Two cases filed at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) could raise millions of Euros in compensation claims for Turkish Cypriots who left property in South Cyprus and their heirs.
Lawyer Murat Metin Hakkı said that domestic remedies had been exhausted in the Republic of Cyprus [South Cyprus] regarding four buildings on 4.5 donums of land in south Nicosia belonging to the Barutçuzade Ahmet Vasıf Efendi Foundation and said that two lawsuits had been filed at the ECHR.
Hakkı pointed out that the buildings in question were confiscated by the Greek Cypriot government at different times and said, “46 years have passed since 1974, the last building was taken over 38 years after ‘74. Therefore, there is no justification for the confiscation of these buildings in the 21st century in an EU member state. There is a violation of the property right, ” he said.
Stating that they expect the official answer to be forwarded to them in the coming day regarding the discussion of the cases at the ECHR, Attorney Hakkı said, “We do not foresee that we will have a problem with admission as we have effectively exhausted domestic law for 10 years.“
Barutçuzade Ahmet Vasıf Efendi Foundation’s Properties in the South
“The foundation is an annexed foundation founded in 1918 by Barutçuzade Ahmet Vasıf Efendi, whom we heard as a former Siege of Plevna veteran. Most of its real estates are in Famagusta district and northern Nicosia, under Turkish Cypriot administration. Some of its properties are in southern Nicosia. Its properties in Nicosia are four buildings and a large, empty space located on approximately 4.5 donums of land along Egypt Street and Homer Street. These buildings are the old Egyptian Embassy building, the old Cyprus Fulbright Commission building, the former Electricity Authority building, and the former building known as the American Embassy or American Library.
“The first contract between the Foundation and the Electricity Administration was signed in 1963. Until 1979, he actually saved the building from the Electricity Administration, but rent was paid to the trustee in the North until the end of 1976. No rent was paid from 1976 to 1979. In 1979 they evacuated the building and moved to their new headquarters. After 1979, the building passed to the Greek Cypriot Antiquities Department due to its location in the Cyprus Museum.
“The second building, used as the Egyptian Embassy, was used as a consulate until the 1960s, since Cyprus was not independent. After independence, it continued to be used as the Egyptian Embassy building without interruption until 2004. After 1974, the Foundation’s trustees residing in the north with the Egyptian Embassy continued to sign lease agreements. The last one was signed in 1990. Between 1990-2004, trustees were paid direct rent.
“After the Egyptian government evacuated this building in 2004, the building was executed by a foundation to a senior official in the Egyptian Embassy until 2007 by a symbolic figure, in order not to remain empty and not to undermine the Greek Cypriot government. However, in 2007, the Greek Cypriot government entered the building and the building was given to the Department of Antiquities because the Cyprus Museum needed a building in that region.
“The third building, known as the American Embassy or the American Library, was the embassy building in the 1960s. After the embassy moved to a larger building, the Cyprus Fulbright Commission used the building for a long time. These two buildings remained at the disposal of the Foundation until 2012. It was on the lease of the Fulbright Commission. Contracts were signed several times, and the Fulbright Commission made quarterly payments to trustees in the North, just as in the example of the Egyptian embassy. When the Fulbright Commission vacated these buildings in October 2012 because of the surplus, the Greek Cypriot government immediately entered them and handed these buildings to the disposal of the Department of Antiquities. However, the government still did not open their buildings to the American Library and Fulbright Commission for civil servants. They keep it under lock and key. There is activity in the other two buildings.”
Back-payment of rent was sought in the legal action together with loss of use and compensation for the years 1979 to 2010.
In 2012 a lower court in South Cyprus dismissed the case, despite Hakki’s contention that the land in question had not been abandoned in 1974 and that direct rent was being received post-1974 and, because of this, the property is outside the guardianship law.
He said the lower court had rejected this argument, ruling that only the [interior] minister can be plaintiff and respondent; a subsequent judgment by a higher court on December 18, 2019 upheld that ruling.
The South Cyprus Minister for the Interior acts as the ‘guardian’ of Turkish Cypriot properties located in the south.
According to Hakki, a precedent was set by the Loizidou v Turkey case as Greek Cypriot authorities were using the foundation’s property without any payment and that this constituted a “de facto claim of expropriation.”
The attorney also said: “If the Greek Cypriot government claims it has a say across the island, and that the parts in the north are the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, it should not matter if someone lives in the north or the south.
“Setting a condition that one must live in the south, violates both the right to free movement and to privacy.”
Hakki went on to say that should the case before the ECHR be successful, in the future, the Greek Cypriot authorities may be forced to establish an immovable property commission, as there are other similar claims filed at Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos district courts by Turkish Cypriots.
Yeniduzen, Cyprus Mail