Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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02 October 2010
Telling the truth about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus
We are all too familiar with the spurious claims of the Turkish government regarding the invasion of Cyprus in 1974, in order to justify its brutal policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid.

Turkey has gone as far as to claim that its armed forces embarked upon an operation to “restore constitutional order” in Cyprus. This could not be futher from the truth. Turkey’s notion of “constitutional order” turned out to be a land grab, the forced expulsion of the entire Greek Cypriot population of one third of the island and their replacement with Anatolian colonists. 

Photo: Once Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 it embarked on a policy of wholesale destruction of the culture and heritage of the occupied north in an attempt to transform Cyprus into a Turkish province

Unfortunately, we are also familiar with the various euphemisms employed by ministers in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to camouflage what really occurred in 1974. Seasoned observers of Westminster politics will instantly recall phrases such as the “hostilities” or “events” of 1974.  

Neither Turkish nor British ministers can bring themselves, at least in public to employ the elusive words 'invasion' or 'occupation' in the context of 1974

As such, it appears that neither Turkish nor British ministers can bring themselves, at least in public, to employ the elusive words ‘invasion’ or ‘occupation’ in the context of 1974.  

By contrast, judges are under no similar duty to employ such Whitehall jargon and are not at pains to appease Turkey. 

Hence, in the recent case of Apostolides v Orams, the judges did not mince their words. According to Lord Justice Pill in the Court of Appeal, the Turkish army “invaded” the Republic of Cyprus in 1974. In the same case, the European Court of Justice was equally in no doubt that Turkey had carried out an “invasion”. According to the judges of both courts, this military action resulted in the northern areas of the Republic being “occupied”. 

Even when the High Court of England originally found in favour of the Orams, Mr Justice Jack was in no doubt that Turkey had “invaded” the Republic, in the process procuring “the effective expulsion of Greek Cypriots from much of the area that was occupied”. He went as far as referring to the Orams, who illegally acquired Greek Cypriot property as “trespassers”.

The Apostolides case was not the first in which judges have used such terms in the context of 1974. An older case in point, among several, is Polly Peck International v The Marangos Hotel Company (1998). This case involved a property described by Lord Justice Mummery in the Court of Appeal as being “situated in that part of northern Cyprus occupied by Turkey since an armed invasion in the summer of 1974.”

Apostolides joins a long list of cases where judges have expressly referred to the “invasion” and “occupation” of the Republic of Cyprus. This is not insignificant for at least three inter-related reasons.  

One reason is that judges are trained to choose their words with scrupulous care. As the late Lord Denning wrote: “Words are the lawyer’s tools of trade.” A second reason is that senior judges, at least in England and Wales, are independent minded individuals who have sworn to “do right by all manner of people, after the law and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will”. A third reason is that judges must be independent of the executive branch of government. In this respect, one can do no better than quote Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice and the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales: “There is no sphere of judicial responsibility which can or should be subject to the behest of the executive. None. Ever. In any field.  If we countenanced such a possibility then the independence of the judiciary would be undermined, and once undermined would disappear into the sands.”

It follows that exceptional weight may be placed on the words used by senior judges in cases such as Apostolides v Orams. 

It is to be hoped, therefore, that ministers in the new coalition government of the United Kingdom will embrace appropriate terminology when referring to the seminal events of 1974. After all, there can be no doubt that in 1974, Turkey carried out an armed invasion of the Republic of Cyprus which gave rise to an occupation and an ongoing violation of the rule of law.