December 16, 2017

Statement by Ambassador Minas Hadjimichael Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cyprus to the Third Committee of the General Assembly on Human Rights

Thank you Mr Chairman

First of all, allow me to clarify that my delegation fully subscribes to the statement delivered earlier by the representative of the European Union. My own remarks, therefore, are confined to specific, national concerns with respect to the grave human rights violations in the occupied part of Cyprus.

Mr Chairman

In the summer of 1974, basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, together with the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, were brutally violated by the Turkish military invasion of my country.  This use of military force, and the subsequent and continuing occupation of more than one third of Cyprus’ territory, enforced by the presence of over 43,000 Turkish occupying troops, have been denying the Cypriot people the basic right to peaceful co-existence for far too long.  Today, Cyprus is in the unenviable position of being the country with the highest proportion of IDPs as a percentage of its population in the world[1].

Ever since 1974, the UN has adopted a number of important resolutions expressing its legal and moral solidarity with Cyprus and calling on Turkey to respect its obligations under international law.Instead, Turkey continues to perpetrate massive human rights violations in Cyprus: forcible division of the land and its people along ethnic lines; mass expulsion of nearly one-third of the population from their homes and subsequent usurpation and unlawful exploitation of their properties; on-going suffering of the families of missing persons because of Turkey’s continuing refusal to provide information relating to their fate; denial of the right to property, mass colonisation through the unlawful implantation of more than 160,000 mainland Turkish settlers; destruction of religious and cultural heritage.These violations were repeatedly condemned by a plethora of UN resolutions, as well as decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

The latest annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the “Question of Human Rights in Cyprus”1acknowledges the consequences of “the persisting division of Cyprus” to the “freedom of movement, human rights pertaining to the question of missing persons, discrimination, the right to life, freedom of religion and economic, social and cultural rights”.

The European Court of Human Rights[2] held that there are on-going, massive and grave violations of 14 Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights concerningthe missing persons and their relatives, the home and property rights of displaced persons and the living conditions of Greek Cypriots in the Karpasia peninsula.  The judgmentconfirmed Turkey’s responsibility under the Convention, since Turkey exercises effective control over the occupied part of Cyprus and is, therefore, responsible for acts committed either by its own troops or by its subordinate local administration.

Mr Chairman

The systematic and deliberate plan to alter the demographic composition of the island and thus prejudice the settlement of the Cyprus problem,with the continuous arrival of settlers from Turkey constitutes a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and a crime of war, as stipulated in the Statute of the International Criminal Court.Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan provocatively referred to this colonisation policy last July, when he admonished the Turkish Cypriots not to oppose the transfer of population from Turkey.

One of the most tragic aspects of the 1974 Turkish invasion is the issue of missing persons.  This continuing humanitarian tragedy stems not only from the violation of the human rights of the missing persons themselves, but extends to the suffering of their families, forced to live with the painful uncertainty of the fate of their beloved.  The Government of Cyprus is grateful to the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) for their efforts on the exhumation, identification and return of the remains of missing persons.

Turkey’s lack of cooperation in this area has been recorded in the last two Reports of the Secretary-General on the UN operation in Cyprus.It is therefore long overdue for Turkey to heed the call of the Secretary-General[3] “to adopt a more forthcoming approach” and adhere to humanitarian principles and international practices regarding the effective investigation of the fate of missing persons.

The Greek Cypriot enclaved people residing in the occupied areas continue to face severe violations of their human rights.  We are currently witnessing a worrying escalation of these violations, particularly in the context of freedom religion, the right to bequeath property to their rightful heirs, as safeguarded by Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the right to education, through numerous cancellations of teachers’ appointments and censorship of textbooks.

The Greek Cypriot displaced people continue to be deprived from their right of free access to and the peaceful enjoyment of their homes and properties, as has been reaffirmed by numerous Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice and the British Court of Appeals.

The fundamental human right of freedom of religion also continues to be violated in Cyprus.  The occupation regime arbitrarily prohibits requests submitted by displaced municipalities to UNFICYP for the conduct of religious ceremonies in the occupied part of Cyprus.  Moreover, around 575 churches and Christian religious monuments in the occupied areas, along with their cemeteries, have been wilfully desecrated, pillaged, destroyed, converted into mosques or barracks of the Turkish army or even demolished, the most recent example being thedemolition of the chapel of Saint Theklalast May.

Mr Chairman,

For three years now, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, in his capacity as leader of the Greek Cypriot community, and the Turkish Cypriot leader have been engaged in a process of negotiations under the good offices mission of the UN Secretary General, aimed at finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, based on the creation of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in accordance with the relevant Security Council Resolutions.

An essential element for the successful outcome of this process is the immediate end of the continued violation of human rights in Cyprus.  The aim of the Government of Cyprus is the restoration and upholding of the highest human rights and basic freedoms standards for all its citizens.  For this to happen, the foreign occupation of a large part of my country must seize.UN Resolutions must be honoured.  This is of vital importance, not just for Cyprus, but also for the credibility and moral standing of this Organisation.

Thank you Mr Chairman.


[1](A/HRC/16/21).

[2]Judgment of 10 May 2001, case of Cyprus vs. Turkey.

[3]S/2010/605