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
United Nations, 31 October 2016
Statement by Mr. Menelaos Menelaou, Deputy Permanent Representative of Cyprus
Thank you Madame Chairperson.
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.
Cyprus is fully committed to the inclusive protection of human rights and the establishment of unconditional accountability for all human rights abuses.
Protection and preservation of the cultural heritage as an imperative for the protection of cultural and human rights is an issue my government attaches great importance. On September 30th, 2016, the Human Rights Council in its 33rd session, adopted unanimously a resolution on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage, presented to the Council by Cyprus on behalf of a cross regional core group.
Furthermore Cyprus is a strong advocate of strengthening the existing international legal framework including through a robust UNSC resolution applying universal limitations on the trade and transfer of artefacts originating from conflict zones with the obligation of proof of “bona-fide” trade resting upon the traders, auction houses and buyers and not the originating states.
On September 27, 2016, the International Criminal Court issued a Judgment, in Prosecutor v. Al Mahdi, in which the defendant was convicted of a war crime and sentenced to imprisonment on the basis of directing an attack on religious and historical buildings in Mali. This judgment is important because among others it shows that attacks on sites that are important to the religious life and practice of a community, regardless of whether they are historic, and regardless of when the attack took place, may be prosecuted as war crimes under the ICC jurisdiction.
Since 1974, the Cypriot people have collectively been denied the basic right to peaceful existence. Turkish occupation troops still remain in Cyprus. 200,000 Greek Cypriots are Internally Displaced, denied the right to return to their homes and deprived of the full enjoyment of their homes and property rights. The unlawful exploitation of the properties of the displaced, in combination with Turkey’s deliberate policy of colonizing the occupied areas with more than 160,000 mainland Turkish settlers constitute an effort to further change the demographic character of the island, in violation of International humanitarian law.
Enclaved persons, still experience daily violations of their fundamental freedoms and basic human rights. Textbooks are frequently subject to censorship and teachers experience arbitrary rejections of their appointments. Vandalisms of churches and cemeteries, intimidation of worshippers, limitation in the presence of priests and arbitrary rejections of requests to conduct religious services, create further obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion in Cyprus.
Missing persons and their families is a humanitarian issue of major concern. More than 2/3 of the remains of a total of 2001 missing persons are yet to be identified and returned to their families. Turkey must provide full unrestricted access to all areas, including fenced military areas and provide information concerning evidence of deliberate removal of remains of missing persons. It must also launch an effective investigation in order to establish the fate and conditions of disappearance of all Greek Cypriot missing persons. Time is of the essence before the advanced age of both relatives and witnesses, renders the remaining effort ineffective and futile.
Cyprus expresses concerns at recent developments in Turkey and whilst condemning the attempted coup and expresses its support to the legitimate institutions, Cyprus underlines the need to respect democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in full compliance with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Full conformity with individual human rights standards for the people of Cyprus as a whole, regardless of their ethnic origin or religion, should be an integral element of any just, comprehensive, functional and sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem. The people of Cyprus deserve no less than the full respect to their human rights and freedoms as enshrined in International Law.
I thank you.