The European Court of Human Rights and Cyprus

By Stephen, Michael | Contemporary Review, March 1997 | Go to article overview

The European Court of Human Rights and Cyprus


Stephen, Michael, Contemporary Review


The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has brought itself again into disrepute - this time in a case relating to Cyprus. The case of Loizidou v Turkey (18.12.96), is a good example of the superficial nature of its proceedings, and its inability to refrain from meddling in areas where it does more harm than good.

The court (an organ of the Council of Europe, not of the EU) decided under Art. 1 of Protocol I to the European Convention on Human Rights that the rights of Mrs. Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot living in Southern Cyprus, had been violated because since 1974 she had not been allowed to exercise control over a piece of land at Kyrenia in Northern Cyprus, which she owned in 1974 and claimed still to own. The European Commission on Human Rights (15318/89 para. 101) had held that there was no such violation.

The perversity of the Loizidou case is that Turkey, being the only one of the three guarantor powers to discharge its treaty obligations in 1974, is now exposed to the payment of millions of dollars in compensation to Greek Cypriots whose misfortune was actually caused by the incomparably more serious violation from 1963 to 1974, by members of their own community, of the human rights of the Turkish Cypriots, not one of whom has ever been compensated.

Cyprus has been increasingly in the news in the last few months (see Contemporary Review, November 1996). Cyprus became independent from Britain in 1960 on the basis of Treaties of Establishment and Guarantee concluded between Britain, Turkey, Greece, the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. In November 1963 the Greek Cypriots demanded the abolition of eight of the basic articles which had been expressly included in the 1960 Constitution by international agreement for the protection of the Turkish Cypriots, to which abolition the Turkish Cypriots naturally refused to agree. The aim was to reduce the Turkish Cypriot people to the status of a mere minority, wholly subject to the control of the Greek Cypriots, pending their ultimate expulsion from the island.

Even Greece was embarrassed by this behaviour. On 19th April 1963 Foreign Minister Averoff wrote to the Greek Cypriot leader Makarios 'It is not permissible for Greece in any circumstances to accept the creation of a precedent by which one of the contracting parties can unilaterally abrogate or ignore provisions that are irksome to it in international acts which this same party has undertaken to respect'.

At Christmas 1963 the Greek Cypriot militia attacked Turkish Cypriot communities across the island, and very many men, women, and children were killed. Two hundred and seventy of their mosques, shrines and other places of worship were desecrated. Thereafter Turkish Cypriot MPs, judges, and other officials were intimidated or prevented by force from carrying out their duties. On 2nd January 1964 the Daily Telegraph wrote 'The Greek Cypriot community should not assume that the British military presence can or should secure them against Turkish intervention if they persecute the Turkish Cypriots. We must not be a shelter for double-crossers.'

If the European Court of Human Rights had examined the facts of the period 1960 - 1974 they would have come to a different conclusion as to the responsibility for the existence of the border between north and south, the legal and moral fight of the Turkish Cypriots to establish their own state, to appropriate Greek Cypriot property for the resettlement of refugees, and to deny Greek Cypriots access to the North.

The Court would have seen the following report from Cyprus (Daily Express, 28th December 1963): 'We went tonight into the sealed-off Turkish Cypriot Quarter of Nicosia in which 200 to 300 people had been slaughtered in the last five days. We were the first Western reporters there and we have seen sights too frightful to be described in print. Horror so extreme that the people seemed stunned beyond tears.' On 17th February 1964 the Washington Post reported that 'Greek Cypriot fanatics appear bent on a policy of genocide'. …

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