December 13, 2017

Statement by Third Committee delegate Ms. Pachoumi on Human Rights – 30 October 2015

IMG_20151030_124352242United Nations General Assembly- 70th Session

Third Committee

Item 72(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 Mr. Chair.

As this is the first time my delegation takes the floor, allow me to extend our congratulations to you and the members of the bureau. 

My delegation subscribes to the statement delivered by the European Union and would like to add some remarks in its national capacity.

Mr Chair

Cyprus enjoys a high record of human rights, its policies are guided by the European Union positions and progress is connected to and accelerated by societal progress and civil society activism in the country.

Cyprus works, inter alia, toward the protection of the rights of children, gender equality, the rights of persons with disabilities, combating trafficking, the protection of LGBT, the fight against racism and xenophobia and the right to freedom of religion or belief. We also realize that migration is a great challenge and make efforts nationally, at the EU level and internationally to address the issue in a holistic manner.

Unfortunately, due to the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish armed forces in 1974 and the continuing occupation ever since of 36.2% of the territory of Cyprus, our government cannot apply its policies on human rights in the occupied areas of Cyprus, as it cannot exercise effective control over those areas. These areas are under the effective overall control of Turkey, where it has established a subordinate local administration, as confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights[1], and condemned in UN SC resolutions 541 (1983) and 550 (1984).

Mr. Chair

Human rights violations have continuously been taking place since 1974 in those areas, as observed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights[2], in resolutions of the UN Commission of Human Rights[3] and by the European Court of Human Rights[4]. I will outline some of the most serious of those.

Approximately 170,000 Greek Cypriots are Internally Displaced, denied the right to return to their homes and deprived of the full enjoyment of their home and property rights. This has been reiterated by the ECHR in its judgment with regard to the claim by the Republic of Cyprus against Turkey for just satisfaction, on May 12, 2014[5].

The homes and properties of the internally displaced are being unlawfully sold and exploited and provide the means for an unprecedented construction and “property sale” boom since 1974, creating new faits accomplis and alienating the legal owners from their properties. Many of these properties have been redistributed to settlers from mainland Turkey. Turkey’s deliberate policy of colonising the occupied areas by Turkish settlers also continues, in an effort the further change the demographic character of the island, in violation of international humanitarian law.

Mr. Chair

Despite some improvement since the easing of restrictions to the freedom of movement by the occupation regime in 2003, the few remaining enclaved Maronites and Greek Cypriots in the occupied part of Cyprus still experience adverse circumstances in their daily life, while the violations of their fundamental human rights continue, including their right to respect their privacy and family life, their right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and their property rights. The right to education of the enclaved pupils is also violated, due to the frequent censorship of their textbooks and the arbitrary rejection of their appointed teachers. The practices toward the enclaved constitute discriminatory treatment on the basis of their “ethnic origin, race and religion” as noted by various human rights bodies.

Obstacles are also created to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion in Cyprus, 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. These obstacles were noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, in his report following his 2012 mission to Cyprus.

Mr. Chair

The occupied part of Cyprus has been witnessing a widespread destruction and looting of religious and cultural heritage. Around 550 churches and Christian monuments, along with numerous cemeteries, have been desecrated, pillaged, destroyed, converted into mosques, army barracks, stables, or even demolished.

We welcome the positive work of the development of the bi-communal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage on the ongoing project for the restoration of one of the most important religious sites on the island, the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas, which began in September 2014, after years of deterioration of the monument.

The Republic of Cyprus is also in a constant effort 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.

Mr. Chair

Missing persons and their families is a humanitarian issue of major concern to Cyprus. We call on Turkey to launch an effective investigation in order to establish the fate and conditions of disappearance of all Greek Cypriot missing persons, as per the call of various human rights bodies (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 particularly call on Turkey to provide unrestricted access to all relevant information in its archives and to allow complete and unrestricted access to all areas, including fenced military areas in the occupied part of Cyprus and in Turkey itself, in order for exhumations to be carried out in areas where there is substantial information on the existence of burial sites of missing persons. Furthermore, we call on Turkey to provide information concerning evidence of deliberate removal of remains of missing persons from at least four areas. This would greatly contribute 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 603[6] Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot missing persons. The Government of Cyprus makes every effort to assist the Committee in its work. We note, however, that the CMP does not discharge Turkey from its obligations on the issue of missing persons, especially since the primary objective of the CMP is to return the remains of missing persons to their families.

Mr. Chair

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

We call upon Turkey, in line with the calls of the international community and the resolutions and recommendations of the UN and other relevant bodies to end the occupation of Cyprus and to cease violating the fundamental rights of its people. This is the only way a comprehensive and viable solution to the Cyprus problem can be achieved, offering to all Cypriots a future where they can fully enjoy their human rights.

Thank you Mr Chair.

[1] Loizidou v Turkey, European Court of Human Rights, 18 December 1996 and 28 July 1998

[2] A/HRC/25/21

[3] 4(XXXI)/13/12/1975, 4(XXXII)/ 27/2/1976, 17(XXXIV)/ 7/3/1978, 1987/50-11/3/1987

[4] Cyprus v. Turkey, Application No. 25781/94 European Court of Human Rights, 10 May 2001

[5] Cyprus v. Turkey (just satisfaction), Application No. 25781/94 European Court of Human Rights, 12 May 2014

[6] Source: CMP Facts and Statistics, September 2015, www.cmp.org.