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Media Watch 2005

11 March 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Comment: The following editorial appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 11 March 2005.
The EU Commission and Human Rights
"Quite apart from its internal situation Turkey is burdened by a far heavier human rights guilt as a result of its war crimes in Cyprus and its blatant refusal to comply with the numerous judgements of the Human Rights Court of the Council of Europe."

The EU Commission hastened to reassure Turkey yesterday that it had nothing to worry about following the postponement of its planned entry talks with Croatia because of its failure to arrest a top war crimes suspect.

The reassurance to Turkey followed worried editorials in the Turkish press that the decision about Croatia was a strong warning to other prospective members that they must fully respect human rights.

It is truly amazing that, while the concern of the Turkish press amounts to an admission that Turkey's human rights record is far from perfect, the EU Commission rushed to declare that there was nothing to worry about.

It is as if the EU Commission is completely unaware of the dismal human rights situation inside Turkey itself which is duly recorded by international independent human rights associations and is also reflected by the expressed worries of the Turkish press following the Commission's decision on Croatia.

Cyprus link
Quite apart from its internal situation Turkey is burdened by a far heavier human rights guilt as a result of its war crimes in Cyprus and its blatant refusal to comply with the numerous judgements of the Human Rights Court of the Council of Europe.

This far heavier guilt should have been more than enough to force the EU Commission to think twice before deciding on December 17 to agree to open entry talks with Turkey next October. President Papadopoulos decided to be a "a good boy'' on that day, by buckling to international pressure not to use a veto to block such a decision, as he was fully entitled to do, and, what is more, with excellent reason.

It is a pity that Cyprus has avoided though the years utilising the issue of Turkey's continuing gross violation of human rights as, in effect its only effective weapon, albeit a most powerful one, in its peaceful struggle for a just settlement of the Cyprus problem and the ending of the Turkish occupation.

This reluctance to denounce Turkey at international fora by demanding, nay insisting, that Ankara must be forced to respect human rights in Cyprus is illustrated by the fact that, unlike other states that are routinely represented by their presidents to plead their case at the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the Cypriot leaders have been conspicuously absent!

Plea for justice
It is as if Cyprus believed that it would be making a mistake if it sent its President to Geneva to plead for justice, and to condemn Turkey before the UN body responsible for ensuring respect for human rights on a world-wide basis.

This abstention was finally broken this year by the decision of Foreign Minister George Iacovou to address the Geneva conference, the first time a Cypriot Foreign Minister had done so in decades.

Even so, though Iacovou denounced Turkey's continuing war crimes and human rights violations in Cyprus, he avoided using the precious time limit of 15 minutes to spell out the numerous glaring separate gross violations of human rights.

He spoke largely in general terms, instead of pulling no punches to make his audience realise fully the terrible burden of Turkey's guilt.

For example, he referred to the issue of the settlers, but avoided spelling out that, as the new majority in the occupied north, they are allowed to vote in violation of international law, thus determining the policy of the illegal breakaway state.

He did not mention that the settlers have usurped the homes and properties of the ethnically-cleansed Greek Cypriot refugees, who are not allowed to return, as demanded by a recent decision of a sub-committee of the UN Human Rights Commission itself, as well as by the judgements of the European Rights Court!

Destruction of cultural heritage
He did not spell out that the majority of those who voted "Yes'' in the referendum on the Annan Plan are the settlers, who saw this as a way of becoming legal Cypriot and EU citizens!

Iacovou also avoided any reference to the plight of the few remaining "enclaved'' Greek Cypriots in the north, the fact that they are not allowed to have a priest to conduct regular church services.

For that matter he also made no mention of the terrible desecration and destruction of the Christian churches and cemeteries in the north as part of a deliberate campaign to eradicate all traces of the Christian and Hellenistic cultural heritage in the occupied region.

He referred in passing to the landmark decisions of the Rights Court in the interstate applications of Cyprus v Turkey, but without giving any details of Turkey's continuing war crimes that would have made his plea for action much more effective."