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Media Watch 2005

11 March 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author:
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 11 March 2005.
Iacovou's address to UN Human Rights Commission `Human Rights not negotiable'
"RESPECT for Human Rights, and action to end their violation, cannot be watered down because of the passage of time, Foreign Minister George Iacovou told the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva this week, which strongly criticised the refusal of the European governments to censure Turkey for its continuing gross violation of human rights in Cyprus for the past 30 years. Human Rights do not tarnish, or suffer corrosion with the passage of time, and if this happens it is because the international community was indifferent, incompetent, or at any rate unable to provide effective remedies or to offer restitution, Iacovou said. He added that in the case of Cyprus "political considerations have been principally responsible for the lack of progress in the restitution of the human rights of Cypriots.'' ... "The protection and promotion of human rights are non-negotiable and cannot be sacrificed in favour of political considerations and expediencies."

RESPECT for Human Rights, and action to end their violation, cannot be watered down because of the passage of time, Foreign Minister George Iacovou told the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva this week, which strongly criticised the refusal of the European governments to censure Turkey for its continuing gross violation of human rights in Cyprus for the past 30 years.

Human Rights do not tarnish, or suffer corrosion with the passage of time, and if this happens it is because the international community was indifferent, incompetent, or at any rate unable to provide effective remedies or to offer restitution, Iacovou said. He added that in the case of Cyprus "political considerations have been principally responsible for the lack of progress in the restitution of the human rights of Cypriots.''

Iacovou explained that one of the reasons that the Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan Plan so overwhelmingly was precisely because it violated the fundamental human right of the refugees to the restitution of their property."

"The protection and promotion of human rights are non-negotiable and cannot be sacrificed in favour of political considerations and expediencies. The United Nations' role as the basic guardian of the human rights system worldwide is, therefore, both instrumental and indispensable,'' Iacovou said at the end of his address on Wednesday.

After pointing out that he had addressed the UN Commission repeatedly since 1975, Iacovou continued: "The members of this Commission are therefore quite familiar with the Question of Human Rights in Cyprus, as this issue has been on the Agenda of the CHR since 1975.

Restoration
"Resolution 1987/50 of the CHR called for "full restoration of all human rights to the population of Cyprus, and in particular to the refugees", expressed alarm at "changes in the demographic structure of Cyprus" with the continuing influx of settlers, called for the "accounting for missing persons in Cyprus without any further delay" and also called for the "restoration and respect of the human rights...of all Cypriots, including the freedom of movement and the right to property."

Over all these years, there have been many developments on the question of human rights in Cyprus.

The report of the European Commission in the case of the three interstate applications of Cyprus v Turkey, found the respondent state responsible for massive violations of human rights.

"In the case of a subsequent 4th interstate application of Cyprus v Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights, in its Judgement, of 10 May 2001, found Turkey in violation of the human rights of Cypriots and that Turkey bore exclusive responsibility. Similarly, in the first individual recourse under Article 25 of the European Convention of Human Rights, in the Loizidou v Turkey case, the Court ruled that Turkey violated Mrs Loizidou's rights with respect to her property in occupied Cyprus.

There is no doubt that the violation of the human rights of the Cypriots were truly substantiated and accepted by international tribunals. But these violations were not remedied.

"Over the years we have identified factors that affect and influence the restitution of human rights, we believe, not only in our case but in other situations, too."

Obsolescence and oblivion
In pursuing our concerns for the restitution of the human rights of our fellow citizens, we sometimes have to listen to disappointing and even provocative interjections. In explaining the human rights situation to a distinguished interlocutor, recently he responded: "Mr. Minister, that was 30 years ago...". "I never thought human rights were akin to base-metal that tarnished with time, or even corroded. Nor do I know that there is a built-in obsolescence in the violations of human rights or that they can be cast to oblivion. To paraphrase the High Commissioner, rights that are forgotten, do not exist.

"For if human rights age, they do because the international community was indifferent or incompetent or at any rate unable to offer effective remedies or offer restitution.

"There is no "statute of limitations" as far as the violation of human rights is concerned. To accept that, would be tantamount to accepting a "malfeasant's Charter''.

