Illegal Exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties by Turkey in occupied areas is a criminal offence
Caution regarding property purchases in the occupied area of Cyprus
Illegal Exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties by Turkey in occupied areas is a criminal offence
Foreign citizens are warned against the purchase of Greek Cypriot owned property, in the part of the Republic of Cyprus which has been under Turkish military occupation since 1974.
As a result of the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of 36.4% of the territory of Cyprus, 170,000 Greek Cypriots, who constituted 2/3 of the inhabitants of the occupied area, were forced to flee from their homes. According to the 1964 Land Registry Office Records, Greek Cypriots owned approximately 78% of the privately owned land in the territory now under Turkish occupation, while persons belonging to the Turkish Cypriot community owned approximately 21%.
The displaced persons are to this day prevented by the Turkish armed forces from returning to their homes and peacefully enjoying their properties. However, under Human Rights Conventions, as well as international and national law, they retain their title to their property.
The European Court of Human Rights, in its Judgment of 18 December 1996, on the individual application of the Greek Cypriot displaced owner from Kyrenia, Mrs. Titina Loizidou, against Turkey, and in the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus against Turkey of 10 May 2001, upheld the rights of the refugees to their properties. In the Loizidou case, the Court ordered the Government of Turkey to compensate the applicant for the time period of deprivation of use of her property and to provide full access and allow peaceful enjoyment of her property in Kyrenia. The right of the displaced owners to their properties was reconfirmed in the most recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights (Dec. 2005) regarding the application of Myra Xenides- Arestis v. Turkey.
Greek Cypriot owners may also bring civil action against usurpers of their property before the competent civil Courts of the Republic of Cyprus. In its judgment of 15 November 2004 in the case of Meletios Apostolides v David and Linda Orams, the Nicosia District Court found the Defendants liable for trespass in the property of the Plaintiff, ordering them to demolish the villa and other buildings erected on the property, surrender vacant possession to the Plaintiff and pay damages. Pursuant to EC Regulation 44/2001, the judgments of the civil courts of the Republic of Cyprus can be enforced in any of the Member States of the European Union against the assets of the Defendants in that state. On 6 September 2006 a Judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in the UK issued his judgment on the Orams’ appeal against registration and enforcement in Britain of the Cyprus judgment in favour of Mr. Apostolides.
Although on technical points the British Court avoided getting involved in enforcing the Cyprus judgment and allowed Orams's appeal, it needs to be stressed that on the substance of the case the British Court pointed out that, according to the relevant judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the property rights of Mr. Apostolides in relation to the property in question remain in force and Mr. Apostolides remains the lawful owner of his property in Lapithos. Therefore, it accepts the finding of the Cyprus Court that the Orams are trespassers on the property of Mr. Apostolides and should be treated as trespassers. Leave to appeal against this judgment of the High Court has already been granted to Mr. Apostolides, which means that judicial proceedings in the case are still continuing, ultimately leading to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which has the final say in matters of interpretation of EU law.
Under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus, the exploitation of property registered in the name of another, constitutes a criminal offence, for which a European arrest warrant, executable in any of the 25 EU countries, and an International arrest warrant could be issued.
The illegality of the secessionist entity
It is reminded that the regime in the occupied area is an illegal secessionist entity (United Nations Security Council Resolutions 541 (1983), 550 (1984) called upon all states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and not to recognize any state in Cyprus other than the Republic of Cyprus). As stated by the European Court of Human Rights in its examination of the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus v Turkey (10 May 2001), "§61. .. it is evident from international practice and the condemnatory tone of the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council and the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers that the international community does not recognise the "TRNC" as a State under international law. The Court reiterates the conclusion reached in its Loizidou judgment (merits) that the Republic of Cyprus has remained the sole legitimate government of Cyprus…"
As such, the illegal secessionist entity in the occupied area of Cyprus does not have jurisdiction to perform valid transfers of property ownership.
Caution for foreign citizens
Thus, foreign citizens interested in purchasing property in the area under Turkish military occupation are strongly advised to thoroughly examine the legal ownership status of the property concerned, through the Lands and Surveys Department of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Cyprus, in order to ascertain, at first, that no violation of the property rights of the legal owners will be effected through the transaction, and, second, to safeguard that the purported seller is the true owner of the property and can transfer a valid title.
