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The Guardian (August 27 1998)
The Independent, (January 12 1999)
The Washington Times, (November 28 1998)
The Times, (August 17 1998)
The Washington Times, (June 30t, 1999)
The Cyprus Mail, (October 7, 1999)
Irish Times, (October 8, 1999)

 

 

Turkey defies Europe over compensation for Cyprus seizure; Martin Walker unravels a human rights ruling

The Guardian, London August 27th 1998
By Martin Walker

 

TURKEY could be expelled from the Council of Europe for saying it will defy a European Court of Human Rights ruling that it should compensate a Greek Cypriot tourist guide for the loss of her home after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Already at loggerheads with the European Union, which has refused to make it a candidate for membership, Turkey is now on a collision course with the one European body to which it does belong, just as the United States and Britain are working to lock it into the European system.

Ankara has officially denounced the court judgment, saying it "lacks the means of applicability or of implementation". But the Council of Europe's committee of ministers is legally required to enforce the court's rulings, and the stage is set for confrontation when it meets in Strasbourg on September 14.

The test case was brought in 1989 by Titina Loizidou under Article 50 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states: "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions."

Having decided that the Turkish authorities violated her rights by denying her access to her property - some plots of land and an unfinished apartment building - the court has awarded her compensation of 300,000 Cyprus pounds, plus 20,000 pounds in "moral damages" and 137,000 pounds costs, amounting in all to pounds 544,000.

"I am not so much interested in the money, because what I miss of my home in Kyrenia cannot be counted in money," Mrs Loizidou said in Nicosia yesterday.

"I inherited this land of olive and carob trees from my grandfather and we can trace our roots back for five generations. I hope this court verdict is a victory for human rights for all Cypriots, Greek as well as Turkish."

Enforcing this judgment is not a battle the Council of Europe wants to fight. It has always said the place to resolve the Cyprus dispute is the United Nations-sponsored talks between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island.

But the ruling forces it to make Turkey comply, or sabotage the authority of the court.

"The stakes are very high," a council spokesman said yesterday. "Given the importance of the court and of human rights to this organisation, it is unthinkable that the Council of Europe will not take its obligations seriously."

The council, whose 40 members include Cyprus, Greece and Russia as well as all the EU states, can suspend or expel a member which defies the court: a sanction applied against Greece 30 years ago when it was under military rule. So far, no member state has failed to obey a Court of Human Rights decision.

Even if the council tries for political reasons to duck or to defer the issue, the ruling entitles Mrs Loizidou to ask any court in Europe to help enforce the judgment. Lawyers in Cyprus are now looking at seizable assets such as Turkish Airlines property and aircraft. Ankara is planning to privatise the airline, and the legal threat could affect the sale price.

"Turkey has no jurisdiction on the island," a Turkish embassy spokesman in London said. "Even though the court may condemn Turkey, we will not pay the money and will apply for an appeal."

The Cypriot attorney-general, Alekos Markides, says the ruling is of "historic significance", and hundreds of similar cases are now in the pipeline: up to 200,000 Greek Cypriots may have legal grounds to join them. On the basis of Mrs Loizidou's award, the eventual compensation bill could exceed pounds 5 billion.

But the political implications of the judgment outweigh the money. In addition to awarding compensation for the denial of access, the court put the blame squarely on Turkey, thus rejecting the Turkish claim that the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus was the legal authority concerned.

The TRNC, denounced by Cyprus as a Turkish puppet regime, is recognised as a state only by Turkey.

The Turkish government, beset by Islamic fundamentalists and nationalists, and Westernisers who want to join the EU, has little room to manoeuvre. Defying the court would strengthen the hand of Greek and other critics who claim that Turkey's human rights record makes it unfit to apply for EU membership.

The legal strategy was devised by Mrs Loizidou's Cypriot lawyer, Achilleas Demetriades, a member of the British bar, after he spent a month of work experience at the Court of Human Rights 10 years ago.

