Lobby statement as published in The Cyprus Weekly, 23 August 1998. The significance of this case is not so much in its financial impact but in the political repercussions. The idea of offering Greek Cypriot refugees exchange of properties or compensation in order to surrender ownership of their land...
As published in The Cyprus Weekly, 23 August 1998
The significance of this case is not so much in its financial impact but in the political repercussions. The idea of offering Greek Cypriot refugees exchange of properties or compensation in order to surrender ownership of their land, is dead.
The stunning victory by Titina Loizidou against Turkey, is likely to impact in a major fashion on the UN brokered talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus. Those who thought that Greek Cypriots would meekly submit to an exchange of properties between the the occupied north and the free south, or accept paltry compensation for loss of ownership of their land, had better think again.
A number of key points can be drawn from both the decision two weeks ago and the earlier substantive decision of December 1996:
Titina Loizidou has been confirmed as the owner of her land in occupied Cyprus. Denktash's "title deeds", described on innumerable occasions by us at Lobby for Cyprus as phoney, were confirmed to be so. They are quite simply not worth the paper they are written on. Accordingly, any person deprived of the right to enjoy or use their property in the occupied area will be entitled to damages for loss of use. Titina was awarded C£300,000 (approximately 600,000 US Dollars). In theory, there is no reason why any other owner of property in the occupied area similarly denied the right to visit, live in and develop their property, should not be entitled to the same.
Turkey is legally responsible for the human rights violations in Cyprus, not the so-called "TRNC". Why? Quite simply because the "TRNC" does not exist and is simply a front for TurkeyÐ just another administrative province. This means that anyone whose human rights have been infringed by the Turkish invasion and occupation can bring a case against Turkey before the European Court of Human Rights.
The international community recognises the pain and suffering that Turkey has inflicted on Greek Cypriots. Titina was awarded C£20,000 in recognition of this. The Court said that "an award should be made in respect of the anguish and feelings of helplessness and frustration which she must have experienced over the years in not being able to use her property as she saw fit". Countless other Greek Cypriots feel the same irrespective of whether they are refugees or not.
Titina was also awarded C£137,000 in costs and expenses. In total Turkey will have to find about C£57,000 in addition to her own legal costs. If every property owner in the occupied area whose human rights have been infringed were to achieve a similar result, Turkey would very soon be experiencing extreme financial difficulties.
If Turkey continues to deny Mrs Loizidou access to her property in occupied Kyrenia and the right to enjoy it, she can continue to claim compensation against Turkey.
Mrs Loizidou has lost her claim for the loss of her home because she did not actually live in her home in Kyrenia at the time of the invasion. However 200,000 refugees were living in the occupied part and definitely lost the homes. Therefore their case and claim will be much greater than that of Mrs Loizidou.
It will be noted that compensation of C£320,000 was awarded and yet Titina remains the legal owner of her land. Yet the West is expecting her and the 200,000 plus legitimate property owners from the occupied area, to willingly surrender this land to Turkey in return for compensation for the loss of ownership.
What possible incentive does someone who has already been awarded £C320,000 compensation in respect of a continuing violation have to give up their legal rights in return for what will no doubt be very few pieces of silver, certainly not £C320,000 of them!
Why in fact should anyone owning property in the occupied area, weather refugee or not, do so, when they can keep taking Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights and receiving these awards. The obvious answer is that they will not. Accordingly, the idea of exchange of properties or compensation for loss of ownership of the land, is dead, and about time too! It is about time that those attempting to partition the island appreciated the significance of this case. It is about time too that those members of our own community who try to tell the Greek Cypriots that they should accept the status quo and blindly swallow the attempts to partition the island, woke up. Titina Loizidou did not accept the status quo. She took Turkey on and won in the most convincing fashion.
The Turks of course saw that which some of our own people could not or would not. Turkey had argued that "the question of property rights and compensation is the very crux of the conflict in Cyprus. These issues can only be settled through negotiations and on the principles of bizonality and bicommunality; inevitably the principle of bizonality will involve an exchange of properties in the north with those in the south and if need be, compensation for the difference."
The Turks know that Lobby for Cyprus has always been right when we have claimed that the land is the key. Turkey argued, in this case, that it would be quite acceptable to override basic human rights in an attempt to reach political settlement. The Court clearly felt otherwise. The message is therefore clear: human rights are paramount and no attempt to ride roughshod over them will succeed before the Law.
Of course, Turkey says it will not pay. So what? The significance of this case is not so much in the financial impact but in the political repercussions. Property exchanges and compensation offered to the refugees as inducement in order to forgo and surrender their rights to their properties in the occupied part of Cyprus, have henceforth absolutely no validity whatsoever. The land in the occupied part of Cyprus, 61% of which is owned by Greek Cypriots (26% is state owned; 12% is owned by Turkish Cypriot and 1% by others) it is, as Lobby stated on numerous occasions, priceless. No refugee and/or land owner will surrender their land to facilitate a bizonal bicommunal settlement which will lead to the permanent division of Cyprus.
But if Turkey chooses to evade its obligations she will lose even greater credibility and still remain exposed to enforcement proceedings throughout the member states of the Council of Europe. Foreign investors in Turkey will also think twice about investing in this state which could in theory be bankrupted by a flood of litigation.
Lobby for Cyprus has always campaigned against exchange of properties and compensation for loss of ownership and this decision fully vindicates our stance. The 3Rs are the minimum necessary to ensure that our human rights are respected.
We owe it to campaigners such as Titina to fight on the basics, and not to be bullied into accepting the inevitability of partition which, let us be honest, is exactly what bizonality will mean.
If Titina can do, it so can we. The time to stand up for our rights has now arrived!
Lobby for Cyprus
10 Aug 1998