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22 November 2009   European Court of Human Rights - Arguments
21 November 2009   European Court of Human Rights and the Immovable Property Commission
20 October 2009   Immovable Property Commission - Progress to Date
12 December 2006   North Cyprus Property Commission Established

The European Court of Human Rights and the Immovable Property Commission
21 November 2009

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) heard pleadings this week on what is effectively a class action by a number of Greek Cypriots against the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) which was established by the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) in 2006 to offer a local remedy for Greek Cypriots and their heirs who were dispossessed when the island was informally partitioned in 1974.

The case is referred to as Demopoulos and 7 others vs Turkey.

The case is an attack on the legality and effectiveness of the Immovable Property Commission to offer a genuine local remedy to the claims of dispossessed Greek Cypriots. As is customary in most property disputes concerning North Cyprus, the claimants are backed by the financial and publicity resources of the Greek Republic of Cyprus who are committed to the destruction of the TRNC Immovable Property Commission and a continuation of the pariah status of the TRNC. The same concerted campaign style has been waged by the Greek Republic of Cyprus in the Apostolides vs Orams case, which was heard in the UK Court of Appeal on 13 November 2009.

The IPC was formed by legislation in the TRNC during 2005, in response to the ECHR ruling on the Xenides Arestis vs Turkey case, which found in favour of the claimant. The ECHR promoted the concept of the IPC so that the large number of claims by dispossessed Greek Cypriots filed at the ECHR could be transferred to and hopefully resolved by a local institution within Cyprus.

Since the creation of the IPC, the Greek Republic of Cyprus has waged a propaganda war against the institution and has actively discouraged dispossessed Greek Cypriots from lodging a claim with the IPC.

Sir Michael Wood QC appeared for Turkey, and opened the pleadings.

Sir Michael argued that the Immovable Property Commission offers -

1. The possibility of restitution, that is, return of property.

2. Redress for loss of property and lack of access to property.

3 An international element in the appointment of judges.

4. Damages / compensation.

5. Retrospective claims prior to the formation of the IPC in 2006.

Click for an assessment of the IPC to date..

He argued that the IPC and Turkey recognise the continuing rights of Greek Cypriots and their heirs to property abandoned in North Cyprus after 1974. It provides both a legal and effective local remedy to the consideration and determination of claims by dispossessed Greek Cypriots. Therefore, the existence and working of the IPC should now be recognised by the ECHR and all pending and future claims which are filed with the ECHR, should be transferred to the IPC.

David Anderson QC appeared for the claimants.

Mr Anderson made repeated reference to what he described as a systemic defect in the IPC. This is the failure to address the fundamental problem of the Xenides Arestis case, namely the successful claimant remains unable to have peaceful enjoyment of her property in the ghost town of Varosha (Greek) / Maras (Turkish), being the fenced off area of Famagusta.

His main argument is that restitution, or return of property, is the proper aim of the IPC and that it has failed monumentally to deliver this remedy.

He stated that Greek land had been appropriated by the TRNC and allocated to third parties, with the benefit of TRNC title deeds. He argued that the current occupiers should be evicted by the IPC in order to make the properties available for the return of dispossessed Greek Cypriots.

He argued that damages for loss of use were only available via the IPC in the event of an overall property settlement, whereas the ECHR has ruled primarily on loss of use / access damages in the key cases of Titina Loizidou and Myra Xenides Arestis.

He claimed that the IPC is partisan as lawyers and valuers are only recognised if they are Turkish Cypriots.

Dissatisfied claimants can appeal to the TRNC High Administrative Court of Appeal if they are dissatisfied with the deliberations of the IPC, however, this may take some 10 years.

The ethos of the IPC is to negotiate a settlement with claimants: these are referred to as ‘friendly' settlements. Mr Anderson described this as a bargaining rather than a judicial process. He also claimed that claims were settled at between a mere 3 to 6% of the market value.

Mr Anderson emphasised the importance of ‘returning home' as a major principle of EU law in respect of dispossessed persons. Neither Ms Loizidou or Ms Xenides Arestis has been allowed by Turkey to return to their properties.

He also criticised what he described as the high level of evidence which the IPC required to prove title. The current deeds, as endorsed by the Land Office of the Greek Republic of Cyprus were not sufficient.

He stated a visa is required for a Greek Cypriot to reside in the TRNC and this is valid for 3 months only.

Click here for a consideration of the arguments

Author and Copyright
Leslie Hardy is the UK Chairman of Wellington Estates Ltd, a North Cyprus property development company.

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