Cyprus Accuses Turkey of Ethnic Cleansing

STRASBOURG (Reuters)–Cyprus took its case against Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday and accused Ankara of ethnic cleansing in the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state.

Lawyers for the Cyprus government told the public hearing that the 26-year-old Turkish occupation of the north of the island violated most of the rights enshrined in the European Human Rights Convention.

“Such practices are tantamount to ethnic cleansing,” lawyer David Pannick told the Strasbourg-based court.

Turkey–which invaded the territory in 1974 after a brief Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece–has denied the accusations.

It refused to attend the hearing–arguing that the Turkish Cypriot state is an independent state. Only Ankara has recognized it.

“Turkey’s long-term goal was always to create two states–separated on racial grounds,” said lawyer Ian Brownlie.

Cyprus argued that the 170,000 Greek Cypriot refugees living in the south of the island and banned from returning to their homes were deprived of their rights to property and compensation.

It said that mostly elderly Greek Cypriots who stayed in the Turkish-occupied north suffered discrimination–degrading treatment–threats to their security and were not allowed fair trials to claim their rights.

It said 1,485 people went missing in the Turkish invasion and accused Ankara of failing to investigate their disappearance or holding them in a form of slavery if they were in custody.

Another complaint by Cyprus was that Turkish Cypriots in the north were not allowed to freely associate with Greek Cypriots or to return to their properties in the south.

The alleged abuses–according to Cyprus–violate the rights to life–liberty–security–property–education–fair trial and family life guaranteed by the European Convention.

It says Turkey is ignoring freedom of expression–thought–religion and conscience and breaking bans on torture–forced labor and discrimination.

Cyprus’s application was lodged in 1994. The Court agreed to take it up after its screening body–the Human Rights Commission–said a friendly settlement was not possible.

The court–which has the power to order compensation–will issue a verdict in a few months. Ankara is bound by the verdict. But it has refused to comply with a 1996 ruling ordering it to pay 457,000 Cyprus pounds ($678,000) to Greek Cypriot refugee Titina Loizidou who complained the invasion deprived her of her property.

Proximity talks for a settlement over Cyprus are under way at the United Nations with Greek Cypriots opposing a Turkish Cypriot call for a confederation. ($1-.6740 Cyprus Pound)

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