Republic of Cyprus

Enclaved Persons


The deplorable living conditions of the Cypriot enclaved can be demonstrated by the simple recounting of their numbers following the Turkish invasion of 1974. In July of that year the Greek Cypriot population of the area presently occupied by the Turkish army was 162,000. At the end of the second phase of the Turkish invasion in August 1974, 142,000 Cypriots were expelled or forced to flee. The majority of the 20,000 Cypriots who remained, mostly in the Karpas peninsula (Report S/11488 of the UNSG to the Security Council dated 4 September 1974), were gradually forced to abandon the area. The number of Greek Cypriots living in this area today has diminished to only 338 Greek Cypriots and 105 Maronites. As a consequence, the total number of Cypriots expelled from their homes rises to over 160.000, that is one third of the total population of Cyprus in 1974.


The diminution is all the more striking considering the fact of the agreement reached in Vienna on 2 August, 1975, by which the Turkish side undertook to give the enclaved population “every help to lead a normal life, including facilities for education and for the practice of their religion, as well as medical care by their own doctors and freedom of movement in the north”. In practice the Cypriots were subjected to constant harassment, including physical assaults, restrictions to their movement, denial of access to adequate medical care, denial of adequate educational facilities, especially beyond the elementary school level, curtailment of their right to use and bequeath their immovable property and curtailment of freedom of worship in their churches and monasteries. This was therefore a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing, forcing the enclaved to abandon their homes, so that all traces of Greek Cypriot presence in the occupied part of Cyprus would be eradicated.

The United Nations Peace Keeping Force, mindful of the plight of the enclaved, reviewed the situation and made several recommendations for the amelioration of their situation, as reported by the Secretary General to the Security Council (Report of 10 December, 1995, S/1995/1020, par. 24). Some of the most important recommendations are as follows:

“That all restrictions on land travel should be lifted, that access to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery should be unrestricted, that Greek Cypriots should be allowed to travel in their own cars, that they should be allowed to receive visitors from outside the occupied area, that children of the enclaved forced by the Turkish side to live in the government-controlled area for educational reasons should be allowed to visit their parents without hindrance, that they should be allowed to bequeath their property to their next of kin that they should be allowed to have secondary schools, that the constant presence of “police” in their lives should end, that they should have unrestricted access to telephones, that they should be allowed visits by Greek Cypriot doctors, that UNFICYP should be allowed unrestricted freedom of movement in the Karpas peninsula and liaison posts should be established”.

Similarly, with regard to Maronites, UNFICYP recommended the lifting of all restrictions on their freedom of movement, the establishment of a medical centre for their needs, the provision of private telephone services, free and unescorted access to UNFICYP, improvement of water supply to their villages and improved access to their places of worship (Report S/1995/1020, par. 25). Though following UNFICYP’s concern the Turkish side allowed certain minor improvements in the lives of the enclaved, their living conditions remain deplorable and unchanged. This conclusion is fully in accord with the findings of the European Commission of Human Rights and the judgment of 10 May 2001 of the European Court of Human Rights, which examined the plight of the enclaved as part of the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus against Turkey. The Commission’s Report, published on 4th September 1999, noted inter alia:

“Taken as a whole, the daily life of the Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus is characterized by a multitude of adverse circumstances. The absence of normal means of communication, the unavailability in practice of the Greek Cypriot press, the insufficient number of priests, the difficult choice before which parents and schoolchildren are put regarding secondary education, the restrictions and formalities applied to freedom of movement, the impossibility to preserve property rights upon departure or death and the various other restrictions create a feeling among the persons concerned of being compelled to live in a hostile environment in which it is hardly possible to lead a normal private and family life. As these adverse circumstances in the living conditions are to a large extent the direct result of the official policy conducted by the respondent government and its subordinate local administration, they constitute factors by which the above interference with the rights of the enclaved Greek Cypriots under Article 8 of the Convention are aggravated (par. 489)”.

