Statement for Cyprus.


The following statement was delivered, on 2 April 2, by the representative of the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights, Mr. Tom Ganiatsos in the framework of the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, on agenda item 9(a): Question of Human Rights in Cyprus.

The Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus constitutes a violation of many fundamental principles of international law. Respect of human rights certainly figures prominently, if not on top, of that long list. Indeed, for almost 27 years now, we have been witnessing the systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots by the Turkish occupation forces.

Turkey continues to flout the calls of the Security Council, the General Assembly and this very Commission to put an end to the plight of the population of Cyprus. First of all, the Turkish occupation forces have been consistently denying the Greek Cypriots who have been forced to leave the occupied areas, either through expulsion or as a result of the hardship they are enduring, their freedom of movement, their freedom of settlement and their right to property, in violation of human rights instruments and resolutions of UN organs - including resolution 1987/19 adopted by this Commission on 11 March 1987. Moreover, we cannot fail to mention, in this connection, the persistent refusal of Turkey to comply with the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the Loizidou case upholding the applicants right to her property in the occupied territories of the island and awarding her compensation.

As for the enclaved Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the occupied areas, UNFICYPs humanitarian review concluded some time ago that they are "the objects of very severe restrictions which curtail[..] the exercise of many basic freedoms and [have] the effect of ensuring that, inexorably, with the passage of time, those communities would cease to exist in the northern part of the island" (UN doc. S/1995/1020, para. 23). Indeed, the Greek Cypriot population has already dwindled from 200 000 to barely 300, due to the unbearable living conditions resulting from the persistent violations of its rights, in particular the right to security of person, the right for respect of personal life, the right to education and freedom of religion. This is a clear instance of ethnic cleansing. At the same time, Turks from Anatolia are being systematically transferred to the occupied territories and settled in the houses and properties of the expelled Greek Cypriots. This blatant effort to alter the demographic composition of Cyprus constitutes a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and, as the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has stressed, a form of colonialism (resolution 1987/19 of 2 September 1987).

There is yet another group of persons whose human rights are being violated by the occupying power, namely the Turkish Cypriots. They have no right to visit the government controlled areas and to meet with the Greek Cypriots, some of who are their relatives. They cannot form a political party expressing the view that the island should be united again under a single administration. Their property and economic output are used to cover the costs of the Turkish occupation as well as of the inflow of settlers from Anatolia. Furthermore, the Turkish Cypriot "leader" - who, according to the European Court of Human Rights, is only heading a "subordinate local administration" for the acts of which Turkey is internationally responsible - is obviously ignoring the wishes of his people, inter alia, when he states that, should Cyprus join the European Union, the Turkish community would have no alternative than integration with Turkey. This is an option, which, according to The Economist, is only supported by 8% of the Turkish Cypriots, while 90% want to join the European Union (The Economist, February 24 - March 2, 2, p. 28).

If the Turkish troops indeed invaded the island allegedly to save the Turkish Cypriots from hardship and uphold their rights, how can one explain that, since 1974, more than a third of the Turkish Cypriots of the northern part of Cyprus have left the island in search of that elusive "better life" that has been promised them? Moreover, the recent grave riots have brought to the fore the discontent of the Turkish Cypriots who remain on the occupied part of the island. They want Mr. Denktash to step down and the Turkish army to withdraw from the island.

As far as the missing persons are concerned, their fate remains unknown to this date since Turkey has persistently refused to fulfil its obligations in this respect. Yet, as the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stated, the obligation to protect the right to life entails the duty to conduct some form of official investigation when individuals have been killed as a result of the use of force by agents of the State (see e.g. McCann and Others, Kaya and Gulec cases).

But Turkeys actions are not only directed against the population of Cyprus. As stated in the Preamble of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, "damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind." And still, the systematic destruction and looting of churches, monasteries and other monuments by the Turkish occupying forces continues unabated.

The Cyprus problem is not just a Greek-Turkish dispute. It is an issue related to everything that the United Nations and this Commission, in particular, stand for. Its solution on the basis of the resolutions of the United Nations would put an end to the current situation which is detrimental to both communities.

We call on the international community to put the necessary pressure on Ankara to cooperate in good faith for a just and viable solution which will ensure the full respect of the human rights of the entire population of Cyprus. The selectivity demonstrated by the powerful of this Earth in addressing and sanctioning human rights violations is leading to injustice and constitutes a threat to international peace and security. It is also deeply disappointing to witness the ensuing lack of effectiveness of international institutions in imposing the rules which they have the duty to defend, particularly when small nations are victims of violations of such rules.