May 18, 2021

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Sotos Zackheos to the 3rd Committee on Human Rights

My delegation has aligned itself with the statement delivered earlier in the debate on item 114 by the Representative of France on behalf of the European Union. I will, therefore, limit my remarks to some issues of particular interest to my delegation.

Madame Chairperson,

My delegation welcomes the greater emphasis attached to issues of human rights worldwide, as testified, inter alia, by the prominence given to human rights during the Millennium Assembly. Cyprus firmly believes that, in our approach to human rights and the prevention of their violation, selectivity, associated with political expediency, acts as an obstacle to the full enjoyment of human rights and, often, prevents the implementation of the provisions of human rights instruments. Another point that I would like to make is that in its involvement in the search for solutions to conflicts, the United Nations should always by guided by the need to safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms. Solutions based on ephemeral considerations and the practice of realpolitic, which often work against the interests of small states, will only lead to a sense of injustice and, therefore, fail to secure a durable peace.

One of the major issues that dominate the discussions on human rights is the question of impunity. If the international community does not effectively address this issue, holding state and non-state actors responsible for their actions, I am afraid that we will continue to witness violations of human rights on a large scale for the foreseeable future. Cyprus steadfastly supports the earliest possible establishment of an International Criminal Court, which, we hope, will deal in a decisive way with the question of impunity. In this respect we welcome the progress in the preparatory committee and the consensus reached on the rules of procedure and evidence and the elements of crime.

Madame Chairperson,

The continuing violations of human rights in my country, stemming from the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of 37% of its territory, are well known and have been the subject of many resolutions adopted by the United Nations, the Commission of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and other international and regional bodies.

The question of human rights is one of the core issues that are currently under discussion in the fifth round of proximity talks that have begun yesterday in Geneva. The President of the Cyprus, Mr. Glafcos Clerides has expressed his determination to work in good will in order to achieve a just and viable solution to the Cyprus Problem, a solution that will safeguard the human rights of all Cypriots without discrimination. Our side will pursue a solution based on Security Council resolutions and the 1977 and 1979 High-Level Agreements between the two sides but rejects any attempt that would lead to the segregation of the people of Cyprus along ethnic lines, as the Turkish side demands with its proposal for a confederation of two states and the recognition of the so-called “realities”.

These so-called “realities” are nothing more than the consequences of illegal acts gone unpunished and the unacceptable partition imposed on my country through the use of force and sustained by military strength, in violation of every norm of international law. They are the constant denial of the rights, both individually and collectively, of the 200,000 refugees, more than one third of the Greek Cypriot population of Cyprus, who were forcibly expelled from their homes during and following the Turkish invasion. For 26 years, despite the continuous engagement of the United Nations and the international community to secure a just and viable solution to the Cyprus Problem, successive Turkish governments have repeatedly thwarted all efforts, proving in this way, that impunity can be used in promoting partitionist designs.

These violations of human rights of the Cypriot people can be summarized as:

– the denial of the rights of the refugees in the enjoyment of their right to property

– the continuing drama of the relatives of missing persons

– the discrimination suffered by the small number of Greek-Cypriots and Maronite-Cypriots who reside in the occupied area

– the destruction and plundering of the cultural heritage of the occupied areas, which is particularly directed at Christian monuments and which constitutes an expression of religious intolerance

– the alteration of the demographic character of the island through the importation of Turkish colonists, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention

– the violations of the rights of our Turkish-Cypriot compatriots who live in the occupied area under the overbearing presence of 36,000 Turkish soldiers and 98,000 Turkish mainland settlers, and who are forced to emigrate in great numbers.

It is pertinent to mention that the European Commission on Human Rights of the Council of Europe in its decision regarding the Fourth Interstate Recourse by the Cyprus Government against Turkey, which was made public in September of last year, finds Turkey guilty of gross violations of human rights in Cyprus and in continuing violation of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Not only did the Commission unanimously adopt and reaffirm three earlier interstate recourses by Cyprus against Turkey. It also reaffirmed the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of a Greek-Cypriot refugee, Titina Loizidou, in which case the Court had held that the denial to the applicant of access to her home in the occupied northern part of Cyprus and the loss of control of her property, was imputable to Turkey. Suffice it to say that Turkey refuses to abide by the judgement of the Court and pay the claimant the compensation accorded to her, even after the adoption of two interim resolutions to that effect by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

May I add, that regarding the homes and properties of displaced persons, the European Court of Human Rights concluded unanimously that there has been a continued violation of Article 14, in conjunction with Article 8 of the Convention, and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights by virtue of the fact that Greek Cypriot owners of property in the Turkish occupied area are being denied access to use of, and enjoyment of their property, as well as any compensation for the interference of their property rights.

