Thank you Mr Chairman
My delegation fully subscribes to the statement delivered earlier by the representative of the European Union. My own remarks will be confined to specific, national concerns with respect to the grave human rights violations in the occupied part of Cyprus.
There is a long history between the United Nations and Cyprus. When my country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as basic UN norms and principles, were violated by Turkey’s military invasion in 1974, the UN responded with a number of important resolutions, expressing the international community’s moral and legal support to Cyprus.
At the 1974 invasion and thereafter, Turkey has committed well-documented, massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cyprus. Thirty-eight years later, these abuses continue unabated, supported by the sheer military force of over 43,000 Turkish troops on the island. Lamentably, approximately a third of the total population of Cyprus continue to be internally displaced persons – the highest percentage of any country in the world.
In her latest annual report on the “Question of Human Rights in Cyprus”, the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirms the consequences of “the persisting division of Cyprus” on “a number of human rights issues … including the right to life and the question of missing persons, the principle of non-discrimination, freedom of movement, property rights, freedom of religion and cultural rights, freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to education”, among others.
The High Commissioner also recalls the relevant CHR resolutions, on which action remains operative, and which call for the full restoration of human rights and fundamental freedoms to the population of Cyprus, in particular to the refugees, express alarm at “changes in the demographic structure of Cyprus” and call for “the tracing of and accounting for missing persons in Cyprus without any further delay”.
At the regional level, the European Court of Human Rightshas found that there have been continuing, massive and grave violations of 14 Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the missing persons and their relatives, the home and property rights of displaced persons and the living conditions of enclaved Greek Cypriots. These judgments have confirmed Turkey’s responsibility under the Convention, since Turkey exercises effective control over the occupied part of Cyprus, either through its own troops or its subordinate local administration in the area.
The continuing violations by Turkey of human rights in Cyprus are too numerousand too manifold to enumerate in this short space of time. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on just four blatant examples where we have witnessed the most worrying developments over the past year.
The living conditions of the enclaved persons in the occupied part of Cyprus continue to be deplorable. Greek and Maronite Cypriots living in the occupied areas are subjected to constant harassment, physical assaults, restrictions to their movement, denial of access to adequate medical care, and curtailment of their freedom of worship.
The policy of confiscating homes belonging to enclaved persons and reallocating them to Turkish settlers, resumed in 2010, has intensified in 2011 with an increasing number of property seizures.We also continue to witness violations of the right to education of enclaved students. The constant, arbitrary delays in the delivery of school books and other essential material, censorship of the curriculum, presence of “police forces” inside classrooms, and the arbitrary rejection of appointed teachers have seriously impeded the functioning of school facilities. Furthersystematic violations of the human rights of enclaved persons occur in the area of freedom of worship, with religious services interrupted by the Turkish armed forces,the introduction of new, arbitrary restrictions, the ban on religious services in more than 150 places of worship and the prohibition of access to clerics, including a now-permanent ban on the spiritual leader of the Orthodox community in the occupied Karpas peninsula.
Violationof the fundamental right of freedom of religion is not confined to the enclaved persons but also extends to the displaced persons in Cyprus, where the occupation regime arbitrarily rejects requests by displaced municipalities for the conduct of religious services in their community churches in the occupied area.
The Greek Cypriot displaced also continue to be deprived from their right of unencumbered freedom of movement 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 English Court of Appeal. Freedom of movement is totally restricted in the so-called “military zones”, defined by the Turkish army, which include, for example, the entire fenced-off city of Varosha. Finally, a number of individuals who have campaigned for respect of human rights of the enclaved population have been placed on a “stop-list” and barred entry to the occupied areas altogether.
One of the most tragic open issues arising from the 1974 Turkish invasion is that 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 right of these families to know the fate of their missing relatives is fundamental and must be guaranteed.
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.However, the issue of ascertaining the fate of missing persons goes well beyond this; the positive work of the CMP cannot in any way substitute Turkey’s obligation to effectively investigate the fate of the missing persons.It is long overdue for Turkey to heed the call of the Secretary-General “to adopt a more forthcoming approach” and to allow “complete access to military areas in the north” which “remains crucial” according to the SG himself.
Last but not least, we must not forget Turkey’s systematic and deliberate plan to alter the demographic composition of the island and thus prejudice the settlement of the Cyprus problem. 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.
The widespread destruction of religious and cultural heritage in the occupied part of Cyprus is yet another example of Turkey’s efforts to falsify history.The looting of Cyprus’ cultural heritage is not only a crime against Cyprus but a crime against humanity. The destruction of religious and historical sites began as soon as Turkish troops set foot in the northern part of Cyprus in July 1974. Today, around 575 churches and Christian religious monuments, along with their cemeteries, have been desecrated, pillaged, destroyed, converted into mosques or barracks of the Turkish army or even demolished, the most recent example being the demolition of the chapel of Saint Thekla in May 2011.
The use of military force against my country, and the continuing occupation of more than a third of its territory, have been denying the Cypriot people their fundamental human rights for far too long.If any effort to reunify Cyprus is to succeed, these continued violations of human rights must end at once. The ultimate goal of the Government of Cyprus is the restoration and upholding of the highest human rights and fundamental freedoms standards for all its citizens. For this to happen, the occupation of a large part of my country by a foreign power must end.
The Government of Cyprus stands ready to immediately resume 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. We call on Turkey to recall its troops, restore the human rights and dignity of all the people of Cyprus and respect all UN Resolutions. This is important, not only for Cyprus, but for the credibility and moral standing of this Organisation.
Thank you Mr Chairman.