European court convicts Turkey in Cyprus property cases

European court convicts Turkey in Cyprus property cases

The European Court of Human Rights fined Turkey with more than 15 million euros in 19 cases.

October 27, 2010, Wednesday/ 17:39:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) fined Turkey on Tuesday with more than 15 million euros in 19 cases filed by Greek Cypriots for their abandoned properties in the northern part of the divided island of Cyprus.

The cases concerned the applicants’ complaints that the 1974 Turkish military intervention in the northern part of Cyprus deprived them of their homes and properties. In judgments issued in September 2009 and one in October 2009, the ECtHR already upheld the view that there had been a continuous violation of Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the protection of property, in all 19 cases and of Article 8, which covers the right to respect for private and family life, in 11 of them. The question of the application of Article 41, which covers just satisfaction, was reserved for a later date.

In its judgments released on Tuesday, the court held that Turkey was to pay a total of 15,001,498 euros in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages and 160,375 euros for the costs and expenses of the trials. As a matter of fact, the Strasbourg court, in a March ruling, recognized the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) as a valid domestic judicial remedy whose jurisdiction extends to Greek Cypriots.

The ECtHR judgment means that Greek Cypriots will not be able to launch court cases against Turkey at the European court prior to seeking redress with the IPC and sets a precedent for approximately 1,500 property cases pending at the European court. The ruling is significant in that for the first time a Turkish Cypriot commission has been recognized by Europe’s top human rights court, boosting the international legitimacy of the KKTC. Nonetheless, Tuesday judgments are concerned with applications that were announced as admissible before the March ruling.

Turkish Cypriot officials recently told Today’s Zaman that the March ruling has considerably increased the number of applications by Greek Cypriots to the IPC. Another key ruling is expected to be announced by the European court on Nov. 2 in a case jointly filed by a well-known Greek Cypriot businessman, Andreas Lordos, and others against Turkey. The applicants similarly allege that the 1974 Turkish intervention deprived them of their homes and properties.

Particular importance is attached to the Nov. 2 ruling since the case concerns properties in Varosha (Maraş in Turkish), the sealed-off section of Famagusta [Gazimağusa in Turkish]. Varosha, once a prime vacation resort run mainly by Greek Cypriots, is now in a military zone and closed to civilians.

Greek Cypriot media has suggested that the eventual ruling in the Lordos’ case would put Turkey into a difficult position because the Turkish government would not be able to use in its defense the argument that the properties are currently being used by Turkish Cypriots, and thus that the properties should be confiscated by the Turkish Cypriot side.

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