The response of the Turkish side has been a proposal for collective exchange of properties between Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots, as if the rights and properties of individuals can be disposed of wholesale.

Let me also recall, Madame Chairperson, that the right of all the people so violently displaced, to return under conditions of safety and respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms, has been demanded by this very Organization, in UN resolutions including GA resolution 3212 of 1974 which was adopted unanimously with the consent of Turkey herself. Moreover, it should be stressed that, both the occupying power and the secessionist entity installed by it, instead of complying with the verdict of the International Community, as reflected in the numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, not only keep on denying and forcibly preventing the return of the displaced persons, but, even worse, have been flooding – at will and with impunity – the occupied territory with tens of thousands of Turkish settlers in a systematic attempt to alter the centuries old demographic composition of the occupied areas. While the number of colonists swells day by day, the indigenous Turkish Cypriots are compelled to leave the occupied area of Cyprus, in search of a better life.

Madame Chairperson,

I would like to refer now to the tragic problem of the missing persons in Cyprus which is still unresolved despite the efforts of the Government of Cyprus and the relatives of the missing persons. For twenty-six years the families of the missing continue to live, day-by-day, the uncertainties and the agony of not knowing the fate of their missing loved ones.

The Government of Cyprus considers the issue of the missing as a purely humanitarian problem whose solution is long overdue. In this respect, I would like to inform you that for the last two years we have proceeded unilaterally with exhumations in cemeteries in the free areas of the Republic, where enough information was compiled that the remains of missing persons may be buried. This effort was undertaken with the participation of the non-governmental organization “Physicians for Human Rights” and has already led to the identification, through the DNA process, of the remains of 17 missing persons.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus appeals to all who are in a position to assist the efforts to solve this humanitarian problem, especially the Republic of Turkey, to exhibit the necessary humanitarian and political will so that the Committee on Missing Persons resumes its work on the basis of humanitarian principles embodied in its agreed statutory instrument and to heed the latest call of the Security Council resolution (S/RES/1217) for the implementation of the 31st of July 1997 Agreement on the Missing without any further delay or preconditions so that the families of the missing are finally informed in a convincing and conclusive manner about the fate of their loved ones.

Madame Chairperson,

Of particular interest and great concern to the Government of Cyprus are the serious violations of the most basic and fundamental human rights of the Greek and Maronite Cypriots living in the Turkish occupied area. I would like to remind the Committee, that of the 20,000 Greek and Maronite Cypriots who have remained in the occupied area in 1974, only 429 remain today. And this despite the Third Vienna Agreement of 1975, which provided for normal living conditions of the enclaved.

The daily life of the Greek and Maronite Cypriots in the occupied area is characterized by a multitude of adverse circumstances, such as the absence of normal means of communication and secondary education, the restrictions and formalities applied to freedom of movement, the impossibility to preserve property rights upon departure or death, the insufficient number of priests, the unavailability in practice of Greek Cypriot press and the various other restrictions which all together create a feeling among the enclaved of being compelled to live in a hostile environment in which it is hardly possible to lead a normal private and family life. Their situation has led the Secretary-General of the United Nations to observe in his report to the Security Council (S/1996/411) that the Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in northern Cyprus “were subjected to severe restrictions and limitations on many basic freedoms, which had the effect of ensuring that inexorably, with the passage of time, the communities would cease to exist.”

The adverse circumstances in the living conditions of Greek and Maronite Cypriots living in the occupied area, specifically the ones living in the Karpas area, have also been noted by the European Commission of Human Rights which found that this clearly discriminatory and degrading treatment is a result of the official policy pursued by Turkey in violation of Articles 3, 9 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol 1 of the aforementioned convention.

Madame Chairperson,

The Turkish effort to permanently partition the Republic of Cyprus does not end with human suffering. It also expands to the deliberate change of historic and millennia-old names in the occupied area, and to the merciless destruction and plundering of its cultural heritage, where the most severe destruction has been suffered by churches and monasteries, in an obvious drive for the total eradication of everything that would testify that people other than Turks have ever lived in the occupied land.

Madame Chairperson,

I sincerely hope that this is the last time that my delegation is compelled to report to the Third Committee on the continuing violations of human rights in Cyprus. We look forward to a successful conclusion of the current effort by the United Nations to finally secure a just and viable solution of the Cyprus Problem, based on Security Council resolutions. Our actions are guided by the desire to see a reunited Cyprus where the protection and promotion of human rights, both on the island and in its international approach, will constitute our most-cherished principles.