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Turkish Cypriots seek redress for property in European court July 26, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, KKTC.
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A group of Turkish Cypriots have applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for the return of property that they were forced to abandon during attacks against the island’s Turkish population by Greek Cypriots in the 1960s.

In their application to the top European court, 21 Turkish Cypriots said that the Greek Cypriot authorities have not responded to their requests to reclaim their property, the Turkish Cypriot news agency TAK reported on Saturday. They said in their appeal to the ECtHR that they seek the return of their property, abandoned in December 1963, and full compensation for 47 years of lack of access to their assets.

For decades, thousands of Greek Cypriots have applied to the European court demanding compensation for the property they left behind in the Turkish part of the island during a Turkish military intervention on the island to protect the Turkish Cypriots from Greek Cypriot attacks in 1974. The court ruled earlier this year that the applicants should seek redress at a property commission created in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), angering Greek Cypriots.

The applicants, all from the once-mixed village of Matya, said they had to leave their homes after a Greek Cypriot attack targeting the village’s Turks. They have been unable to return to their homes. Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders, holding talks on reunification of the island, are now trying to tackle the property issue, the most complicated aspect of the Cyprus dispute.

Tourkıkı Enosı Xanthıs And Others v. Greece December 20, 2009

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Human rights abuses, Yunanistan.
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CHAMBER JUDGMENTS
EMIN AND OTHERS v. GREECE
TOURKIKI ENOSI XANTHIS AND OTHERS v. GREECE
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its Chamber judgments1 in the cases of Emin and Others v. Greece (application no. 34144/05) and Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others v. Greece (no. 26698/05).

The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights in both cases, which concern associations founded by persons belonging to the Muslim minority of Western Thrace (Greece). In the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others the Court also held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time) of the Convention. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court held that the finding of a violation constituted in itself just satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage suffered by the applicants in the case of Emin and Others. In the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others the Court awarded the association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis 8,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. (The judgments are available only in French.)

1. Principal facts

Both cases concern complaints by the applicants about decisions taken by the Greek courts against associations founded by persons belonging to the Muslim minority of Western Thrace (Greece).

Emin and Others

The seven applicants, Houlia Emin, Aisse Galip, Feriste Devetzioglou, Mediha Bekiroglou, Aisse Molla Ismail, Eminet Mehmet Ahmet and Gioulsen Memet, are Greek nationals living in Rodopi (Greece).

In March 2001 they and other women from the region founded the “Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Region of Rodopi”. According to the statute of the Association, its aim was to create a “meeting place for women of the county of Rodopi” and to work for “social, moral and spiritual exaltation and establish bonds of sisterhood between its members”.

On 6 June 2001 the Greek courts dismissed a request for registration of the association on the ground that its title might mislead the public regarding the origin of its members. The Court of Appeal upheld that decision in January 2003, reiterating that by virtue of the Treaty of Lausanne only a Muslim minority – and not a Turkish minority – had been recognised in the region of Western Thrace. The Court of Appeal held that the title of the association, combined with the terms of its statute, was contrary to public policy. An appeal on points of law by the applicants was dismissed in April 2005.

Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others

The applicants are two associations, Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and “Academic Graduates’ Circle of the minority in Western Thrace”, and eight Greek nationals: Galip Galip, Ahmet Mehmet, Orhan Hatziibraim, Ahmet Faikoglou, Birol Akifoglou, Loutfie Nihatoglou, Hiousniou Serdarzade, Rassim Hint.

The first applicant association, Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis, was founded in 1927 under the name “House of the Turkish Youth of Xanthi”. According to the statute of the association, its purpose was to preserve and promote the culture of the “Turks of Western Thrace” and to create bonds of friendship and solidarity between them. In 1936 the applicant association successfully sought to change its name to “Turkish Association of Xanthi”. In November 1983, however, a decision was issued prohibiting it from using the term “Turkish” on any document, stamp or sign.

On 11 March 1986 the Greek courts ordered the dissolution of the association on the ground that its statute ran counter to public policy. The Thrace Court of Appeal upheld that judgment on 25 January 2002. It found that the applicant association was not in conformity with the Treaty of Lausanne and that some of the members presented the Muslim minority of Thrace as a “strongly oppressed minority”. The court referred, among other things, to the president of the association’s participation in conferences organised by the Turkish authorities and the publication of a letter in a Turkish daily referring to the “Turks of Western Thrace”. In April 2002 the first applicant association appealed on points of law and subsequently the nine other applicants also intervened in the proceedings in support of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis. The appeal was finally dismissed in February 2005.

2. Procedure and composition of the Court

The application in the case of Emin and Others was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 19 September 2005 and in the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others on 15 July 2005.

Judgments were given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Nina Vajić (Croatian), President, Khanlar Hajiyev (Azerbaijani), Dean Spielmann (Luxemburger), Sverre Erik Jebens (Norwegian), Giorgio Malinverni (Swiss),
George Nicolaou (Cypriot), judges, Petros Pararas (Greek), ad hoc judge, and also Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar.

3. Summary of the judgment2

Complaints

Relying in particular on Articles 11 (freedom of assembly and association) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination), the applicants in the case of Emin and Others complained of the Greek courts’ refusal to register their association and the applicants in the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others of the court-ordered dissolution of the association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis. In the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others the applicants also complained, under Article 6 § 1, of the excessive length of the proceedings.