"This case shows that the system works, and that the Court of Human Rights lived up to its name," he said yesterday. "In the event that Turkey does not pay, we will have to consider taking legal action in a Council of Europe member state in order to enforce the court judgment."

This would probably not be Britain since the Convention on Human Rights has not yet been fully incorporated into British law.

 

 

Turks refuse to pay for lost lands of Greek Cypriots

The Independent, London January 12th 1999
By Robert Fisk in Nicosia

 

HOW CAN Titina Loizidou obtain the money which the European Court of Human Rights has told Turkey to pay her? In theory, at least, Turkey could be expelled from the Council of Europe - the one European body to which it belongs - for defying the court's ruling that it must pay pounds 370,000 (plus pounds 24,500 damages) for Mrs Loizidou's loss of access to her property in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.

Mrs Loizidou is a Greek Cypriot who grew up in Kyrenia - which, since Turkey's 1974 invasion of the island, has been the Turkish Cypriot port of Girne - and she has been campaigning since 1990 to return to her plot of olive and carob trees above the sea. She speaks so quietly in her Nicosia lawyer's office that the distant traffic almost drowns her words, but there is no doubting her determination. Four times she joined women's demonstrations to "walk" back to Kyrenia, only to be stopped by Turkish troops and UN soldiers. Her lawyer, Achileas Demetriades, is already asking himself how to force the Turks to pay up.

"We cannot claim Turkish property like an embassy or an ambassador's car because that is covered by diplomatic immunity," he says. "But perhaps we will have to look at other property owned by the Turkish state - an aircraft, for instance." Mr Demetriades is smiling. One can almost see a writ being slapped on the hull of a Turkish Airlines plane at Heathrow or Brussels or Amsterdam. "I'm not saying exactly what we will do - but we are considering all possibilities," he adds.

The authorities in Ankara were given until 28 October to come up with the money but after complaining that the case was political they have simply ignored the court's decision. In the words of one of the dissenting judges - needless to say, it was the Turkish representative, Judge Golcuklu - Mrs Loizidou's claim "is likely to become the prototype for a whole series of similar cases which will in all probability be resolved by political bodies." In other words, if the Turks cough up pounds 394,500 for her, they'll be faced with millions of pounds worth of further claims from dispossessed Greek Cypriots.

"That's the trick the Turks are playing," Mr Demetriades says. "The moment you say the case is a big one, you fall into the trap that you are saying it's political. Obviously there is a political dimension to this case. But if Turkey doesn't want to pay, this is obviously an insult to the European Court system." Ironically, the last time the 40-nation council applied sanctions against a member which defied its ruling was in 1970 - against Greece and its military junta. Which may be why the Turkish Embassy in London now goes so far as to insist that Turkey has no jurisdiction on Cyprus, a view that might surprise the thousands of Turkish troops based in the north of the island, not to mention the tens of thousands of Turkish settlers now living there.

Mrs Loizidou is certainly a fluent proponent of her own case, speaking warmly of her former Turkish Cypriot neighbours and accepting that - if she was allowed to return to Kyrenia - she would be living in a changed land. "All I want to do is go back to my property and use it peacefully. I want to build a home there - it was the intention of my grandfather that we should all have houses on that land. And I would go back if I was allowed - even though I know it would not be the same. The decision of the court is not giving back what I applied for, which is my life in Kyrenia. I didn't just lose my property but also my way of life, being with my family there and my neighbours, the quality of life I had there."

Like those Palestinians who often remember a mythical paradise of Jewish- Arab trust in mandate Palestine, Greek Cypriots sometimes fantasise about the supposed closeness of Greek-Turkish relations before the 1974 Turkish invasion. When Mrs Loizidou last had access to pre-invasion Kyrenia, she had to travel there in convoy because of the animosity which existed between Greek Cypriots and the enclaved Turkish citizens of the island. Besides, she has lived in Nicosia for almost a quarter of a century with her husband Andreas; her two children, Vassos and Heleni, are studying in Britain.

