05 March 2010: Human rights group Embargoed! welcomed today’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which upheld that the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) in North Cyprus was an “accessible and effective” local remedy for Greek Cypriot refugees. The group called the judgment “a victory for common sense and Cyprus”.
In its landmark ruling on the case of Demopoulos vs.Turkey and 7 other cases, the ECHR held that the IPC was “an appropriate domestic body, with access to the relevant information” and therefore an “appropriate forum for deciding on complex matters of property ownership and valuation and assessing financial compensation, notwithstanding the time and efforts required from the applicants to exhaust domestic remedies”. The decision effectively quashed the view argued by the Greek Cypriot authorities and applicants, that the IPC was not valid as it was in the “illegally occupied territories”.
The ruling noted that in November 2009, the number of cases brought before the IPC stood at 433, of which 85 had been concluded, the vast majority through “friendly settlement”. To date, the IPC had awarded 47 million euros as compensation for over 70 cases, and the restitution of some 361,493 square metres of property. The Court also accepted that after more than 35 years of the properties being left by Greek Cypriots following the war in Cyprus, it would “risk being arbitrary and injudicious for the Court to impose an obligation to effect restitution in all cases – which would result in the forcible eviction and re-housing of many men, women and children”.
The Court also stressed that this ruling should not to be interpreted as an obligation to make use of the IPC and that refugees could choose to wait for a comprehensive political solution. However, if applicants wished to lodge an application before the ECHR, its admissibility would be decided in line with the principles laid out in today’s ruling – essentially, all local remedies including the IPC in North Cyprus, must have been exhausted first.
Embargoed! spokesperson Ata Cholak said, “This is a great victory for common sense and Cyprus – it checks the ridiculous piecemeal legal action encouraged by profiteering lawyers, which has added untold stress and years of waiting for Cypriot refugees. People on both sides have suffered because of the conflict and urgently need closure. The IPC strikes a balance between an individual’s right and the parameters established for a comprehensive settlement. It was established on the recommendation of the ECHR and – as the Court has agreed – it functions in accordance with international law.” He continued, “The IPC has resulted in tens of people enjoying a fair, fast and local resolution to their property dispute. We now hope the principles behind this ruling can be applied to the whole island – it will mean Turkish Cypriot refugees can enjoy the same rights to a fair and fast remedy, something which is currently not possible in the Republic of Cyprus.”
The group is holding two seminars on the Cyprus Property issue on 15 March 2010. Titled “Solving the Cyprus Property Conundrum”, a pool of experts from North Cyprus will review this complicated issue in light of current developments. A closed session will take place at the House of Lords on Monday morning, with a public seminar held in the evening in Room D302, situated on the third floor of Clement House at the London School of Economics (LSE) in Aldwych. The two hour event starts at 18.30 and has limited capacity; interested persons are invited to contact Embargoed! to reserve their place (email: email@example.com or call + 44 (0)7806 932966). Further details about the LSE event can be found on the Embargoed! website, www.embargoed.org.