Foreign visitors are further advised that, material advertising property offered for sale in the areas which are not under the effective control of the Government, found in the possession of persons coming from the areas situated north of the buffer zone to the areas under the effective control of the Government, can and may be confiscated.
Given that more than 4/5 of the property in the areas situated in the north of the buffer zone belongs to forcibly displaced owners (the term ‘owners’ includes the Republic of Cyprus), one can reasonably reach the conclusion that this advertising material relates to illegal activities, even if at the time of its discovery there is no evidence linking the object of the advertisement to specific displaced owners.
The material in question could be used as evidence in a future case against usurpers of property in the areas situated north of the buffer zone. It is also considered material that could be used in the commission of crimes, such as under Article 281 of the Penal Code – use of land registered in the name of another without the consent of the registered owner - and Article 14 of the Law on the Registration of Estate Agents – whereby, no person can exercise the profession of a real estate agent or project himself as such, unless he is duly registered and in possession of an annual license issued by the Registration Council of Real Estate Agents.
On the basis of the above, such advertising material can be confiscated, since there is reasonable suspicion that it is at the core of the illegal sale of property in the areas situated to the north of the buffer zone. After its confiscation, the said material would be transmitted to the police for evaluation and appropriate use. It is imperative that complete testimonies be taken from the persons carrying this material, since they could be potential witnesses in judicial proceedings. If there is reasonable suspicion that the person in possession of the material is actively participating in circles promoting illegal property transactions or exploitation of hotels belonging to displaced owners, an arrest warrant will be issued against him.
The northern part of the Republic of Cyprus, under Turkish military occupation since the Turkish invasion of 1974, has been experiencing an unprecedented construction and "property sale" boom. The Turkish armed forces which are in occupation of 36,4% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, have since 1974 forcibly expelled approximately 170,000 Greek Cypriots from their ancestral homes and placed their properties at the disposal of its own "authorities." The properties were initially used for the needs of the Turkish army and the Turkish Cypriots. With the commencement of Turkey’s organized colonization of occupied Cyprus in late 1974 many such properties were handed over to Turkish mainland settlers. The distribution of properties was also used by the Turkish Cypriot leadership to "buy off" political influence both within and without their community.
In 2002, the Turkish occupation regime allowed the current possessors of occupied properties to "transfer" such properties to third parties at large, hence facilitating the rise of an unprecedented "property market".
The construction and "sales" boom exploded after the submission, in 2002, of a controversial United Nations plan to solve the Cyprus Problem. The proposed plan only minimally facilitated the legal right of displaced persons to get property restitution. The plan’s provisions favoured the transfer of property titles to the current occupiers of these properties. A large proportion of the properties from which Greek Cypriot owners were expelled, were unlawfully distributed to and are currently being used by the approximately 160,000 Turkish settlers illegally brought into the occupied area by Turkey, in order to change the demographic structure of Cyprus. Had the plan been implemented, it would have allowed for the settlers to retain possession of such properties, thus legitimising Turkey’s policy of ethnic cleansing in Cyprus.
In August 2004 Ahmet Uzun, the so-called "Finance Minister" of Turkey’s puppet regime in the occupied area, stated that the UN Plan provided an incentive to build on Greek Cypriot property located there, because persons investing in such property could have priority over the legitimate Greek Cypriot refugee title-holder in its ownership. Such provisions were indeed an incentive and facilitated the haste to build on usurped properties and to "sell" them mainly to British and other European citizens seeking a home in the sunny Mediterranean.
Despite the policies of the Turkish occupation forces to alienate the properties of the displaced Greek Cypriots, who are to this day prevented from returning to their ancestral homes and peacefully enjoy their properties, the original owners have not lost title to their properties.
According to the 1964 Land and Registry record, approximately 78,37% of the privately owned land in the territory now under Turkish occupation, was owned by persons belonging to the Greek Cypriot community, while persons belonging to the Turkish Cypriot community owned approximately 21,37%. That position still obtained in 1974. Of the 3.241.930.428 square meters of the occupies area, 60,27% is owned by Greek Cypriots, 16,39% is owned by Turkish Cypriots and 23,09% is owned by the Republic of Cyprus.
Anyone who has "bought" or is seeking to "buy" Greek Cypriot owned property in the occupied part of the Republic does so illegally. As first discovered by a British couple in October 2004, anyone contributing to the ongoing plunder of such properties becomes a potential target for criminal and civil law suits in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus. The resulting arrest warrants and decisions could then be judicially enforced abroad.