So would Titina Loizidou really go back to a town that is no longer Greek? Part of her sister's house is now lived in by a Turkish Cypriot family driven from southern Cyprus by Greek Cypriots in 1974. "But neighbours who talked to a German visitor remembered my family," Mrs Loizidou says. "They remembered my grandfather because he had delivered their children. They sent their regards to my father and me. These bonds still exist."

 

 

Property loss suit thorny for Turkey;
Greek Cypriot payments a Pandora's box

The Washington Times, Saturday, November 28th 1998.

By Andrew Borowiec

NICOSIA, Cyprus - Thousands of Greek Cypriots are planning to sue the Turkish government if Titina Loizidou ever collects from Turkey $640,000 awarded by the European Court of Human Rights. Her award is for the loss of her property since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Thousands of Greek Cypriots have had similar losses.

The collective penalties resulting from Turkey's military presence in northern Cyprus might then reach a total of $16 billion, according to Achilleas Demetriades, Mrs. Loizidou's lawyer, a graduate of Georgetown University.

The key issue in the court ruling was that it was a violation of human rights. But there is a political aspect as well: the dispute could imperil the validity of Turkey's credentials as a candidate for the European Union and its membership in the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, an advisory body grouping 40 European democracies.

On Oct. 28, Mrs. Loizidou, a mother of two, should have received the award granted by the European Court in 1996 to compensate her for moral damages and the inability to have access to her property in northern Cyprus, controlled by the Turkish army.

The deadline passed without reaction from Turkey, which accepted the jurisdiction of the court in 1990.  On Nov. 3, the court was merged with the European Commission on Human Rights and now sits permanently. The Loizidou case has become a major and unprecedented challenge to its authority.

In the court's 48-year history, "no state has refused, nor in fact avoided, paying monetary awards," Mr. Demetriades said. Its verdict showed that "by virtue of the military forces under its control in northern Cyprus, Turkey exercises effective control" and "has the responsibility in terms of human rights," Mr. Demetriades added.

The verdict implied that Turkey's responsibility for that area was not diminished or absolved by the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity recognized only by Turkey and internationally ostracized.  Turkey's refusal to conform to the judgment could compound European objections to its relentless war against Kurdish separatists and poor prison conditions.

The European Union has put Turkey at the bottom of the list of membership applications.

Mrs. Loizidou's lawsuit stemmed from the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus which followed a military coup staged on the Eastern Mediterranean island by Greece. An estimated 160,000 Greek-Cypriots left the northern area which is now under Turkish control, leaving behind their property. Greek-Cypriots have no right to free access to that area. The court award to Mrs. Loizidou has set a precedent that is likely to open the floodgates to legal action on a massive scale and to cause considerable difficulties for Turkey.
Mrs. Loizidou is not a displaced person because she was not living in northern Cyprus at the time of the invasion. The court's award was $40,000 in moral damages and $600,000 for her inability to benefit from the 20 plots of land she owns near the coastal town of Kyrenia.

 

 

 

Turks risk clash with Europe on human rights

The Times, London August 17th 1998

By Charles Bremner in Brussels

TURKEY is heading for a new collision with Europe after an order to Ankara from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to pay heavy compensation to a Cypriot woman for property seized in the invasion of northern Cyprus.

In an unprecedented step for a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey has rejected the landmark ruling which opens the way to huge claims by Greek Cypriots forced to leave their homes in the 1974 invasion and for claims by dispossessed Turkish Cypriots against the Government in Nicosia.

No member of the 40-nation council, including Turkey, has previously failed to comply with a compensation order from its human rights court. Breach of the underlying Human Rights Convention can, in theory, lead to the expulsion of the offending state, but Europe is expected to tread delicately in view of the crisis between Ankara and the 15 states of the European Union. Turkey has, in effect, cut off dialogue with the EU after its exclusion from entry talks, while Cyprus and ten European states have been accepted as future members.

Yiannakis Cassoulides, the Cypriot Foreign Minister, said his Government would seek Turkey's expulsion from the council. Rauf Denktas, the leader of the breakaway northern republic, has demanded a reversal of the Strasbourg decision as a condition for returning to the United Nations peace talks with the Greek Cypriot Government on the future of the divided island. 