Furthermore the Commission found that this multitude of adversities, constituting aggravated interference with the enclaved persons’ right to respect for their private and family life and for their home, were discriminatory practices specifically directed against Greek Cypriots and, to almost the same degree, against Maronites, because of their ethnic origin, race and religion. This discrimination, the Commission concluded, “amount(s) to degrading treatment” (par. 499). The interferences with the normal life of the enclaved, coupled with the severity with which they are applied, justifies the conclusion of the Report that they amount to “an affront to their human dignity” (par. 498).

The Commission also found interference with their freedom of religion, violation of their right to free expression arising out of the fact that schoolbooks for elementary schools are subject to excessive censorship, violation of Article 2 of Protocol 1 because of the denial of secondary school education for their children and a continuing violation of their right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions arising out of the practice of the Turkish Cypriot “authorities” to take over possession of the property of all enclaved who leave from the occupied area or die.

The European Court of Human Rights has, in its judgment of 10 May 2001 regarding the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus against Turkey, Application no 257 (81/94), for the first time, pronounced itself on the overall legal consequences of Turkey΄s invasion and continued military presence in Cyprus. The Judgment stressed that Turkey exercises overall effective control over the occupied part of Cyprus and is, therefore, responsible for all acts committed either by its own troops or by its subordinate local administration.

The Court΄s findings about the treatment of the few Greek Cypriots and Maronites still resident in the occupied area are quite significant. The Court notes that the right to respect for family life of the enclaved Greek Cypriots was seriously impeded by measures imposed by the “trnc” to limit family reunification denying the possibility of leading a normal family life (par. 292-293). The Court noted that Greek Cypriots were monitored in respect of their contacts and movements and that surveillance extended to the presence of “state agents” inside the homes of Greek Cypriots on the occasion of social or other visits (par.294). The Court held that such highly intrusive and invasive acts violate the right of the Greek Cypriot population in the Karpas region to respect to their private and family life” (par.295). The Court endorsed the Commission΄ s conclusion that: “the restrictions which beset the daily lives of the enclaved Greek Cypriots create a feeling among them “of being compelled to live in a hostile environment in which it is hardly possible to lead a normal private and family life”. The Commission noted in support of this conclusion that the adverse circumstances to which the population concerned was subjected included: the absence of normal means of communication (…); the unavailability in practice of the Greek Cypriot press (...); the insufficient number of priests (…); the difficult choice with which parents and schoolchildren were faced regarding secondary education (…); the restrictions and formalities applied to freedom of movement, including, the Court would add, for the purposes of seeking medical treatment and participation in bi- or inter-communal events; the impossibility of preserving property rights upon departure or on death.”

The Court added that such restrictions were factors aggravating the violations (par. 301). Moreover, the Court noted the view of the UN Secretary-General that the severe restrictions entailing the exercise of basic freedoms had the effect of ensuring that “inexorably, with the passage of time, the Karpas community would cease to exist.” This would be the consequence of the prohibition on bequeathing property to relatives outside the occupied part of Cyprus and to the denial of the right of ultimate return of children who left in order to obtain secondary education (par. 307). The prevailing situation led, according to the Court, to the inescapable conclusion “that the interferences at issue were directed at the Karpas Greek-Cypriot community for the very reason that they belonged to this class of persons. The treatment to which they were subjected during the period under consideration can only be explained in terms of the features which distinguish them from the Turkish-Cypriot population, namely their ethnic origin, race and religion (…). The respondent State’s attachment to these principles must be considered to be reflected in the situation in which the Karpas Greek Cypriots live and are compelled to live: isolated, restricted in their movements, controlled and with no prospect of renewing or developing their community. The conditions under which that population is condemned to live are debasing and violate the very notion of respect for the human dignity of its members”.

In the Court’s opinion and with reference to the period under consideration, “the discriminatory treatment attained a level of severity which amounted to degrading treatment” (par. 309 and 310). The Court also found that the Greek Cypriots of the Karpas peninsula had their rights to freedom of religion under Article 9, violated by restrictions which prevented organisation of Greek Orthodox religious ceremonies in a normal and regular manner (refusal to approve appointment of priests and access restrictions to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, as well as access restrictions to places of worship outside their villages) (par. 243-346). The Court also found that Article 10 (freedom of expression) was violated, because of excessive censorship applied to primary school-books, large numbers of which, no matter how innocuous their contents, were unilaterally censored or rejected by the “trnc” authorities (par. 252 and 254)”.