The extent of exploitation
On 23 August 2004, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Cypriot affairs, Abdullatif Sener, was reported by Milliyet as having stated that the number of properties that foreigners had "bought" in the occupied areas of Cyprus had increased tenfold over the last two years!
Referring to the intense land development observed in the occupied territories since 2002, the Republic of Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister and State Minister, Mr. Abdullatif Sener, stated, inter alia, that:
- in 2001 foreigners "purchased" 63,000 square meters ("s.m.") of land,
- in 2002, 290,000 s.m.,
- in 2003, 613,000 s.m.,
Mr. Sener noted that 1.000.000 m2 of land were sold during the last 3 ½ years alone in occupied Kyrenia. Mr. Sener admitted that Greek Cypriot properties are involved in the abovementioned transactions, noting that “the fact that in the past few years foreigners are buying also properties the title deeds of which belongs to Greek Cypriots is noteworthy.” (Turkish newspaper Milliyet, 23 August 2004).
The so-called “Minister of Interior of the TRNC” Mr Ozgan Murat has been recorded in Turkish Cypriot daily KIBRIS (27.11.05) as saying that, in the last 30 years (1973-2003) foreigners had bought a total of 2,600 donums of land. In 2004 alone, 2,827 donums of land had been sold – a number greater than in the previous 30 years!
This is primarily reflected in the increase of imports of construction material. The imports of building bricks, for example, increased by 3, 114 %, the imports of cement by 262 %, the imports of iron by 219 % and the imports of stones by 585%. At the same time, while the average daily production at the stone quarries was five thous and tonnes, in 2004 this production increased to twelve tonnes daily.
The Turkish Cypriot politician, Mr. Izzet Izcan, stated that in the period April-September 2004 the value of property "sales" in the occupied territories reached $2 billion.
Turkish Cypriot daily YENI DUZEN (08.05.06) reports the area of land upon which constructions were erected, from year 2000 to 2005.
( in square meters)
Taking into consideration the average figures as regards the “development” in the construction sector, the advancement of the last four years has reached a point that it should normally have been reached in 9 years time. Speaking to the paper about the issue, Mr Osman Yilmaz, the President of the Chamber of Civil Engineers, stated that if someone looks at the figures of the last years and the progress that took place in the construction sector, one can see that they should have reached this stage of development in the year 2015. As he said, the main problems faced in this sector are the inspections and the buildings which take place without any control.
Ankara Anatolia news agency (04.04.06) reports figures supplied by Mr Soyer:
|YEAR||APPLICATIONS BY FOREIGNERS |
FOR THE PURCHASE OF PROPERTY
|ACTUAL PURCHASES OF PROPERTY|
(first two months)
The Turkish Cypriot weekly Cyprus Today (March 18-24 2006) hosts statements of the so-called “Interior Minister” Mr Ozgan Murat, who acknowledged a slight fall in the number of applications now being made by foreigners for the purchase of a holiday house, but rejected speculation that the property industry was in a slump, saying that 2004 had been a freak year, but the level of purchases was now on a normal track.
Involvement of the occupation regime and the occupying power
The occupation regime promotes the exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties, aiming at their alienation from their original owners and the further complication of the resolution of the Cyprus problem. This is done via:
- The encouragement of foreign citizens to invest in property in the occupied area. According to the statements of so-called “officials” of the occupation regime, the sale of Greek Cypriot properties to foreigners is under “state guarantee.” (Under the title “Britons’ homes in Turkish Cyprus ‘are safe,’” David Rennie of the News Telegraph reports (11/3/06) that, “thousands of British families who bought cheap houses of land in northern Cyprus were told by Mr Soyer, during a visit in London, that their investments were secure, even if European courts ruled that their property was stolen from Greek owners during the 1974 division of the island. He said, “Everything is under our ‘state’ guarantee.”) Furthermore, there have been tax reductions, curtailing of procedures and pleas to foreign governments not to enforce arrest warrants issued against usurpers of property.
