October 20, 2017

Statement by Third Committee delegate, Monika Pachoumi – 30 October, 2014

United Nations General Assembly – 69th Session

Third Committee 

Item 68(b): Protection and Promotion of Human Rights – Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms

Thank you Madam Chair.

As this is the first time my delegation takes the floor, allow me to congratulate yourself and the members of the bureau, for your election and for the excellent work carried out thus far. 

My delegation subscribes to the statement delivered by the European Union. I would like to add some remarks in my national capacity, pertaining to the human rights violations that have continuously been taking place in Cyprus since the illegal invasion in 1974 and occupation ever since of one third of Cyprus by the Turkish armed forces.

Madam Chair

Human rights violations committed by Turkey in Cyprus have been pointed out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in resolutions of the UN Commission of Human Rights and by the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights has also confirmed the responsibility of Turkey in the occupied areas, as it has stated that Turkey exercises effective overall control in the occupied part of Cyprus, where it has established a subordinate local administration, condemned also in numerous UN resolutions as an illegal secessionist entity.

Let me enumerate some of the most alarming continuous human rights violations, with the aim of keeping this statement short. Approximately 170,000 Internally Displaced Greek Cypriots are being denied the right to return to their homes, being deprived among others, of their right to full enjoyment of their home and property rights. This has been reiterated recently by the ECHR in its historic judgment with regard to the claim by the Republic of Cyprus against Turkey for just satisfaction, on May 12, 2014.

These homes and properties are being unlawfully sold and exploited by the occupying power since 1974, in a persistent policy of creating new faits accomplis and solidifying the de facto alienation of the legal owners from their properties. The vast majorities of these properties have been illegally redistributed to settlers from mainland Turkey. Turkey’s settlements policy in the occupied part of Cyprus continues unabated, with a view to distorting even further the demographic composition of the island and its character, in violation of human rights norms and international humanitarian law.

Maronite and Greek Cypriot enclaved persons in the occupied part of Cyprus are most affected by the continuous denial of basic human rights, while being treated in a discriminatory, intimidating manner and living in a constant state of fear. These persons are systematically subjected to harassment, monitoring, restrictions to their freedom of movement, their right to privacy, denial of access to adequate medical care and curtailment of their freedom of worship, as well as of their freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Of equal concern are systematic violations of the right to education of enclaved students, whereby the frequent censorship to textbooks and arbitrary rejection of appointed teachers causes operational problems to the schools and effectively strips them of the benefit of a comprehensive education.

Additionally, the property rights of the enclaved, as safeguarded by Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to bequeath property to their descendants, are continuously violated. Overall, the deterioration of the living conditions of the enclaved imposed by Turkey has led to the decrease of the Greek Cypriot population in the occupied areas, in a bid by Turkey to sever any Greek Cypriot ties with the region.

The European Court of Human Rights has in May 2014, adjudicated a compensation for the non-pecuniary damage suffered by the enclaved persons of the Karpas peninsula, in the amount of 60 million euros.

Obstacles are also created to the enjoyment of the unhibited exercise of the freedom of religion, due to a number of practices enforced by the occupation regime, including vandalism of churches and cemeteries, intimidation of worshippers, the limited presence of priests and arbitrary rejections of requests for the conduct of religious services in occupied religious sites, as noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, in his report following his 2012 mission to Cyprus.

Madam Chair

Widespread destruction and looting of religious and cultural heritage is also taking place in the occupied part of Cyprus. Around 550 churches and Christian monuments, along with numerous cemeteries, have been desecrated, pillaged, destroyed, converted into mosques, army barracks, stables, or even demolished.

The Republic of Cyprus strives to repatriate its looted cultural treasures, many of which were illegally exported from the occupied part of Cyprus and are estimated  to 60,000 objects.

A positive development is noted in that, after years of deterioration, a project for the restoration of one of the most important religious sites on the island, the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas, began in September 2014, through the bi-communal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.

Madam Chair

A crucial issue of humanitarian concern is that of the missing persons. Turkey has failed to conduct effective investigations, in order to establish the fate and conditions of disappearance of all Greek Cypriot missing persons. This has been ascertained by the European Court of Human Rights, the Committee Against Torture and other bodies, all of which have called on Ankara to comply with its international obligations and take effective measures in this regard.

We call on Turkey to launch an effective investigation, both on the cases of people whose remains have been identified, as well as those whose fate is still unknown. We particularly call on Turkey to provide unrestricted access to all relevant information in its archives, as well as to allow complete and unrestricted access to all areas, including fenced military areas in the occupied part of Cypurs and in Turkey itself, in order for exhumations to be carried out where there is substantial information on the existence of burial sites of missing persons. This would contribute substantially towards facilitating and accelerating the work of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP).

We commend the work of the bi-communal Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), which has so far resulted in the identification of over 598 Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot missing persons. The Government of Cyprus spares no effort in assisting the Committee in its work.

Madam Chair

My government would strongly welcome any positive developments in the aforementioned areas.

Madam Chair

We call upon Turkey to heed the call of the international community to end the occupation of Cyprus, withdraw its troops and apply and respect the resolutions and recommendations of all relevant UN and other international bodies. A lasting and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, that will offer all Cypriots a peaceful and prosperous future with full enjoyment of their human rights, can only be achieved once Turkey puts an end to its continuous occupation of the island and ceases to violate the fundamental rights of its people.

Thank you Madam Chair.