November 25, 2017

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the 3rd Committee Ambassador Sotos Zackheos on Human Rights Questions

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation has aligned itself with the statement delivered earlier in the debate on item 116 by the Representative of Finland on behalf of the European Union. I will, therefore, limit my remarks to an issue that has particular interest to my delegation. More specifically, the question of human rights and mass exoduses.

We welcome the report of the Secretary-General contained in document A/54/360 on Human Rights and mass exoduses. The Secretary-General clearly makes the linkage in his report between arbitrary forced displacement and human rights and states specifically that “forced relocation to alter the ethnic, religious and racial composition of particular areas is prohibited by international human rights law”.

The question of forced displacement was also taken up during this year’s deliberations of the Commission on Human Rights which, in its resolution 1999/47, adopted at its 55th Session, “deplored practices of forced displacement, in particular ethnic cleansing, and the negative impact they constitute for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights by large groups of populations.”

 

Mr. Chairman,

In the course of human history the forcible displacement of populations has often been used during war as a tool by those powers which have vied for dominance in a given geographical area. Almost always forced displacement has been closely linked with gross violations of human rights, as we understand them today, including the act of genocide. What, however, differentiates previous eras from the world in which we live today, is the fact that humanity has advanced to a point where a comprehensive regime of international agreements, what we call human rights instruments, has been established precisely in order to counter such phenomena. States have, through their accession to such instruments, undertaken the responsibility to behave in a manner that will safeguard human rights, thus fulfilling the obligations they have assumed at the time of their ratification. These instruments serve as a shield for individuals against arbitrary actions and violence imposed on them by states.

 

Mr. Chairman,

One of the major issues that will dominate the discussions on human rights well into the next century will be the question of impunity. If the international community does not effectively address this issue, holding state and non-state actors responsible for their actions, I am afraid that we will continue to witness violations of human rights on a large scale for the foreseeable future. That is the reason why we steadfastly support the earliest possible establishment of an International Criminal Court which, we hope, will deal in a decisive way with the question of impunity.

One of the clear cases of impunity for a crime committed against an entire people, is the crime perpetrated against my country by the Republic of Turkey in 1974, when it invaded and militarily occupied almost 37% of the territory of Cyprus. Impunity leads to arrogance, a false sense of invincibility and a demand to accept the “realities”, which are nothing more than the consequences of illegal acts gone unpunished.

 

Mr. Chairman,

The unacceptable partition imposed on my country through the use of force and sustained by military strength, in violation of every norm of international law. A point in order is the constant denial of the rights, both individually and collectively, of the 200,000 refugees, more than one third of the Greek Cypriot population of Cyprus, who were forcibly expelled from their homes during and following the Turkish invasion. For 25 years, despite the continuous engagement of the United Nations and the international community to secure a just and viable solution to the Cyprus Problem, successive Turkish governments have repeatedly thwarted all efforts, proving in this way, that impunity can be used in promoting partitionist designs.

The situation in Cyprus continues, for over a quarter of a century, to be a clear-cut example of violations of the human rights of the Cypriot people on an individual and a collective level. These violations can be summarized as:

* the denial of the rights of the refugees in the enjoyment of their right to property

* the continuing drama of the relatives of around 1.500 missing persons

* the discrimination suffered by the small number of Greek and Maronite-Cypriots who still remain in the occupied area

* the destruction and plundering of the cultural heritage in the occupied areas, which is particularly directed at Christian monuments and which constitutes an expression of religious intolerance

* the alteration of the demographic character of the island through the importation of Turkish colonists, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is pertinent to mention that the European Commission on Human Rights of the Council of Europe in its decision regarding the Fourth Interstate Recourse by the Cyprus Government against Turkey, which was made public in September of this year, finds Turkey guilty of gross violations of human rights in Cyprus and in continuing violation of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Not only did the Commission unanimously adopt and reaffirm three earlier interstate recourses by Cyprus against Turkey, but also reaffirmed the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of a Greek-Cypriot refugee, Titina Loizidou, in which case the Court had held that the denial to the applicant of access to her home in the occupied northern part of Cyprus and the loss of control of her property, was imputable to Turkey. Suffice it to say that Turkey refuses to abide by the judgement of the Court and pay the claimant the compensation accorded to her, even after the adoption of an interim resolution to that effect by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 6 October of this year.

May I add, that regarding the homes and properties of displaced persons, the European Court of Human Rights concluded unanimously that there has been a continued violation of Article 14, in conjunction with Article 8 of the Convention, and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights by virtue of the fact that Greek Cypriot owners of property in the Turkish occupied area are being denied access to use of, and enjoyment of their property, as well as any compensation for the interference of their property rights.

The response of the Turkish side has been a proposal for collective exchange of properties between Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots, as if leaders or states can dispose wholesale the rights and properties of individuals. The Turkish side should be reminded that impunity does not create rights.

Let me also recall, Mr. Chairman, that the right of all the people so violently displaced, to return under conditions of safety and respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms, has been demanded by this very Organization, in UN resolutions including GA resolution 3212 of 1974 which was adopted unanimously with the consent of Turkey herself. Moreover, it should be stressed that, both the occupying power and the secessionist entity installed by it, instead of complying with the verdict of the International Community, as reflected in the numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, not only keep on denying and forcibly preventing the return of the displaced persons, but, even worse, have been flooding – at will and with impunity – the occupied territory with tens of thousands of Turkish settlers in a systematic attempt to alter the centuries old demographic composition of the occupied areas. While the number of colonists swells day by day, the indigenous Turkish Cypriots are compelled to leave occupied Cyprus, in search of a better life.