- The securing of funds for the construction and sale of properties:
- The so-called “Prime Minister” Mr Soyer and Mr Serdar Denktas met with the administrative council of the “Central Cooperative Bank” in order to find ways to prevent the “North Cyprus Properties,” the second largest real estate agency from going into bankruptcy. Mr Soyer said that if “NCP cannot fulfill its commitments towards its clients, the whole constructions sector in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus will receive a big blow.” (VOLKAN - 02.01.06)
- Protection of Gary Robb, wanted by Interpol, in order for him to complete the construction and sale of properties undertaken by his company (Afrika - 9/7/06). A “state official” was previously appointed to the administration of AGA Development to complete construction. (Turkish Cypriot daily VOLKAN - 03.01.06)
- The planning and availability of funds for the construction of tourist facilities:
- The so-called “Minister of Economy and Tourism” announced that 2,000 donums of land in the Morphou area will be given for “tourism development.” 18 new hotels are to be constructed in that area. (Turkish Cypriot daily KIBRIS - 20.4.06) Calling for investments in the area, the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat stated that plans for the construction of 40 5-star hotels spread on 7km in the western shores of Cyprus, will soon be announced.
- Hotel bed capacity in the occupied area is to be increased to 30,000 marking a 100% increase. Hotel beds in Karpas will increase from 600 to 6,000 (Turkish Cypriot daily HALKIN SESI (05/12/05), under the title “Karpas is being prepared to be the heart of tourism”). The Turkish Government and the illegal regime have established a fund to subsidize the construction of pensions in the Karpas peninsula.
- In 28 years only 8,000 bed facilities were built in the occupied area, whereas with the project at Vokolida village, 7,500 bed-facilities will be built in two years. (Turkish Cypriot daily CUMHURIYET, statements of Serdar Denktas) Vokolida has been targeted for major construction.
- The Turkish Foreign Ministry is among the “investors” at occupied Vokolida, constructing a hotel with a bed capacity of 700 (Turkish Cypriot daily YENI DUZEN - 06.06.06). According to foreign press, the “Vokolida development project” is a venture of 9 Turkish investment companies (Helsingin Sanomat - 15/7/2006).
- Turgay Avci, so-called “MP” of the National Unity Party (UBP), said that only 15 out of the 200 tourist installations, built or are under construction in the occupied area have Turkish Cypriot title deed (Turkish Cypriot daily KIBRIS - 15.12.05).
- The Turkish Prime Minister (20/7/06) in his address on the anniversary of the Turkish invasion stated that the aim is that the occupied area becomes one of the most important tourist centres in the area.
Legal and practical implications flowing from the unlawful exploitation of properties in the occupied territories
1. All who contribute to the unlawful exploitation by supplying goods, services and capital to the actual trespassers are aggravating the on-going violation of the locally (Cf. Articles 16 right to home and 23 right to property of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus) and internationally (Cf., for instance, Article 8 (right to home) and Article 1-Protocol 1 (right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions) of the European Convention on Human Rights in conjunction with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Loizidou v. Turkey (1995, 1996, 1998), Cyprus v. Turkey (2001), Demades v. Turkey (2003) and Eugenia Michaelidou Developments Ltd. and Michael Tymvios v. Turkey (2003), which, inter alia, confirm that owners΄ title to immovable properties of which they were dispossessed through Turkey’s 1974 invasion and on-going occupation remain as valid as ever and that Turkey bears international responsibility for the continuing violation of the home/property rights of the said persons. In its recent Admissibility Decision in Xenides-Arestis v. Turkey (2005) the Court confirmed Turkey΄s “jurisdiction” under Article 1 of the ECHR for human rights violations in occupied Cyprus and once again accepted official certificates of ownership from the Department of Lands and Surveys of the Republic of Cyprus as proof of the Applicant΄s ownership of the relevant property) recognized home and property rights of the lawful owners, thus subjecting themselves to the risk of criminal prosecutions (for the violation of Article 281 of the Penal Code of the Republic of Cyprus) and/or civil suits (for trespass).
In light of the Republic of Cyprus΄ accession to the European Union on May 1st 2004, arrest warrants and civil judgments (Under EC Regulation 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters) issued by Cypriot courts can be judicially enforced in the rest of the Union (See the case of Meletios Apostolides v. David Charles Orams and Linda Elizabeth Orams, where a Cypriot court ordered the British Defendants to demolish a villa and swimming pool they had constructed on Mr. Apostolides΄ property, situated in the Turkish-occupied north. The Defendants were also ordered to no longer interfere with Mr. Apostolides΄ property and to pay compensation for their interference thus far. The Plaintiff is currently seeking to enforce the court΄s judgment against the Defendants΄ assets in the UK.).
