure has been applied on Turkey, which, to date, refuses to meet its obligations under the Convention.

In addition, Turkey has not given any indications that she intends to comply with the resolution and pay the just satisfaction awarded by the European Court of Human Rights to the applicant. Therefore, the question of the execution of the relevant judgment of the Court of July 1998 remains open and uncompleted before the Committee of Ministers.

Although Turkey, like all other contracting Parties to the Convention, has undertaken an obligation to abide by the judgment of the Court, in accordance with Article 53 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and despite the three interim resolutions with which the Committee of Ministers strongly urged Turkey to review its position, the Government of Turkey still refuses to fulfill its responsibilities resulting from its status as a member of the Council of Europe.

3. The Cyprus Problem and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The Cyprus Problem and its different aspects arising from the Turkish invasion and occupation have, on several occasions, appeared on the agenda of the Committees of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In this regard, the Assembly has followed closely the situation in Cyprus and issued recommendations and resolutions concerning the Cyprus Problem in support of reaching a just and lasting solution on the basis of U.N. resolutions. In its latest Resolution 1267 (2002), the Assembly:  "Welcomes the fact that the leaders of both Communities have accepted the invitation by the United Nations Secretary General to participate, without preconditions, in the United Nations resumed talks in order to achieve an overall settlement on the basis of the United Nations resolutions".

The Parliamentary Assembly is also dealing with the negotiations of the Republic of Cyprus for membership in the European Union. The Assembly supports Cyprus' accession to the European Union and considers that such membership will be also a major factor of stability in the region. In its written Declaration 272 (1998) the Assembly in: "Welcoming the decision of the European Union to commence negotiations for the accession of Cyprus to full membership of the Union and Applauding the generous offer of president Clerides of Cyprus of representation for the Turkish Cypriot Community in the negotiations, Urges Mr. Denktash to respond positively to ensure that the interests of the Turkish Cypriot Community are represented in the negotiations".

The representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community participate in the work of the Assembly under Resolution 1113 (1997). In the Resolution, it is stated: "the Assembly instructs its committees concerned to invite representatives of the political forces of the Turkish Cypriot community to be represented whenever the situation in Cyprus is discussed. In the same Resolution, the Assembly invites the representatives of the political forces of both communities to start discussing possible ways to ensure the proper representation of the whole people of Cyprus in the Assembly, under Articles 25 and 26 of the Statute and Rules 6 and 40 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, and instructs its Political Affairs Committee to remain at the parties? disposal to facilitate such discussions".

As recently as February 2002, Committees of the Parliamentary Assembly have dealt with specific aspects of the Cyprus Problem. For example, the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography appointed Mr. Jaakko Laakso as a Rapporteur for the Colonization by Turkish Settlers of the occupied part of Cyprus.

This article comes from Cyprus Embassy
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