Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Summer 2009 Issue 22

27 July 2009
Upholding property rights in occupied Cyprus
After five years of struggle, Greek Cypriot refugee Mr Apostolides has been vindicated by the European Court of Justice. In the process, he has given hope to all the refugees and property owners that their property rights are legally protected.

After five years of struggle, Greek Cypriot refugee Mr Apostolides has been vindicated by the European Court of Justice. In the process, he has given hope to all the refugees and property owners that their property rights are legally protected. 

[Photo caption] 
Stolen land: some of the illegal developments in occupied Cyprus where approximately 88 percent of land is owned by Greek Cypriots. Britons who purchased in the occupied north are at risk of losing their investments and their assets in the UK

[Quotation] 
The ECJ stated that the property rights of the rightful Greek Cypriot owners of the lands “subsist and remain valid” in spite of the invasion and occupation of Cypriot territory in 1974

[Quotation] 
Displaced Greek Cypriots who obtain judgments in the courts of the Republic in relation to land they own in the Turkish occupied northern area can now enforce those judgments in other member states of the EU

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in the ‘Apostolides v Orams’ case, upholding jurisdiction of Republic of Cyprus courts over Greek Cypriot land under illegal occupation by Turkish forces. The court declared the enforceability of Republic of Cyprus judgments against those illegally occupying Greek Cypriot land in the northern area of Cyprus. 

On 28 April 2009, the ECJ issued a landmark judgment in the case of ‘Apostolides v Orams’. The ECJ decision concerned the case of Mr Apostolides, a Greek Cypriot refugee whose family have a home and land, originally with an orchard, at Lapithos in the Republic of Cyprus. Following the invasion of the northern area of Cyprus by Turkish troops in 1974, the Apostolides family was forced to flee to the government controlled areas south of the occupation line. In 2002 Mr and Mrs Orams, a British couple, purported to purchase the land from a third party. Mr Apostolides’ orchard had by then been destroyed and the construction of a new villa had begun. 

The Orams built a villa upon the land, which they now occupy as a holiday home. In 2004 and 2005 Mr Apostolides obtained judgments against the Orams in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus. These judgments ordered Mr and Mrs Orams to cease trespassing on the land, deliver up possession of the land to Mr Apostolides, pay compensation to him, demolish the villa and refrain from continuing with the unlawful intervention on the land. 

Due to the obvious difficulties in enforcing the judgments in the northern area because of the presence of more than 50,000 illegal occupying Turkish troops, Mr Apostolides sought to enforce the judgments against the Orams in England. EU legislation provides for mutual recognition of judgments between EU member states and enables such judgments of the courts of EU member states to be enforced in the courts of other EU member states. 

The case concerns land in the northern area of Cyprus. In the ECJ’s decision, such a judgment of a court of the Republic of Cyprus must be recognised and enforced in other EU states. Therefore, displaced Greek Cypriots who obtain judgments in the courts of the Republic in relation to land they own in the Turkish occupied northern area can now enforce those judgments in other member states of the EU. 

This is an important decision in the face of Turkey’s efforts since 1974 to expropriate Greek Cypriot land in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus. Notwithstanding countless UN resolutions demanding the removal of Turkey’s forces from Cyprus, Turkey and its illegal and unrecognised puppet, the ‘TRNC’, have taken whatever steps they can to destroy the predominantly Greek cultural heritage of the north of the island. As part of this strategy, they have also purported unilaterally and illegally to expropriate the lands and homes of the Greek Cypriots by either giving the land to illegal colonists from Anatolia (to change the natural Greek demography of the island) or to sell the land to non-Cypriots, including thousands of Britons who bought the land cheaply in the hope that their illegal purchases will somehow be ratified following a political settlement. 

Nothing in international law affects the jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus over the whole of the island of Cyprus. It remains the only legitimate state on the island over all the occupied villages and towns which remain under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus which entered the EU in 2004. 

What Turkey and its corrupt friends had however not bargained with was the ECJ’s decision which demands that the rule of law must be adhered to rather than the barrel of a Turkish gun. 

In its decision, the ECJ stated that the property rights of the rightful Greek Cypriot owners of the lands “subsist and remain valid” in spite of the invasion and occupation of Cypriot territory in 1974. The ECJ repeated the legal position established in previous court cases (including in the Titina Loizidou case before the European Court of Human Rights) that the Greek Cypriot title holders who make up the vast majority of land ownership in the occupied areas have not lost their lands nor have they been exchanged by some illegal decree by the unrecognised regime in the occupied areas. They remain the only lawful owners of their lands in the occupied parts of Cyprus. Their property rights have not been expropriated by the illegal Turkish occupying forces or somehow ‘lost’. Their lands and homes cannot be taken away without their legal and formal consent. This point must not be forgotten. It must also not be forgotten that the Cypriots who cannot return to their lands because of the presence of illegal Turkish troops want their properties back not only because they want the “bricks and mortar” so they can pass it on to their children but also because it is their heritage and birthright. 

So when anyone tells Greek Cypriots that they should accept compensation for their lands and properties, they should be reminded that compensation will never be enough – the Greek Cypriots want their lands back and their island reunited and no amount of money will ever compensate for that.

The ECJ has therefore sent a strong and clear message not only to the thousands of Britons and other EU citizens who have been illegally acquiring and occupying properties in the occupied areas of Cyprus, but also to the international community which has failed the Greek Cypriots for 35 years since Turkey’s illegal invasion. 

In short, Greek Cypriot demands are straight-forward. They simply demand what is theirs ethically, morally, culturally and also legally, namely the return of their homes and lands. 

The legitimate Cypriot title holders must not be complacent, however. They must now take steps to identify those illegally occupying their lands and homes and to issue and pursue proceedings against them in the EU courts for legal sanction. 

As to those thinking of buying property in the occupied northern part of Cyprus without proper legal title, they should be unequivocally advised that not only will they lose their investments but that they will also face legal proceedings including the enforcement of judgments against any assets they may have in the EU. 

The Lobby for Cyprus legal team can advise individuals interested in pursuing claims before the courts. Contact us on +44 (0)20 8888 2556 or admin@lobbyforcyprus.org