2. The unlawful exploitation also engages Turkey’s own international legal responsibility since no construction can take place without the license of its subordinate local administration in the occupied area.
As decided by the European Court of Human Rights in its judgments in the Loizidou v Turkey case (18 December 1996) and the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus v Turkey (10 May 2001), Turkey is responsible for the situation in the occupied area, by virtue of its exercise of effective control over that territory via the presence of a large number of its troops
3. Perpetuation of the illegal faits accomplis engendered by the Turkish occupation and prejudicing—on a daily basis—of a just and international law-conforming solution of the Cyprus problem, which should respect the twin freedoms of establishment and property ownership across the island.
4. Creation of conditions which encourage the transfer of labourers from Turkey who end up settling down and colonizing the occupied territories, thus expanding the unlawful Turkish settlement already in full swing there. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 Turks have made their way to the Turkish-occupied north in 2004 alone, so as to engage in construction-related employment.
5. Destruction of the natural environment and of archaeological sites to make room for unbridled development, which, as pointed out by the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, is clogging up the infrastructure (water, electricity, roads etc.) in the Turkish-occupied north and is churning out low quality buildings that will have problems in case of an earthquake.
6. Construction upon graves reportedly containing the remains of Greek Cypriot missing persons murdered during the Turkish invasion of 1974, thus desecrating their memory and complicating efforts to identify and return their remains to their loved ones for proper burial.
International organisations and treaties protect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of ownership and restitution of properties. The Right to Property and the Right to Home are safeguarded by Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights codifies the right to freedom of movement and residence, as well as the right to own property. Article 17(2) provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
The Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations have repeatedly stressed, in several of their resolutions on Cyprus, the violation of human rights by the Turkish occupation forces. The Security Council with its Resolution 361 (1974) “expresses its grave concern for the plight of refugees and other persons displaced as a result of the situation in Cyprus and urges the parties concerned to search for peaceful solutions to the problems of refugees and to take appropriate measures to provide for their relief and welfare and to permit persons who wish to do so to return to their homes in safety.”
The UN General Assembly, through its resolution 3212 (1974) states that “all the refugees should return to their homes in safety.” By its Resolution 3395 (1975) calls for the resumption of measures for the facilitation of the voluntary return of all refugees to their homes in safety and the settlement of all other aspects of the refugee problem.” Resolutions 33/15 and 34/30 call for the facilitation of the voluntary return of the refugees to their homes in safety. Resolution 37/253 (13/5/1983), “calls for the restoration and respect of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots, including the freedom of movement, the freedom of settlement and the right to property.”
Resolution 4(XXXII) of the Commission on Human Rights adopted on 27/2/76 calls “for the adoption of measures to facilitate the voluntary return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes in safety and to settle all other aspects of the refugee problem,” Resolution 4 (XXXI) of the Commission on Human Rights (13/2/75) calls upon the undertaking of urgent measures for the return of all refugees to their homes in safety;” Resolution 17 (XXXIV) 7/3/78 and Resolution 1987/50 of 11/3/87 reiterate the previous resolutions on the Restoration of the rights of the refugees. Resolution 1987/19 of the Sub-Commission on the prevention of discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 2/9/87 “demands the full restoration of all human rights to the whole population of Cyprus, including the freedom of settlements and the right to property.”
The right of refugees to restitution of their property was reaffirmed in August 2004. The UN Sub- Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights unanimously approved the "Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons" and declared that these principles "emphasized the importance of restitution as a form of restorative justice… They reflect the view that a human rights approach to return and restitution will yield equitable and sustainable results in achieving the restoration of housing and property rights for refugees and displaced persons and in creating long-term stability." The right to restitution of property is a sine qua non for conflict resolution and post-conflict peace building, as well as for the safe and the sustainable return of the refugees to their homes. The principles provide that the right of the displaced to the restitution of their property is not substituted by the payment of compensation and is not subject to any third party interest acquired in the property. The principles reiterate General Assembly Resolution 3212 on Cyprus to support the establishment of a right to the restitution of ones particular home.
The right to property is safeguarded by Article 1, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The right to respect to private life and home is codified in Article 8.
The European Court of Human Rights, in its decision of 18 December 1996, on the appeal by a Greek Cypriot refugee from Kyrenia Mrs. Titina Loizidou against Turkey, concluded that Turkey violated the ownership rights of Mrs. Loizidou by preventing her from peacefully enjoying her property in Kyrenia.
