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ECtHR judge says no more direct claims from GC’s

24 April 2013

A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights(ECtHR)  has rejected the claims of Greek Cypriot lawyer, Eleni Meleagru regarding claims for compensation against 14 donums of land lost in the North.

Ms Meleagru originally applied to the Immovable Property Commission (IPC), where her claim was rejected. She then applied to the ECtHR where the judge also found against her.

Landmark case at ECtHR

There was a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 that has gone largely unnoticed.

The ECtHR was ruling on a case put forward by Demopoulos and Others versus Turkey. A further 7 similar cases were reviewed at the same time.

These cases had the support of the Greek Cypriot government and were basically claiming a violation of property rights and human rights due to the continued occupation of North Cyprus by Turkey.

The importance of this case is that these 8 cases were the first to be reviewed by the Court since the judgement of Xenides-Arestis v. Turkey in 2006. It was a testing of the water by the Greek Cypriot Government.

The Court decision of March, 2010, was a far reaching one and will be a major setback for South Cyprus.

The Court declared the applicants’ claims inadmissible due to non-exhaustion of domestic remedies. The Grand Chamber was of the opinion that the amended Compensation Law, as enacted by the authorities of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) following the pilot-judgment, provided an accessible and effective framework for redress.

The Court rejected every single argument of the Greek Cypriot side (GC) regarding the so called illegality of the Property Commission by reminding the applicants of its well-known and consistent jurisprudence on the matter of exhaustion of domestic remedies and its clearly stated position in all this and similar cases.

It then went on to examine the effectiveness of the Property Commission and found that indeed it was effective as there was no evidence to the contrary provided by the GC whereas Turkey had submitted a whole lot of settlements arrived at under the new law.

In one of the most striking paragraphs of the decision, the Court established that, in the light of the many changes some 35 years after the properties were left, it would risk being arbitrary and injudicious for the Court to impose an obligation to effect restitution in all cases – which would result in the forcible eviction and re-housing of many men, women and children – even with the aim of vindicating the rights of victims of violations of the Convention.

It concluded its decision by stressing that it was not to be interpreted as an obligation to make use of the IPC. The claimants could choose to wait for a political solution. However, it was also made clear that if Greek-Cypriot applicants wish to lodge an application before the European Court of Human Rights in similar cases, the admissibility will be decided in line with the principles established in Demopoulos and others v. Turkey.

In summing up the judgment against Ms Meleagru and others v Turkey, this April, he re-iterated that claimants must apply for a domestic remedy via the IPC and that no direct claims should be made to the ECtHR.

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