The Court also noted the fact that the immovable property of Greek Cypriots in the Karpas who were forced to move to the Government controlled areas was deemed by the occupation regime as “abandoned” and therefore liable to allocation to third parties. This was a continuing violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1. Refusal to recognise the inheritance rights of persons living in southern Cyprus to property of their deceased relatives in northern Cyprus was also a violation of Article 1, because peaceful enjoyment of such persons΄ possessions is not secured (par. 269 and 270).

In September 2005, three months after the adoption of an Interim Resolution by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and four years after the adoption of the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights regarding the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus against Turkey, a secondary school was allowed to operate in Karpas. Contrary to the assurances given for the full and unimpeded operation of the school, the violations of the right to education and of the freedom of expression of the enclaved Greek Cypriot students in Rizokarpaso continue unabated.

The delays which continue to occur in the delivery of books to the schools, the censorship, the frequent presence of “police forces” at the school premises, and the arbitrary rejection of appointed teachers seriously inhibit the full and efficient operation of the Rizokarpaso Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools. During the school year 2013-2014 the occupation regime arbitrarily rejected three educators who were appointed at the Rizokarpaso High School and Nursery School without providing any reason. It has also arbitrarily banned the use of seven textbooks, which are taught in public schools in the Government-controlled areas. The said unacceptable practices create significant operational problems to the Rizokarpaso schools and thus violate the fundamental human right to education of the enclaved students.

The forcible interruption of the Christmas mass at the Church of Saint Synesios in Rizokarpaso in 2010 constitutes a proof of the violation of the fundamental human right of religious freedom of the enclaved. It was condemned, inter alia, by the European Parliament [“Resolution on the situation of Christians in the context of freedom of religion” (20 January 2011) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0021+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN ]. Moreover, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal U.S. government entity, in a press release dated January 3, 2011 condemned the actions of the illegal regime as “a symbol of religious intolerance and repressive policies”.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt who conducted a mission in Cyprus in March 2012 (A/HRC/22/51/Add.1, 24 December 2012) reaffirmed the continued violations of the religious freedom οf the enclaved:

“While Greek Orthodox Christians constitute by far the largest religious community in Cyprus, their members in the northern part have dwindled to a small minority of only a few hundred people, many of whom are elderly. When travelling to their villages, the Special Rapporteur visited a number of derelict churches, some of which were sadly misused by the village youth for sporting purposes such as football games. Others have been turned into mosques, community halls or youth centres, or are used for storage. The Special Rapporteur saw the deplorable conditions of historic monuments, including the Apostolos Andreas monastery, which requires repairs and restoration. Some churches had obviously been exposed to vandalism and looting. People from Christian Orthodox villages showed him cemeteries where many crosses and tombstones had been broken. Reportedly, some acts of vandalism had occurred recently. Members of the Christian Orthodox communities seem to have little trust in the local “police” and thus generally refrain from asking for protection or remedies. ” The UN Special Rapporteur also referred to the limited presence of priests, the intimidation provoked by the so-called “police” taking photographs during religious services and the “restrictive and unfair handling of inheritance claims” (paragraphs 42-44).

Meanwhile, the enclaved people continue to deprived from the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions, in case of permanent departure and settlement in the Government controlled areas. Moreover, the occupation regime continues its policy of illegally seizing properties of deceased Greek Cypriot enclaved people and allocating them to Turkish settlers.

In conclusion, the plight of the enclaved Cypriots, both Greeks and Maronites, continues despite the protestations and calls of the Cyprus government for the need to fully implement the 1975 Vienna III Agreement.

Turkey is required to take further action for the amelioration of the unacceptable living conditions of the Cypriots enclaved in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. The continuing affront to human dignity of the enclaved, as the Commission found, is an affront on the human dignity of all people.


PHOTO GALLERY

Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief οn his mission to Cyprus



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