The same Court, having examined the Fourth Interstate Appeal of Cyprus against Turkey, ruled on 10 May 2001, by 16 votes for and one against - that of Turkey - that Turkey is committing a “continuous violation of Article 1 of Protocol No.1 (protection of property), because the Greek Cypriot land owners in north Cyprus are deprived of their right to free access and control, use and enjoyment of their property as well as any compensation for the interference with their property rights (paragraph 189).”
The Court also decided that “the Republic of Cyprus remains the sole legal Government of Cyprus. This means that the Republic of Cyprus continues to maintain full legal rights over its entire area and population, albeit temporarily hindered from exercising such rights in the occupied areas due to the use of military violence”. As a result, no so-called “authority” in occupied Cyprus has jurisdiction to perform administrative acts on any issue including the transfer of property ownership.
In its recent judgment in the Myra Xenides-Arestis v Turkey (22 December 2005) the Court held that “the (Turkish) Government continued to exercise overall military control over northern Cyprus and that the fact that the Greek Cypriots had rejected the Annan Plan did not have the legal consequence of bringing to an end the continuing violation of the displaced persons’ rights.”
In the Xenides-Arestis case the Court held Turkey liable for the violation of Article 8 (right to respect for the applicant’s home) of the European Convention on Human Rights; that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention and decided that Turkey should introduce a remedy, within three months, which secures, in respect of the Convention violations identified in the judgment, genuinely effective redress for the applicant as well as in relation to all similar applications (approximately 1,400) pending before the Court.
Purchasers of land will have to face legal action
European citizens who are thinking of buying or exploiting properties belonging to Greek Cypriots in the area of the Republic of Cyprus not under the effective control of the government may become the subjects of criminal and or civil action.
More specifically, in the event that a Cypriot citizen appeals to a Court of the Republic of Cyprus accusing a European citizen who lives in the Turkish-occupied areas of illegally possessing or exploiting his property, the Court may approve the issue of a warrant for his arrest, so that he can be charged. In the impossibility of an arrest because the European defendant lives in the occupied areas or has already left for another European country, the Court will have the power to issue a European arrest warrant. Consequently, the defendant will be liable to an arrest in whichever one of the 25 countries he may find himself. An international arrest warrant may also be issued.
The Courts of the Republic of Cyprus have this power following the passing of a law on 17.3.2005 by the Cyprus House of Representatives which amends Article 281 of the Penal Code, as a result of which the crime of illegal occupation, cultivation, distribution or use of immovable property carries a prison sentence of up to two years or/and a fine of up to ₤5000.
Greek Cypriot owners may also take legal action against usurpers of their property. Pursuant to EC Regulation 44/2001, the decision of the civil courts of the Republic of Cyprus can be enforced in any of the Member States of the European Union against the property of the defendants in the original proceedings.
One such case is the case of Meletios Apostolides v. David Charles Orams and Linda Elizabeth Orams, where a Cypriot court ordered the British Defendants to demolish a villa and other buildings they had constructed on Mr. Apostolides΄ field, situated in the occupied Lapethos. The Defendants were also ordered to no longer interfere with Mr. Apostolides΄ property and to pay compensation for their interference thus far.
Pursuant to the non-compliance of the defendants, the Plaintiff has sought the registration and execution of the judgment in the British High Court, under EC Regulation 44/2001. The Defendants objected to the registration. The case hearing was held on 18-20 July 2006 and the decision of the British High Court is currently pending.
Foreign Governments and professional associations issue warnings
“If you are contemplating purchasing property in the north you should be aware of the uncertainty of legal titles given the claims to ownership of persons displaced during the conflict of 1974. There is a risk that purchasers may face legal proceedings in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as attempts to enforce judgments of courts of the Republic of Cyprus through courts elsewhere in the EU. Before signing any kind of contract, you should seek independent legal advice.”
Before considering the purchase of real estate property in the northern part of Cyprus, you are advised to consult a well-informed lawyer from the Republic of Cyprus for consideration of the legal status and of the rightful title which belies the purchase of any real estate property, since there is a risk that the certificate of title of any real estate property is disputed and may be involved in a claim of restitution of the property (consult also the relevant judicature of the European Court of Human Rights).