However, some diplomats believe the pressure from the Council of Europe, with the threat of huge costs for Turkey and Turkish Cypriot claims against Nicosia, could help to ease the two sides back to the negotiations, which were suspended a year ago.

Ending a legal wrangle that began in 1989, the Strasbourg judges refused on July 30 to accept Turkey's argument that the self-proclaimed Republic of Northern Cyprus was a sovereign state. They ordered Ankara as the occupying power to pay Pounds 432,000 to Titina Loizidou, a Nicosia tour guide, as compensation for depriving her of her land and a flat at Kyrenia, in breach of Article 1 of the Convention.

In a move depicted as historic by Greek Cypriots, the court ordered Turkey to end the breach by giving Mrs Loizidou free access to her property. She was the first Cypriot to make use of Turkey's acceptance of individual petitions to Strasbourg in 1990.

Achilleas Demetriades, her lawyer, said yesterday that the Loizidou case opened the way to claims from about 200,000 Greek Cypriots who have been deprived of their property. Using the formula of the Strasbourg judges, this would cost Ankara $ 1 billion (Pounds 600 million) a year in compensation, he said.

While the Cyprus Government hailed the ruling as a precedent for all the Greek Cypriot refugees who fled the north in the wake of the invasion, Ankara insisted that it had nothing to do with the case. "Turkey does not exercise any act of public authority in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," it said.

 

 

The Washington Times

June 30, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition

HEADLINE: Another dangerous flashpoint
BYLINE: William Ratliff
DATELINE: PYLA, Cyprus

PYLA, Cyprus - With its mosque and Orthodox church just short blocks apart,
This small village in Eastern Cyprus represents the hopes and fears of a divided island that is a major component of Southeastern Europe's "other" flashpoint – the Cyprus, Greece and Turkey Triangle.

Turkey's invasion of Northern Cyprus 25 years ago next month put more than a third of this island under Turkish military occupation and left Nicosia the last capital in the world to be lacerated by rolled barbed-wire fences and a militarized buffer zone. Pyla is the only village in Cyprus that still has a thorough mix of Greek and Turkish Cypriots and that allows free entry to residents of both sides.

But even in Pyla reality is nearby, for there is a massive United Nations guard post in the middle of the village overlooking two coffeehouses, one catering to each community. (The total U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus is more than 1,500 and will cost $54.6 million next year.) In the distance, Turkish flags fly on hilltops to the north and east while Cypriot flags fly to the west and south.

The Triangle is a regional flash-point for several reasons. Cyprus is critically located near the coast of Turkey, a millennia-old link between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Tensions and mistrust between Greek Cypriots - the vast majority – and Turkish Cypriots (supplemented since 1974 by 100,000+ Turks who moved to Cyprus after the invasion and about 35,000 Turkish soldiers) are fueled by the habitual feuding between Greece and Turkey and the impact that strife has on the international community.

When U.S. emissary Richard Holbrooke was in Nicosia in late 1997, he lamented that "when I try to talk about the future the people here, the leaders, talk about the past." That complicated past is critical and viewed differently and passionately by every player. Many countries share the responsibility for causing - or not preventing -the current situation, including in varying degrees both Cypriot communities, Great Britain, Greece, Turkey and the United States.

After ruling Cyprus for 82 years, Great Britain gave the island its Independence in 1960 but with an unworkable constitution that stoked conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Many Greek Cypriots loudly proclaimed their determination to unite with Greece, a prospect that worried both Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. A military coup in Greece in 1967 eventually led to a Greek-sponsored the coup in Cyprus in 1974 and the installation of a militantly anti-Turkish president in Nicosia.

The new president stayed in power eight days, just long enough to spark the two-phase Turkish invasion. That year was one of "suffering and deep psychic trauma for both ethnic groups," writes Joseph S. Joseph, a political scientist at the University of Cyprus. Some 170,000 Greek Cypriots - on an island of 750,000 - had been "cleansed" from north to south and about 45,000 Turkish Cypriots had chosen to move north. Considerably more Cypriots mostly Greek - died in 1974 than Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo before NATO's recent bombing in Yugoslavia.

