Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Lobby for Cyprus

  1.  For more than two centuries, Turkey has earned the dubious distinction of having the worst human-rights record of any modern country. It has killed and otherwise mistreated every one of its minority peoples—both Christian and Muslim. While its current oppression is directed at its Kurdish population—which began in 1927 with the enactment of restrictive anti-Kurdish laws—it is still continuing its cultural oppression of its Armenian, its Assyrian and its Greek populations. Currently, the Turkish government is seeking a proposed amendment of its constitution that will prevent any "non-Muslim" entity from acquiring non-movable property, in effect preventing, in this specific case, the Christian Churches of acquiring any property, and, it intends to make the decision retroactive to presently owned property acquired after 1936. This attitude stands in defiance of Western concepts.

  2.  Nowhere is Turkey's defiance of Western standards more evident than in Cyprus. Despite more than one hundred United Nations resolutions asking Turkey to cease its illegal occupation of 37 per cent of the island of Cyprus, Turkey has maintained its hold on the territory with an army of 35,000.

  3.  Because the Republic of Cyprus is moving closer to satisfying the requirements for membership in the European Union—currently it has signed 25 of the 29 Chapters of the acquis communautaire—Turkey has cynically urged Rauf Denktash, the leader of the Turks in the occupied north, to resume talks with the President of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides, thus giving the impression of reasonableness with this is, in reality, a delaying tactic.

  4.  Turkey's contempt of all Western standards is most obvious in the continued defiance of both the Council of Europe and the European Court on Human Rights—defiance unparalleled in the 50-year history of the Court. This is in the matter of Loizidou v Turkey. This landmark case was debated for seven years and in 1998, the court found against Turkey on all seven key points.

  5.  We will not go into the details of the case (and its seven points) but suffice it to say that the Court decided that it was Turkey (with its army and officials) which had deprived Mrs Titina Loizidou of access to, and the enjoyment of, her property in Kyrenia, in the occupied north. The Court indicated that her enforced absence from her property had not deprived her of her ownership of the property and it instructed Turkey to meet with Mrs Loizidou to discuss compensation. Turkey did not do so in the six-month time period, and the Court imposed a fine—comprising both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages—of the equivalent to $800,000. In imposing this penalty, the Court said that the damages were not compensation for loss of her property but for the non-access and, further, it included interest payments.

  6.  Not only has Turkey refused to abide by this decision, but also it has publicly declared that it would defy both the Council of Europe and the Court. Despite an on-going series of "resolutions" from the Committee of Ministers of the Council—each with language stronger than the previous resolution—Turkey has continued its defiance.

  7.  Turkey's persistent defiance to the decisions of the Court has been recognised by the Council of Europe in its 21 December 2001 report—"Implementation of decisions of the European Court on Human Rights"—when it recognised "the special case of Turkey, concerning which 193 cases are still before the Committee of Ministers, including 56 which raise major issues . . ." It is, therefore, obvious to everyone, including the Council and the Court that Turkey's continuing defiance sets a very dangerous precedent in that other countries can cite Turkey's defiance when they decide to ignore Court decisions. This, therefore, endangers the authority of the Court.

  8.  The Council of Ministers has asked each Member State to urge Turkey to comply, but to no avail. For its part, Britain has limited its actions to "requests" that Turkey comply.

  9.  It should be noted that on the strength of the precedent-setting Loizdou decision, the Republic of Cyprus brought 14 separate cases against Turkey, and the Court on Human Rights found, on 10 May 2001, for Cyprus in all 14. There are literally hundreds of cases in the pipeline, all reflecting one or another aspect of the 1998 decision.

  10.  The Committee should note that in 1995, Turkey agreed to comply with four conditions in exchange for its admission to the Customs Union of the European Union. It has not fulfilled any of these conditions.

  11.  The Committee should also note that after the Helsinki decision to put Turkey on the path for accession, Turkey announced, within a week of the decision, that it still has demands on Eastern Thrace, that it still has demands on the Aegean Islands, and that it will not leave Cyprus.

  12.  Whatever else one may say about Turkey, it has to be admitted that it is consistent. It will agree to any demand or request and will then ignore its agreement. It did so during the nineteenth century, it did so during the twentieth century, it is doing so in the twenty-first century.

  13.  The argument has been presented that Turkey "is and has been a loyal ally" of the West. It is fair to note that such "loyalty" has been rewarded—very well rewarded—by the billions of dollars' worth of financial and military aid, over the years. And, it is fair to ask, "What kind of `loyal ally' will blackmail and threaten its allies?" The reference is to the discussions surrounding the six-monthly negotiations for the use of its Incirlik airbase—during which Turkey threatens to withdraw NATO access "unless . . ."

  14.  It has also been suggested that Turkey is a "bastion of secularism in a Muslim world." An "example" of this "secularism" is the fact that 502 Christian churches and monasteries (including a tenth century Armenian monastery in Kyrenia) have been demolished, desecrated or converted into Mosques, stables, and public toilets.

  15.  In summary, we request that the tragic events of 11 September in the United States not colour or distort the picture of the real Turkey.

  16.  We will leave to others to discuss and comment upon Turkey's lack of an independent judiciary, the undue influence of the military, the lack of freedom of speech, the continuing torture in jails and prisons, and other shortcomings in the matter of human rights and basic freedoms.

Lobby for Cyprus

February 2002

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