December 18, 2017

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Sotos Zackheos to the Third Committee on “Human Rights Questions Including Alternative Approaches for Improving the Effective Enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to begin by expressing appreciation to the Secretary-General for the numerous report that we have before us, which cover a wide area of human rights issues. One can clearly see from the various reports that considerable improvement has been registedred worldwide, while at the same time, more certainly needs to be done.

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 dispalcement has been closely linked with other gross violations of human rights, 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 agrrements, what we call human rights instruments, has been established precisely in order to counter such phenomena. States have, through the accession to such instruments, undertaken the repsponsibility to behave in a manner that will safeguard human rights, thus fulfiling the obligations they have assumed at the time of theri ratification. These instruments serve as the shields for individuals ansd states, particilarly small states, against arbitrary actions and violence imposed on them by other states. The situation in Cyprus is a classic case of the inability of the international community to effect an end to these kinds of violations of human rights.

As my delegation has aligneditself with the statement delivered earlier in the debate by the reperesentative of Belgium on behalf of the EUropean Union, I will limit my remarks to the issuee of the vioaltions of human rights due to the continuing occupation of one-third of my country’s territory by the Republic of Turkey.

Mr. Chairman,

Since last year, when I last addressed this committee, an important development has taken place concerning the situation in Cyprus. This relates to a landmark decision of one of the most prominent human rights instruments – the European Court of Human Rights. I would like to briefly delineate the main points raised in this decision, which concerns the Fourth Interstate Application by the Republic of Cyprus against the Republic of Turkey. That decision delivered in Strasbourg on 10 May of this year entailed Turkey’s responsibility under the European Convention on Human Rights and found Turkey guilty of fourteen violations of the Convention. These violations relate to four broad categories of human rights violations stemming from the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of 37% of the Republic of Cyprus. More specifically,

On Greek-Cypriot missing persons and their relatives, the Court found

  • a continuing violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention concerning the failure of the Turkish authorities to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of Greek-Cypriot missing persons who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances;
  • a continuing violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) concerning the failure of the Turkish authorities to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of the Greek-Cypriot missing persons in respect of whom there was an arguable claim that they were in Turkish custody at the time of their disappearance;
  • a continuing violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment) in that the silence of the Turkish authorities in the face of the real concerns of the relatives attained a level of severity which could only be categorised as inhuman treatment.

On home and property of displaced persons,

  • a continuing violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence) concerning the refusal to allow the return of any Greek-Cypriot displaced persons to their homes in northern Cyprus;
  • a continuing violation of Article 1 of Protocol No.1 (protection of property) concerning the fact that Greek-Cypriot owners of property in northern Cyprus were being denied access to and control, use and enjoyment of their property, as well as any compensation for the interference with their property rights;
  • a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) concerning the failure to provide to Greek-Cypriots not residing in northern Cyprus any remedies to contest interferences with their rights under Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1.

On living conditions of Greek-Cypriots in the Karpas region of northern Cyprus,

  • a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) stemming from restrictions on freedom of movement which limited access to places of worship and participation in other aspects of religious life;
  • a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) insofar as school books destined for use in their primary school were subject to excessive measures of censorship;
  • a continuing violation of Article 1 of Protocol No.1 in that their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions was not secured in case of their permanent departure from that territory and in that, in case of death, inheritance rights of relatives living in southern Cyprus were not recognised;
  • a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No.1 (right to education) insofar as no appropriate secondary school facilities were available to them;
  • a violation of Article 3 insofar as they had been subjected to discrimination amounting to degrading treatment;
  • a violation of Article 8 stemming from lack of respect for their private and family life and to respect for their homes;
  • a violation of Article 13 by reason of the absence, as a matter of practice, of remedies in respect of interferences by the occupation regime with their rights under Articles 3,8,9 and 10 of the Convention and Article 1 and 2 of Protocol No.1.

On rights of Turkish-Cypriots living in northern Cyprus,

  • a violation of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) on account of the legislative practice of authorising the trial of civilians by military courts.

This, of course, has not been the only case in which Turkey has been found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights. A previous landmark decision in 1996 in the Loizidou vs. Turkey case, still awaits implementation, even after three interim resolutions of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe calling on Turkey to implement the decision. That case concerned a Greek Cypriot refugee who applied under Article 25 of the Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights. The Court found Turkey guilty of violating the property rights of the applicant, confirming that all refugees remain the legal owners of their homes and properties in the occupied part of Cyprus, from where they were forcibly expelled by the Turkish army in 1974. The Court decided that Turkey should pay Ms. Loizidou a substantial monetary compensation relating to the violation of her rights to and enjoyment of her property.

The reaction of Turkey and her subordinate local administration in Cyprus to these decisions has been, as expected, the resort to threats and accusations against the Court for taking a “political decision”. It seems that for Turkey, the notion of human rights and international law has its own meaning. Their approach seems to be not what international legal instruments provide for, but rather that best described by the maxim “Might makes Right”. This misguided and truly anachronistic approach has had the gravest repercussions not only on the Greek Cypriots but also on our Turkish Cypriot compatriots who live in the occupied area and are forced to emigrate in large numbers to escape the heavy handed approach of the Turkish occupation forces. The climate of fear and coercion exercised on the Turkish Cypriots, including the formation of shadowy paramilitary organizations, under the nationalist agenda, to terrorize the Turkish Cypriots and the attacks on their freedom of expression have had the effect of reducing the Turkish Cypriot community to half of its number in 1974, with Turkey, at the same time, illegally transferring tens of thousands of Turkish settlers.

Mr. Chairman,

We consider this decision of the European Court of Human Rights as a test case for the international community in the efforts at promoting and protecting human rights. If the international community does not effectively address the question of impunity, I am afraid that we will continue to witness violations of human rights on a large scale for the foreseeable future. That is why we consider it imperative and a step in the direction of safeguarding international legality, that the decision be implemented. It is high time that the Republic of Turkey, if it wants to be considered a law-abiding member of the international community, respect the decision by withdrawing its occupation troops from Cyprus, end these human rights violations and allow the people of Cyprus, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots alike, to live in conditions of peace, prosperity and security in a re-united federal Cyprus.

Thank you Mr. President.