Generally speaking, before 1974 the Greek Cypriots were less open to compromise while for the last quarter-century Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders have usually been more resistant to reunification. As you pass beyond the buffer zone today to the Turkish checkpoint. a large sign proclaims "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Forever."

Prospects for reunification have been particularly low in the past 20 months during which time the European Union has raised a number of barriers to Turkish entry into their club even as it has looked very favorably on Cyprus' admission. Once extensive "intercommunal" contacts between Greek and Turkish Cypriots are now rare and more than a decade of quiet and productive cooperation between the Greek and Turkish mayors of the two sectors of Nicosia has ended.

Perhaps the most decisive challenge to Turkey was taken by a private Greek Cypriot, Titina Loizidou, who in 1989 sued the Turkish government because she had been denied access to her property in the north. In 1996, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in her favor and told Turkey to pay up. If Ankara continues to refuse to do so, it could further damage Turkey's already tense relations with the  European Community.

A new European-supported U.S. initiative for reunification is expected by fall, but well-informed diplomatic sources say it will merely put a new spin on old proposals for a single state with wide-ranging autonomy of two federal zones and substantial freedom of movement. The Cyprus government appreciates many United Nations resolutions backing unity but would particularly like to see stronger U.S. pressure on Ankara.

When President Clinton proclaimed "victory" in Kosovo, he stated a principle established by NATO's action: that when the cost is "acceptable," the West should prevent the "wholesale uprooting" of people "because of their race, ethnic background or way they worship God." But talk of tough "principled" defense of human rights is cloying to Greek Cypriots who have seen little of it in 25 years.

And they aren't likely to see any now because even Mr. Clinton's foreign policy team, however little admired for its strategic thinking, believes that whatever its domestic and foreign policies Turkey is more important to the United States than Greece and Cyprus. The war in Yugoslavia and continuing attacks on Iraq from Turkey have underlined Turkey's strategic role in the region.

So "day by day everything seems to be going along well," a top Cypriot official working on the crisis says, "but in reality things could easily and suddenly explode." A crisis would immediately involve Turkey and Greece, shatter NATO's much touted unity and seriously destabilize the region.

Cyprus is working toward European Union membership in several years and hopes the country can by then be unified, in part because being in the EU would benefit Turkish Cypriots. But "when one party the Turkish leadership is intent upon stonewalling," as a well-informed diplomatic source put it - and in the absence of decisive pressure from Washington – progress is out of the question and the flash-point remains awaiting ignition.

William Ratliff is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution,
Stanford University, and travels frequently to Europe.

 

 

The Cyprus Mail  http://www.cynews.com/

Council of Europe adopts Loizidou resolution against Turkey

By George Psyllides

Thursday, October 7, 1999

THE Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe voted yesterday to adopt the resolution urging Turkey to comply with a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the Titina Loizidou case, concerning the continuous violation of human rights of Greek Cypriots.

Turkish counter-measures failed to prevent the resolution being passed with an overwhelming majority, delivering Turkey "a slap in the face", according to Achilleas Demetriades, Loizidou's lawyer.

Last year the European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to pay around 500,000 to Loizidou as compensation for depriving her of her right to enjoy her property in Kyrenia, which has been occupied by Turkey since its 1974 invasion of the island.

Turkey has so far refused to pay Loizidou, despite several deadlines and extensions, claiming it is not liable for the occupation of the north of Cyprus.

The decision by the Committee of Ministers clears the way for other cases, said Demetriades. He said it proves the Greek Cypriots right when they say Turkey is to blame for human rights violations in Cyprus.

The vote had been postponed from late last month, after a British proposal and an overriding decision by the committee chairman which bypassed the rules governing the functioning of the committee.

