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Illegal Demographic Changes

Illegal Demographic Changes

In the part of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish army, Turkey’s Government has, since 1974, implemented a policy of systematic colonisation in order to change the demographic character of the island. According to reports confirmed in both the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot press, these settlers come from the Turkish mainland and are of Turkish citizenship. Today in the occupied part of Cyprus there are about 150,000 - 160,000 settlers. There is of course, also, a presence of 35,000 Turkish occupation troops. Over the same period, a total of 55,000 Turkish Cypriots emigrated from Cyprus. In fact the number of Turkish Cypriots in the occupied part of Cyprus has actually fallen from 116,000 in 1974 down to 89,000 at present. A natural population increase would have brought this figure up to 153,578. The main Turkish objectives in adopting this policy of colonization in the occupied part of Cyprus appear to be the following:

(1) To change the demographic character and to distort the population balance on the island between Turks and Greeks of the island, in order to justify the claims of the Turkish side regarding the territorial and constitutional aspects of the Cyprus Problem.

(2) To ethnically cleanse the occupied area and massively transfer mainland Turks. This policy, combined with the expulsion of the Greek Cypriot inhabitants of the area, the destruction of cultural heritage and illegal change of all the geographical names of the occupied part of Cyprus, aimed at erasing all that was Greek and Christian for centuries and “turkifying” the area.

(3) To shift the balance of political power in the occupied part of Cyprus and influence elections, in order to ensure that the Turkish Cypriot leadership is kept in line with the policy of the Turkish Government.

(4) To exercise control over political life in the occupied area. To that effect, the colonists have been given "citizenship", Greek Cypriot properties, "voting rights" and work permits. They have been organised in political parties, the main ones of which are the “Nationalist Justice Party” and the “National Revival Party”. They also participate in other political parties and play an important role in political life. 

(5) To control and manipulate the political will of the Turkish Cypriots (even in the post-solution era) 

(6) To buttress Turkey’s military presence on the island. To provide additional trained reserves for the Turkish occupation forces in Cyprus.

(7) To prejudice a just settlement of the Cyprus problem by creating illegal faits accomplis which could prove practically difficult to reverse.

Turkey’s policy of colonization in Cyprus is contrary to the 1960 Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, signed between the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus. Annex D to the Treaty governs Cyprus’ citizenship and makes it impossible and unlawful for either Community to upset the demographic balance by bringing in large numbers of ethnic Turks or Greeks and contend that they were of Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot descent and therefore entitled to come to Cyprus. Section 4, paragraph. 7, imposes quotas regarding the grant of citizenship to persons who had emigrated to Greece, Turkey or the British Commonwealth having before 1955 been resident in Cyprus, or who were descended from Ottoman subjects resident in Cyprus in 1914.

Settlers and international law

The colonization policy is contrary to international law. Article 49 (6) of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War prohibits the transfer by an occupying power of its own civilian population in the area it occupies. It stipulates that the “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

The Commentary on Article 49(6) clarifies that the provision is intended to prohibit the demographic manipulation by an occupying power that either actively transfers its own population into the occupied territory or allows them to settle there voluntarily. 

In its Advisory Opinion in The Wall Case of July 9th 2004, the International court of Justice resolved that Article 49(6) prohibits not only forced transfers “but also any measures taken by an occupying Power in order to organize or encourage transfers of parts of its own population into the occupied territory” (par. 120).

Violation of Article 49 constitutes a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and carries penal sanction (Art.146, 147). It is considered a war crime.

Article 85 (4)(a) of the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions considers the transfer by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies as being a “grave breach” of the Convention.

Article 1 Common to the four Geneva Conventions and Art.86 of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions 1977, impose an obligation upon all High Contracting parties to implement its provisions.

Paragraphs 158-9 of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion in The Wall Case of July 9th 2004 provides that, all Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions are under a legal obligation to ensure compliance by the occupying power, with international humanitarian law as embodied in the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.

Article 7 (1) (d) defines deportation or forcible transfer of population as a “crime against humanity”, whereby "Deportation or forcible transfer of population" means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law;

Article 8 (2) (b) (viii) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists the “transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as a “war crime”.

United Nations Resolutions

In Resolutions 33/15 (1978), 24/30 (1979), 37/253 (1983) et. al. the United Nations General Assembly deplored “all unilateral actions that change the demographic structure of Cyprus.”

In its Resolution 4 (XXXII) (27/2/76) the Commission of Human Rights calls on parties to refrain from unilateral acts to change the demographic structure of Cyprus and in resolution 1987/50 (11.3.1987) the Commission on Human Rights express concern for the influx of settlers and calls for respect for the rights and freedoms of the population of Cyprus.

The presence of the settlers affects implementation of the right of the refugees to return to their homes contrary to numerous Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.

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