Lobby for Cyprus, the voice of the Greek Cypriot refugees, has always stood alone in campaigning against any purported solution to the Cyprus issue which involves compulsory property exchanges or compensation based schemes. The moral grounds for doing so are obvious to all but those seeking to cement the illegal partition of the island. The economic grounds have also come to prominence recently through Lobby’s continuing enlightenment on the matter.
However the most powerful objection to such a solution is the legal one and this has been given added potency recently following the circulation of a legal opinion delivered by ten eminent professors of international law, which confirms the basic illegality of such an approach under public international law. The professors were drawn from Australia, Austria, Britain, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, the Netherlands and South Africa.
In yet another devastating indictment of the partitionist policies of Mr Denktash, and those in the West who choose to support the permanent division of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish areas, the Opinion reaches the following conclusions:
1. Forced population transfers effected on a discriminatory basis and carried out on a large scale are unlawful under international law whether they take place within or between states and whether in time of peace or armed conflict.
2. It is unlawful to seek to maintain a situation arising from forced population transfers or ethnic cleansing by legal or other measures prohibiting the return of the displaced population, in particular where such measures discriminate on racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic grounds.
3. Where populations have been unlawfully displaced on a large scale, compulsory exchanges of property belonging to persons affected are unlawful if their purpose is to legitimise a situation arising from forced population transfers or ethnic cleansing.
4. In addition, such a scheme, as envisaged in the proposal for a ‘Joint Property Claims Commission’ would violate the provisions of Article 1 of Protocol No.1 in conjunction with Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
5. Such a compulsory property exchange arrangement, even if contained in a Treaty, could not be immunised from scrutiny under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The importance of this Opinion, coming as it does hot on the heels of the Titina Loizidou judgment at the European Court of Human Rights cannot be exaggerated; what it does is to destroy all attempts to solve property issues in Cyprus by forcing Greek Cypriots to engage in property exchanges or to accept sums of money as compensation for not returning to their spiritual and ancestral homes. It also drives a coach and horses from attempts by certain powers to foist a Property Claims Commission upon Greek Cypriots to oblige them to trade these lands and properties for those of Turkish Cypriots.
Lobby has always pointed out that no Greek Cypriot in their right mind would accept a few pieces of silver for the loss of ownership of their homes and lands. This argument was emphasised by the Loizidou case in which Mrs Loizidou, who is a property owner in occupied Cyprus but not a refugee, was awarded Cypriot £320,000 for loss of use of her property (not loss of ownership) and a further £20,000 moral damages. Turkey was ordered to make these payments in 1998. Why would anyone accept an unspecified and uncertain sum of money at some unspecified point in the future for loss of ownership of their land when they could keep hold of their property and keep taking Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights for compensation based on loss of use?
The logic is compelling especially given Turkey’s desperate attempt to be taken seriously as a credible candidate for European Community entrance, which in turn means that at some point it will have to respect the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the Loizidou case and pay her the monies it was ordered to pay. The only worry for property owners in the occupied area was that as part of some solution to the Cyprus issue brokered by the US and the UK, the government of the Republic of Cyprus might be coerced into agreeing the principle of property exchanges or compensation. However this Opinion exposes the illegality of such an approach and supports Lobby’s stance to date.
So what next in the search for a solution in Cyprus? Clearly no solution will be possible unless and until the basic property rights of the Greek Cypriot property owners in the occupied area and the refugees are respected and acknowledged. If they are not then one can expect a flood of applications before the European Court of Human Rights for compensation, which on the basis of the jurisprudence to date and this Opinion are likely to be successful.
At the end of the day no solution will be possible until the right of all refugees to return to their home is respected. This means that they must be allowed to do so and not be prevented from doing so or harassed once they do return. Accordingly the removal of all Turkish troops from Cyprus is a necessary prerequisite to this. But if these homes are now occupied by illegal immigrants from Anatolia? In those circumstances there must be a compulsory but humane repatriation of the 120,000 illegal Turkish colonists.
Return, Removal and Repatriation: the Lobby for Cyprus 3Rs. Only when the 3Rs are fully implemented will it be possible to achieve that which the West craves, a solution to the Cyprus issue.
But any solution must recognise the basic legal issues and the 3Rs provide this. Greek Cypriots will accept nothing less. They speak with one voice, act with one will and together form one Lobby for Cyprus.