Decision of the Court

In respect of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others, the Court declared the complaints based on Articles 11 and 14 admissible

only regarding the association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and the following applicants: Orhan Hatziibraim, Ahmet Faikoglou, Birol Akifoglou, Loutfie Nihatoglou, Hiousniou Serdarzade, Rassim Hint. It declared the complaint based on Article 6 § 1 admissible only in respect of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis.

Article 11

Emin and Others

Whilst reiterating that the taking of evidence was governed primarily by the rules of domestic law and that it was in principle for the national courts to assess the evidence before them, the Court was not satisfied that the Greek courts had based their finding that the association constituted a danger to public policy on the title “Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Region of Rodopi” alone. It observed that it had not been possible to verify the intentions of the applicants in practice as the association had never been registered.

The Court observed that even supposing that the real aim of the association had been to promote the idea that there was an ethnic minority in Greece, this could not be said to constitute a threat to democratic society. There was nothing in the statute to indicate that its members advocated the use of violence or of undemocratic or unconstitutional means. The Court noted further that the Greek courts would have had the power to dissolve the association if in practice it pursued aims that were different from those stated in its statute or if it operated in a manner contrary to the law. Accordingly, the Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 11.

Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others

The Court referred at the outset to the radical nature of the measure dissolving the applicant association. It noted that the association had pursued its activities unhindered for nearly half a century. Furthermore, the Greek courts had not identified any element in the title or statute of the association that might be contrary to public policy. The Court observed that even supposing that the real aim of the applicant association had been to promote the idea that there was an ethnic minority in Greece, this could not be said to constitute a threat to democratic society. It reiterated that the existence of minorities and different cultures in a country was a historical fact that a democratic society had to tolerate and even protect and support according to the principles of international law.

The Court also considered that it could not be inferred from the factors relied on by the Thrace Court of Appeal that the applicant association had engaged in activities contrary to its proclaimed objectives. Moreover, there was no evidence that the president or members of the association had ever called for the use of violence, an uprising or any other form of rejection of democratic principles. The Court considered that freedom of association involved the right of everyone to express, in a lawful context, their beliefs about their ethnic identity. However shocking and unacceptable certain views or words used might appear to the authorities, their dissemination should not automatically be regarded as a threat to public policy or to the territorial integrity of a country. Accordingly, the Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 11.

Article 14 in conjunction with Article 11

In both cases the Court held that it was not necessary to examine separately the applicants’ complaints based on Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 11.

Article 6 § 1

The Court noted that, in respect of the applicant association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis, the proceedings in question had lasted more than 21 years. Having regard to the circumstances of the case, it considered that that was excessive and failed to satisfy the “reasonable time” requirement. Accordingly, it held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1.

European court relays Turkish Cypriots’ complaints to Greek Cypriots July 13, 2009

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
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KIBRIS
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) this week communicated a number of complaints to the Greek Cypriot government, listing questions to be answered concerning complaints filed by Turkish Cypriot citizens.

To date, many complaints have been filed by Greek Cypriot citizens against Turkey in the ECtHR for loss of properties in the northern part of Cyprus after Turkey’s 1974 intervention. However, this is the first time that the European court has assessed a complaint from Turkish Cypriots against the Greek Cypriot government for the loss of properties in the southern part of Cyprus.

Ten complaints filed in the court by 27 Turkish Cypriots between 2004 and 2008 have been relayed by the ECtHR to the Greek Cypriot government for “observations.”

“The applicants complain under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 about the restrictions on their use of their property within the Republic of Cyprus. … The applicants also complain of interference with their right to respect for their homes under Article 8. … They further invoke Articles 6 and 14 of the Convention in this regard. … The applicants also invoke Article 13 of the Convention in this regard,” the court documents state.

One of the applicants, meanwhile, bases his claim on Article 3 of Protocol No. 4 and argues that insofar as a particular Greek Cypriot law prevents him from living on his property and thus within the territory controlled by the Greek Cypriot government, he has effectively been expelled from his own country.

CASES AT THE EUROPEAN COURT April 9, 2009

Posted by Yilan in Human rights, Human rights abuses, Turkey.
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7th Annual North – Southern Europe Economics Forum, which was organized by Institute for European Affairs and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was held between 28 – 29 September 2006 in Oslo, the capital city of Norway.

The theme on the agenda was „Coexistence of Religions – Values and Tolerance“. The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) and Mehmet Emin Aga, elected Mufti of Xanthi, were invited to the Forum due to the cases of Mehmet Emin Aga and Ibrahim Şerif, elected Muftis of Komotini and Xanthi respectively, at the European Court of Human Rights. Jonas Gahr Störe, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Dr.  Şarık Tara, honorary member  of the ForeignE conomic Relations Board and founder of the North – Southern Europe Economic Forum, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gramke, former Prime Minister of Germany and chairman of INEA, ministers, former ministers, representatives of various institutions, experts and media members participated in the Forum which was organized under the auspices ofJens Stoltenberug, Norwegian Prime Minister.

The top themes to be discussed during the Forum were cooperation between Southern and Northern Europe, strategic cooperation for a better integration in Europe and the communication with non – EU countries. Due to the dramatic events experienced recently in Europe, the first day of the organization was devoted to the „Tolerance between religions“.