Washington, D.C. – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has made a key ruling permitting the continuation of a lawsuit by a Greek Cypriot whose property was seized by Turkey in its 1974 invasion of Cyprus.
“This is an important and expected ruling. The Court found that Ms Xenides-Arestis’s legal claim against Turkey could proceed, despite Turkey’s continued attempts to disclaim responsibility,” said Euripides L. Evriviades, Cyprus’ Ambassador to the United States. “We are pleased that the property rights of those displaced by the invasion have yet again been recognized by the highest European court on human rights.”
The ECHR ruling was made in the case of Myra Xenides-Arestis who, in November 1998, lodged a complaint against Turkey for the continuing violation of her rights under the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. She contended that since August 1974 she has been deprived of her property rights. Her property is located in the Famagusta section of Cyprus which is within the area that the Turkish army continues to occupy. Ms. Xenides-Arestis maintained that the continuing occupation prevents her from having access, use and enjoyment of her home and property.
The ECHR ruled that Turkey continues to exercise overall military control of northern Cyprus and that the Turkish-sponsored subordinate local administration in occupied Cyprus could not be the entity that could resolve this issue. Furthermore, the court does not absolve Turkey of its responsibility with regard to the violation of human rights in Cyprus because, as Ankara had claimed, the Greek Cypriots rejected a proposed solution plan by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The decision also noted that even if the UN plan had been adopted, it would not have provided immediate remedy with regard to the restitution of Greek Cypriot properties.
The court stated that Ms. Xenides-Arestis had proven her ownership of the property and that Turkey had not substantiated its argument disputing her status as a victim. Furthermore, the ECHR ruled that the contention that Ms. Xenides-Arestis could approach the compensation commission of the administrative entity in the occupied area for resolution of her case was invalid because it cannot be considered as an “effective” and “adequate” domestic remedy which Greek Cypriots must exhaust before filing recourse to the European Court.
The court continues to consider Turkey responsible for what happens in the occupied areas of Cyprus, since Turkey exercises actual and overall control through the presence of its military troops and notes that the equal status the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities enjoyed during the negotiations on the Annan plan “does not entail recognition” of the illegal turkish entity in the occupied part of Cyprus.