Diplomatic sources said at the time that the postponement took account of developments in the Cyprus problem, considering that Turkey might react negatively to any decision against it at that point.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

 

 

Turkey risks EU accession

Irish Times, Friday, October 8, 1999

TURKEY: There's a marvellous, timeless quality to the old harbour at Kyrenia, nestled between the steep hills and sea. Sitting sipping brandy sours on the quayside, in the shadow of one of the finest surviving Byzantine castles in the Mediterranean, one can taste history.

There's also the palpable sense, despite the bustle of tourists, slightly less manic than in the south of the island, of unfinished business in Cyprus. It's there in the pace of life, the repair of buildings, the attitudes of waiters, the uncertainty of the tenant life, of occupation.

Titina Loizidou knows all about it. She has land here, a family plot of olive and carob trees and an unfinished block of flats that she has not seen since the Turkish invasion of 1974. And on Wednesday in Strasbourg, her legal battle to reclaim her birthright took another significant step forward.

In truth, the Loizidou case may be the most significant yet heard and ruled on by the European Court of Human Rights. Its political implications are far-reaching, and a failure to implement its findings would substantially undermine the court at a time when its crucial remit is extending to the new democracies of eastern Europe.

In 1996, it ruled in Ms Loizidou's favour that the Turkish government should compensate her to the tune of close on 400,000 (as well as 25,000 damages), for loss of access to her property.

Significantly, the decision distinguished between Ms Loizidou's compensation, or "just satisfaction", and her continued enjoyment of her rights, in effect her access to her property.

In respect of the latter the court accepted that she would not be able to return to her land except in the context of a political settlement of the Cyprus question, a major component of which will be resolution of myriad land disputes in both parts of the island. But the Turkish authorities have refused to pay up, breaking the October 1989 deadline to do so, the first time a member of the Council of Europe has openly defied the court since Greece did so 30 years ago under military rule. The price the latter paid was suspension from the council.

Turkey faces a real dilemma. Agreement to pay Ms Loizidou, it believes, would unleash a flood of up to 200,000 similar demands, potentially costing billions, while refusal could ultimately lead, some way down the road, to suspension from the Council of Europe.

That prospect is seriously worrying to Ankara, not just because of the international opprobrium it would bring, but also because good standing with the council is a precondition to membership of the EU. And Turkey is hoping that December's Helsinki summit will bring an offer of accession candidate status.

Ironically on Wednesday, just as the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Mr Gunther Verheugen, was telling MEPs in Strasbourg he hoped this will happen, only yards away in the Council of Europe headquarters ambassadors were putting the finishing touches to a draft resolution "deploring the fact that Turkey has not yet complied with the judgement" and reminding the Turkish authorities of their obligations. The resolution rejected the Turkish argument that it could only pay "just satisfaction" in the context of a global settlement of the Cyprus question.

The ball is now out of the hands of the court and in those of the Council of Ministers charged with ensuring implementation of judicial decisions. From November 1st, Ireland takes over the six-month presidency of the council, with this hot potato. Ireland's ambassador, Mr Justin Harman, has already been in bilateral contact with the Turkish authorities about it. They must respond formally to the resolution next month.

Mr Harman still sees some hope for agreement both in the fact that the Turks have not ruled out compliance and in the distinction between "just satisfaction" and the question of "general measures" to find a final settlement of the property issues in Cyprus. But he notes that Turkey, for its own reasons, has decided to link the two.

Yet, in the Norris case, for example, it was some time before the Irish Government enacted legislation decriminalising homosexual behaviour, although Mr David Norris received compensation reasonably promptly.

What is non-negotiable, Council of Europe sources say, is the idea that Ms Loizidou's personal complaint could be put on hold for political reasons. To do so would fundamentally dilute the capacity of the court and the principle of the rule of law.

As for Ms Loizidou, the struggle she started in 1989 goes on. "All I want to do is go back to my property and use it peacefully," she said recently. "I want to build a home there. It was the intention of my grandfather that we should all have houses on that land. And I would go back if I was allowed, even though I know it would not be the same."

 

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