Cyprus Issue


When the cease-fire line was drawn on 18 August at the end of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, about 20,000 people - mostly Greek Cypriots and a few hundred Maronites - were enclaved in the part of the island occupied by Turkey.

Most were inhabitants of the Karpass peninsula, who were trapped in this north-eastern part of Cyprus known as the panhandle, as a result of the Turkish army's hasty push south to split the island.

By December 1974 some 12,000 people had chosen to remain in their homes and not to move to the government-controlled part of Cyprus. Over the years, however, these people have been the victims of a policy of ethnic cleansing by the occupying forces, long before the term was coined. Harassed and intimidated, the vast majority eventually left for the free areas.

The denial of their human rights, their harsh living conditions and the constant harassment they were made to endure, has forced many of the enclaved to abandon their homes and properties in the occupied area and cross to the government-controlled area as refugees. Now just 421 Greek Cypriots and 155 Maronites, mostly elderly people, remain in this area which was once populated only by Greek Cypriots.

Under mounting international pressure the Turkish Cypriot side signed in Vienna in August 1975, in the presence of Mr Kurt Waldheim the UN Secretary-General at the time, a humanitarian agreement stipulating that Greek Cypriots in the occupied area would be free to stay and that their families could join them.

The agreement, known as the Vienna III agreement, ( also stipulated that the enclaved be given "every help to lead a normal life, including facilities for education and for the practice of their religion, as well as medical care by doctors of their own community". The United Nations would have free and normal access to Greek Cypriot villages and habitations in the north.

The Turkish side, however, did not implement any of the measures. The enclaved persons are denied access even to their own doctors. No secondary schools are allowed to operate and in the two existing primary schools the textbooks are severely censored. The enclaved, moreover, are not allowed freedom of movement. They are restricted to their villages and immediate surroundings and members of families living in the government-controlled area, who are over 18-year-old, are not allowed to visit them.

The UN Secretary-General has repeatedly noted in reports to the Security Council that the Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the northern part of the island are far from leading the normal life they were promised under the agreement reached between the two sides at Vienna on 2 August 1975.

Moreover, a humanitarian review undertaken by the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in 1995 (S/1995/1020), documents in detail the situation. It observes: "The Greek Cypriots of Karpass are now a small minority in a part of Cyprus, which was once almost totally Greek Cypriot, and they are subjected to a system whose long-term aim appears to be directed towards the eventual extinction of the Greek Cypriot community in Karpass".

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly found Turkey guilty of human rights violations during and after the invasion and occupation of part of Cyprus. In its latest judgement in the case of Cyprus V. Turkey ( application no.25781/94 ) on May 10, 2001 found, by sixteen votes to one, the Turkish vote, that Turkey committed 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. Out of these, seven violations concern the living conditions of the enclaved people in the Turkish occupied area of Cyprus. More specifically, the Court held that Turkey committed the following violations :
- a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) in respect of Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus, concerning the effects of restrictions on freedom of movement which limited access to places of worship and participation in other aspects of religious life.
- a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) in respect of Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus in so far as school-books destined for use in their primary school were subject to excessive measures of censorship.
- a continuing violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 in respect of Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus in that their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions was not secured in case of their permanent departure from that territory and in that, in case of death, inheritance rights of relatives living in southern Cyprus were not recognised.
- a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) in respect of Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus in so far as no appropriate secondary-school facilities were available to them.
- a violation of Article 3 in that the Greek Cypriots living in the Karpas area of northern Cyprus had been subjected to discrimination amounting to degrading treatment.
- a violation of Article 8 concerning the right of Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus to respect for their private and family life and to respect for their home;
- a violation of Article 13 by reason of the absence, as a matter of practice, of remedies in respect of interferences by the authorities with the rights of Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus under Articles 3, 8, 9 and 10 of the Convention and Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol No. 1.

The basic human rights of this group of people, whose only sin is to be ethnically Greek or Maronite, should be protected, as should the right of return of all the refugees.

Entry Date 10/8/2001