 

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to refer now to the tragic problem of the missing persons in Cyprus which is still unresolved despite the efforts of the Government of Cyprus and the relatives of the missing persons.

The Government of Cyprus considers the issue of the missing as a purely humanitarian problem whose solution is long overdue.

For twenty-five years the families of the missing continue to live, day by day, the uncertainties and the agony of not knowing the fate of their missing loved ones.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus appeals to all who are in a position to assist the efforts to solve this humanitarian problem, especially the Republic of Turkey, to exhibit the necessary humanitarian and political will so that the Committee on Missing Persons resumes its work on the basis of humanitarian principles embodied in its agreed statutory instrument and to heed the latest call of the Security Council resolution (S/RES/1251) for the implementation of the 31st of July 1997 Agreement on the Missing without any further delay or preconditions so that the families of the missing are finally informed in a convincing and conclusive manner about the fate of their loved ones.

 

Mr. Chairman,

Of particular interest and great concern to the Government of Cyprus are the serious violations of the most basic and fundamental human rights of the Greek and Maronite Cypriots living in the Turkish occupied area. Upon instructions by my government, I raised once more this issue with a letter I sent to the Secretary General on 2 November 1999. I would like to remind the Committee, that of the 20,000 Greek and Maronite Cypriots who have remained in the occupied area in 1974, only 612 remain today. And this despite the Third Vienna Agreement of 1975, which provided for normal living conditions of the enclaved, and the provisions of International Humanitarian Law.

It is tragic to note that the daily life of the Greek and Maronite Cypriots in the occupied area is characterized by a multitude of adverse circumstances, such as the absence of normal means of communication, the difficulties faced by children attending the only remaining primary education school, the difficult choice which parents and school children face in the absence of any possibility of secondary education, the restrictions and formalities applied to freedom of movement, the impossibility to preserve property rights upon departure or death, the insufficient number of priests, the unavailability in practice of Greek Cypriot press and the various other restrictions which all together create a feeling among the enclaved of being compelled to live in a hostile environment in which it is hardly possible to lead a normal private and family life. It is disheartening to note that two and a half months after the beginning of the new school year, the secessionist entity is still preventing the dispatch of books of instruction, for the Greek-Cypriot pupils attending the only remaining primary school in the occupied areas. Moreover, I would like to refer to the cruelty of not allowing the burial in her village cemetery of an old woman who died in her village and was transferred for an inquest in the free areas.

Allow me to add, Mr. Chairman, that the adverse circumstances in the living conditions of Greek and Maronite Cypriots living in the occupied area, specifically the ones living in the Karpas area, have been noted by the European Commission of Human Rights which found that this clearly discriminatory and degrading treatment is a result of the official policy pursued by Turkey in violation of Articles 3, 9 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol 1 of the aforementioned convention. The Turkish effort to permanently partition the Republic of Cyprus does not end with human suffering. It also expands to the deliberate change of historic and millennia-old names in the occupied area, and to the merciless destruction and plundering of its cultural heritage, where the most severe destruction has been suffered by churches and monasteries, in an obvious drive for the total eradication of everything that would testify that people other than Turks have ever lived in the occupied land. I would like to welcome in this respect the reference made by the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance in the Secretary-General’s Report A/54/386, on the continuing policy of intolerance and religious discrimination taking place in the territories under the control of the Turkish Army, which manifests itself in the destruction of churches.

 

Mr. Chairman,

I have hoped that this year my statement to the Third Committee on the question of human rights in Cyprus would have had a different tone. I would have liked to report that substantive negotiations, as called for in resolution 1250 of the Security Council, for finding a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem were under way and that all the people of Cyprus, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots alike were optimistic that the long nightmare was over. That the human rights of all the people of Cyprus could be restored and that the suffering of the relatives of the missing would end. That bi-communal contacts would be revived and reconciliation and cooperation would take the place of alienation. However, once more our hopes have been dashed. The unacceptable demands of the Turkish side for coming to the negotiations, in particular their demand for recognition of the pseudo-state and the existence of “two states” in Cyprus and for a confederal solution, condemn the people of Cyprus to a continuation of the illegal “realities” of the occupation and the continuing denial of their human rights.

Generation after generation, the human race has struggled for the prevalence of justice, reason and virtue, over oppression, violence and naked force. This very struggle is still going on, in many forms around the world. It has indeed gained momentum, and its achievements have reached considerable heights, in this century that is now coming to a close. It is reflected in the new approach to human rights as envisaged by the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international human rights instruments and international law. It is equally true, however, that, what we have solemnly agreed upon and pledged to apply as universal standards, in reality remains, to a large extent, unfulfilled. At the threshold of the Third Millennium, our generation holds the historic responsibility and has the noble task to set aside expediencies and obstacles in the form of narrowly conceived self-interest considerations so that we may fulfill our solemn pledges and implement universal principles and norms in all cases and towards all directions. Otherwise, Mr. Chairman, by resorting to selectivity, impunity, and double standards, we will sow and reap violence. It is only through concerted endeavors and objectivity that we may grasp and turn into reality the ever elusive vision for the prevalence of Good in human societies.

The situation in Cyprus remains a glaring example that impunity in international relations encourages those who have chosen to operate in a way that we would like to have relegated to the ash heap of history.