23 April, 2008
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ordered Turkey to pay 835,000 euro to Greek Cypriot refugee Ioannis Demades within three months for the loss of use of his property in the northern coastal town of Kyrenia, which has been occupied by Turkish troops since the Turkish invasion in 1974.
The Fourth Section of the ECHR ordered Turkey to pay the plaintiff in the case of Demades vs Turkey the following comprehensive sums within three months from now: 785,000 euro in pecuniary damages, 45,000 in non-pecuniary damages, and 5,000 in costs and expenses.
The Court found Turkey guilty of continuous violations of the European Convention of Human Rights by reason of complete denial of the rights of the applicant with respect to his home and the peaceful enjoyment of his property in Kyrenia.
Its findings of these violations were based on the fact that as a consequence of being continuously denied access to his land since 1974 the applicant had effectively lost all access and control as well as all possibilities to use and enjoy his property.
''He is therefore entitled to a measure of compensation in respect of losses directly related to this violation of his rights as from the date of deposit of Turkey's declaration recognizing the right of individual petition, namely January 1987 until the present time'', the decision says.
The Court stresses that the applicant cannot be deemed to have lost entitlement to his property.
Displaced Greek Cypriots like the applicant cannot be deemed to have lost entitlement to their property, and compensation to be awarded by this Court in such cases is confined to losses due to the denial of access to and loss of control, use, and enjoyment of his property, the decision adds.
John Demades, who passed away in 2006, submitted his application against Turkey in 1990. His heirs continued to pursue the application after his death.
The decision was held by six votes to one. The Turkish Cypriot judge, representing Turkey, voted against the decision.
Greek Cypriot lawyer Achilleas Demetriades described the Court's decision as very important, saying that the decision reaffirms that the Greek Cypriots are the sole owners of their properties in the Turkish occupied areas.
He added that the Court's decision is important since it gives an estimation of the cost of occupation of the Greek Cypriot properties in Kyrenia.
Demetriades noted that in case Turkey does not pay the compensation in three months, it will be charged with an additional 8% interest per year.
Demades' home, a two story house with a garden near the sea, is now occupied by a Turkish high ranking army official. The whole area around the house is a Turkish military zone.
The Greek Cypriot lawyer expressed the view that the Demades case signals the end of the first round of cases:
"By this I mean that the Demades case is the third successful case dealing with compensations from Turkey in matters of property rights. The first case was the Loizidou case when the right of property was secured, the second was the Xenidi-Aresti case when the cost of occupation in the fenced off city of Famagusta was determined, and the third is the Demades case which determined the cost of occupation in Kyrenia".
Thirty-two petitions of Greek Cypriot refugees against Turkey have been accepted by the Court and will be examined soon.
Eight more applications will follow, which, according to Demetriades, are considered as pilot cases which may determine the future of the so called compensation committee. This committee has been set up in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, and it hopes to become an effective domestic remedy for Greek Cypriots, who must first apply with regards to claims on their property.
Apart from the above cases, 1.500 additional petitions are pending before the ECHR. The Court decided to freeze them in view of the decisions to be taken regarding the eight pilot cases, Demetriades said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Source: Athens News Agency