“Purchase of immoveable property”
During or after the purchase of immovable property, both in the southern and northern part of Cyprus, complications might occur that are related to the political partitioning of the island and non-recognition of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” Belgians who wish to purchase immoveable property on Cyprus (and in particular in the northern part) are strongly advised to be informed carefully, to seek independent and qualified legal advice concerning the legal modalities.
Canadians considering the purchase of property in Cyprus should seek independent legal advice, as they may become the target of civil law suits and their ownership may be challenged by Cypriots displaced in 1974.
Denmark (embassy in Nicosia):
“It is recommended that Danish citizens who contemplate acquiring property in northern Cyprus seek independent legal assistance as there is a risk of legal actions from possible Greek Cypriot owners who were driven away from the area in 1974.
Additional information can be obtained in the travel guidelines of the British and German Foreign Ministries.”
“In case that you want to purchase land from the northern part of Cyprus, you should thoroughly consider all the circumstances and use the legal help of local professionals in the making of the purchase.”
“Before purchasing immovable property in Cyprus, it is strongly recommended to seek legal advice. Indeed, as a consequence of the international non-recognition of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC) and pending a settlement of the Cyprus issue, any real estate transaction in the north of the island involves important financial, and even legal, risks: since the entry of Cyprus into the European Union on 1 May 2004, the purchasers, or even the occupants of a disputed property (issue of the "properties despoiled" in 1974) expose themselves to proceedings not only within the Republic of Cyprus, but also in any EU Member State.”
Acquisition of property in the occupied part of Cyprus
Due to the Cyprus problem and to the unresolved questions of land ownership resulting from this conflict, the purchase of land in the part of Cyprus under Turkish military occupation involves considerable legal and financial risks. A thorough examination of any offer and independent legal advice are therefore urgently recommended. This also applies to any offers of financing, because most of them lack the required reliability. Extracts from the land register presented during the negotiations for purchase may not necessarily show the real legal situation. The acquisition of property is therefore subject to a future solution of the Cyprus problem, even in case Greek Cypriot owners or their legal successors were involved in the purchase negotiations and in the transfer of property rights. Therefore, legal guarantee is not provided. Purchasers and owners of property that belonged to Greek Cypriots before 1974 take quite a risk of being sued before a court of the Republic of Cyprus. Since the accession of Cyprus to the EU, judgments issued by Cypriot courts are enforceable in any other EU-member state.
Because of the Cyprus problem and its related ownership questions it is requested that before buying property in the northern part you should definitely ask for independent legal advice, in order to avoid claims by legal owners disputing the purchase and any legal or financial consequences as a result of court proceedings.
BUYING PROPERTY IN CYPRUS
Many Irish citizens have purchased properties in the Government controlled area of the Republic of Cyprus. However, Irish citizens considering the purchase of property in the northern part of Cyprus, which is not under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, are strongly advised to seek qualified independent legal advice due to potential claims related to title and ownership from Cypriots displaced from that area in 1974, which may lead to serious financial and legal repercussions. Potential buyers may face legal proceedings in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, decisions of which can be executed elsewhere in the EU, including Ireland.
The question of buying or building a (vacation) house in North Cyprus holds risks and is closely linked to the question of property of expelled Greek Cypriots, which is closely connected to the political situation in Cyprus. The northern part of Cyprus, the so called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is not recognized internationally, except by Turkey. Cases concerning property, like the return and/or compensation to the rightful owners from before 1974 (year of the de facto division of the island), constitute an integral part of the negotiations between parties about a comprehensive solution. The ownership problem must be solved under the larger framework of negotiations on the Cyprus question under the auspices of the United Nations. Since the de facto division of the island, negotiations are led, when they take place, within the framework of the UN. The EU and the Netherlands will, if possible, support the UN and they will exercise pressure on both parties to cooperate for a solution.
As long as there is no solution to the Cyprus problem, there is a possibility of legal proceedings in the Republic of Cyprus, against buyers of property in the north. Under certain circumstances, judicial procedures can also take place in the country of origin of the buyer. It is the responsibility of the potential buyer himself to be carefully informed about eventual risks of the real estate market in Cyprus.”
Recommendations for Romanian citizens planning to purchase properties in the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus
Romanian citizens planning to purchase properties in Cyprus are advised to seek independent qualified legal advice before purchasing, especially for the area administrated by the Turkish Cypriot community in the so called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, which is considered an internationally illegal entity.
There is a risk that purchasers in this area would face legal proceedings from the courts of the Republic of Cyprus or elsewhere in the EU.