Political Expediency
"Political considerations have been principally responsible for the lack of progress in the restitution of the human rights of Cypriots. I have already put forward the content of the Rulings of the European Commission of Human Rights. The only course of action available to the Commission was to submit its Report to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, a "par excellence" political body. The Committee of Ministers procrastinated.

"The Commission's Report was kept under lock and key, marked "TOP SECRET". Turkey's friends and allies rallied to keep the Report secret. It was the press that forced the Committee of Ministers to act. The long-awaited decision was finally taken to declassify the dossier, not to publish it to the general public nor to civil society, but just to take the label "TOP SECRET" off....

"In my many interventions in the Committee of Ministers, in the 1980's, I argued that the Committee of Ministers which was entrusted by the ECHR to take action on the basis of the Reports of the Commission against malfeasant states, had the obligation to act judiciously and not to be motivated by any political considerations. On the contrary to act in a politically motivated way, was against the spirit of the Convention!

International crime
Take the question of settlers. No one disputes that the settlement of occupied territories is an international crime. It is also a well-known fact that there are twice as many mainland Turkish settlers than native Turkish Cypriots...Their presence in Cyprus poses complex political, military and economic issues. In the first place, they usurped the political rights of the Turkish Cypriot community. In the second place, they have been allocated properties that belong to Greek Cypriot refugees who were expelled during and after the invasion.

"This poses considerable difficulties in the restitution of properties to their rightful owners. In discussing the problem, even in well meant plans to solve the Cyprus problem, the argument goes like this: "Accept them all, because if you don't, there will be thousands more coming to flood you".

"In fact, since the non-approval of a UN-sponsored plan by the Greek Cypriot community, this line of argument has become common. 45,000 more would-be settlers are on the island now and the argument put forward "they are there because the Greek Cypriots rejected the plan".

Same argument
"The same argument is advanced about land. In the part of Cyprus that is occupied, Turkish Cypriots constituted 16% of the population and owned 12.9% of the privately-owned land. After the expulsion of the Greek Cypriots in 1974, their properties were allocated to Turkish Cypriots and later to Turkish mainland settlers. But there was still unallocated Greek Cypriot land. The theory has been that in a settlement this unallocated land would be returned to Greek Cypriot owners, maybe 1/4 of their rightful ownership, maybe less. Of late, we have heard that the pillage continues at a great rate, as unscrupulous officials sell Greek Cypriot owned land to Western European developers.

"The answer to this, particularly by those that have duties towards Cyprus, is that "it wouldn't happen if the Greek Cypriots accepted the plan".

"The international community surely must credit Cypriots with enough intelligence to judge how the plan deals with rights. A refugee knows exactly whether the plan preserves his right of return and whether this will take in 6 1/2 years, or in 21 years, or anything in between, to implement or NEVER. A property owner knows whether he is getting his property back or only a small part of it. They do not need experts to tell them.

Contrary to the Charter
"It is not my intention to present or argue the plan....The people decided that their rights were being discounted in a proposal that was dysfunctional and most probably not viable and which gave foreign powers rights that are contrary to the Charter of the UN.

"The people in their infinite wisdom did not give a mark of approval to the specific plan. But a "no" to the plan, is definitely not a "no" for the solution of the Cyprus problem. Leadership and people have sent the message loud and clear. We want a solution immediately. A viable and functional solution, in which all human rights will be respected in a bi-communal, bi-zonal Federation. But at the same time we assert we cannot accept our human rights to be curtailed or be discounted or to be promised to be implemented in such distant horizons as to make them inapplicable. This struggle is not only for our people, but for all those who care for human rights.

"Mr Chairman, the protection and promotion of human rights are non-negotiable and cannot be sacrificed in favour of political considerations and expediencies. The United Nations' role as the basic guardian of the human rights system worldwide is, therefore, both instrumental and indispensable. We should all demonstrate our unwavering commitment to fully respecting and implementing our obligations under this universal system of values which has been painstakingly built over the last decades. Certainly, on its part, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus remains fully committed to this noble objective.""