Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
Print this page Print Bookmark and Share
Media Watch 2007

29 June 2007
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Angelos Marcopoulos
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 29 June 2007.
Refugees rights must be respected stresses UN Refugee Commissioner
The restitution of refugees rights "is absolutely essential’’ for a comprehensive settlement of political problems, it was stressed here yesterday by the most authoritative international personality on refugee problems, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Antonio Gutierrez.

"The restitution of refugees rights "is absolutely essential’’ for a comprehensive settlement of political problems, it was stressed here yesterday by the most authoritative international personality on refugee problems, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Antonio Gutierrez.

If this does not happen there is "a stark danger’’ of the conflict situation continuing, he added during a visit to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which adopted a resolution urging governments support the refugees right to return and to regain their properties.

"We entirely support guarantees for restitution or fair compensation of refugees’ properties, which is absolutely essential for a comprehensive solution,’’ Gutierrez said.

Sustainable return

He added that "a stark reminder of the imperative of addressing refugee issues in a comprehensive way is the fact that some 50% of countries that emerged from conflict in recent years fell back into strife ...It is true that the refugees role is very important also for the construction of political solutions.’’

Expanding on the theme, Guttierez said that "on this very important issue of refugees’ properties there are well-known UN principles.’’

This is a clear reference reference to the special UN Resolution which strongly supports the righ of refugees and internally displaced persons to return and the restitution of their properties.

"The problem is to materialise that in practice", Gutierrez added. "That’s why peace agreements generally have clauses for refugees with guarantee that those who return will also participate anew in the political life. Thus, we want a closer cooperation with the European Court of Human Rights,’’ he said.

Following Gutierrez’ statements the CoE Assembly reiterated "the importance of ensuring the conditions for the refugees sustainable return by implementing rights of reposession and fair compensation."

Illegal exploitation

The adopted resolution also urged governments "to implement the relevant human rights instruments,’’ and "to pursue reconciliation far more rigorously, especially in the areas of return by fostering a climate of respect, tolerance and non-discrimination and by prosecuting perpetrators of war crimes and inter-ethnic violence, to support returns including implementation of the right of repossesion and fair compensation.’’

For this purpose CoE’s member states "must fully engage in cooperation to resolve the outstanding issues related to refugees and IDPs," the resolution said.

The resolution also urged the European Union to support the voluntrary return of refugees and the protection of human rights and the rule of law.

In a separate declaration the CoE Assembly also denounced the "illegal exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied part of Cyprus." The declaration said that MEPs:

"Strongly condemn such illegal acts resulting from the fact that due to the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus, 170,000 Greek Cypriots were expelled and are still prevented from returning to their properties which constitute approximately 78% of the occupied area, while the occupation regime allows the transfer of Greek Cypriot properties to third parties, without the consent of the Greek Cypriot lawful owners.

"This policy attempts not only to alienate lawful owners from their properties but also to create new faits accomplis, detrimental to the solution of the Cyprus’ problem."

The President of the European Court of Human Rights Jean-Paul Costa warned at the same time that the Court will not remain idle in ensuring that Turkey implements its judgements.

"We do not wash our hands on the duty of the CoE ministers to supervise the execution of judgements,’’ Costa said.

He was replying to my question on what should be done if Turkey persisted to disregard CoE’s Ministers April 2007 Resolution, which asked Ankara to take measures to safeguard Greek Cypriot refugees homes and properties from illegal sales or exploitation.

Serbia will make the return of refugees and forcibly displaced persons a priority during it’s presidency of the Council of Europe, the new holder of the rotating CoE presidency, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said. Among other steps the CoE will organise a series of conferences including one on the return of the refugees "to which the Serbian presidency attaches great importance,’’ Jeremic said. (Serbia is the European country with the largest number of refugees)."