1. As for purchase of immovable property and making other commercial transactions on the northern part of the island, we recommend to take into consideration that legally (according to the Cyprus national law and European Union law) Greek Cypriots still have their right for ownership for the considerable part of the immovable property situated on the north of Cyprus… In case immovable property transactions or investments into infrastructure development violate the Greek Cypriots’ property rights and ignore the existing legal rights, they may result in long court procedures and large penalties.
2. It is necessary to take into consideration that according to the bilateral agreement about legal assistance on civil and criminal cases (1984) the decisions of Cyprus courts are accepted and executed in the territory of the Russian Federation. In case Russian businessmen are involved in a conflict in the north of Cyprus, the ability of the Russian authorities to offer any legal or other assistance to them is quite limited for obvious reasons. Moreover their activities in contravention of the legal authorities of the Republic of Cyprus prejudice in general the legality of their business. The European Union gave effect to the procedure approved on 29 April 2004 by European Commission about trade through the “green line”. It creates a legal precedent stipulating for the export-import transactions with Turkish-Cypriot partners through official Cyprus authorities with the use of legal air and sea ports.
Property Acquisition: Spanish citizens are warned of the legal and economic risk stemming from immovable property acquisition in the northern part of Cyprus, in view of the fact that many of the terrenes and houses on offer are properties of Greek-Cypriot citizens who have not been able to recover their possessions since the Turkish invasion of 1974. They continue to assert their property titles, in a legal and judicial manner: in several recent cases the Courts of the Republic of Cyprus have issued judgments against foreigners, ordering the destruction of the houses that have been acquired in a legally fraudulent manner. It is therefore advised to always consult with a lawyer in Spain before initiating any kind of legal transaction relevant to leasing, buying-selling or to any other dealings in that part of Cyprus. It is also reminded that all documents and contracts issued by the self-proclaimed “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (given that they emanate from a “state” not recognized by Spain) lack any kind of legal validity in our country, as well as in most of the world. The mere holding of leaflets advertising there properties may cause problems at the moment of crossing the “green line”.
Sweden: The advice was published by “Konsument Europa,” the competent authority to issue such. The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not issue travel advices.
Planning on Buying property in Cyprus?
If you are planning on buying property in Cyprus, you should consult legal experts! In 1974 Cyprus was invaded by Turkey and ever since the country has been divided. In 1983 the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” was declared, an entity only recognized by Turkey. This is a political situation that may have profound practical and financial implications for those who buy property in northern Cyprus. The buyer may also risk a lawsuit in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus.
Apart from the above complications there are also special rules applying to foreign citizens who buy property in the northern part of Cyprus that a buyer should be aware of before entering an agreement.
Read more information from the Embassy of Cyprus (PIO).
Documents relating to the purchase of property in northern Cyprus will be presumed by the Cypriot authorities to relate to the illegal transfer of Greek Cypriot property and may be subject to confiscation when crossing the Green Line. Anyone in possession of these documents may be asked to make a statement to the Cypriot authorities.
Before purchasing property anywhere in Cyprus you are strongly advised to seek qualified legal advice from a source that is independent from the seller.
Property issues are closely linked to the political situation. There are a number of potential practical, financial and legal implications, particularly for those considering buying property in the north. These relate to the non-recognition of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus", the suspension of EU law in northern Cyprus, the possible consequences for property of a future settlement, and the many thousands of claims to ownership from people displaced in 1974. There is also a risk that purchasers would face legal proceedings in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as attempts to enforce judgments from the courts of the Republic of Cyprus elsewhere in the EU, including the UK.
Furthermore, the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) warned Britons considering buying a property in the occupied areas of the island to exercise caution and conduct thorough research into the ownership of the land it is built on. In a press release posted on NAEA's website on 21 November 2005, interested buyers are being warned that they could be violating the Greek owners' legal rights which might lead to serious legal and financial consequences. Special reference is made to the several cases on this issue that have already been filed before the courts, both in the Republic of Cyprus and in the European Court of Human Rights, and to the Orams case in particular.
U.S. Citizens who buy or lease property, particularly in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, may find their ownership challenged by people displaced in 1974. Prospective property buyers should seek legal advice before buying. The Republic of Cyprus regards these transactions as illegal. Its customs authorities may confiscate documents relating to the purchase or leasing of such property upon arrival in Cyprus or when crossing the Green Line.