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12 December 2006   North Cyprus Property Commission Established

Immovable Property Commission - Progress to Date
20 October 2009

The TRNC Immovable Property Commission (IPC) was established by law in 2005 in order to deal with claims for property by dispossessed Greek Cypriots, following the informal partition of the island in 1974.

The IPC began work in 2006 and was created as a response to the Xenides – Arestis vs Turkey case which was ruled on by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The aim was to provide a local remedy for dispossessed Greek Cypriots who previously had no other option than to make application to the ECHR.

The IPC has sought international recognition from the outset and has two international members which add credence and impartiality to its work.

Some 433 applications have been received by the Immovable Property Commission to date, and around 85 claims have been concluded. The IPC offers dispossessed Greek Cypriots, or their heirs, restitution, exchange or compensation with respect to abandoned property.

Some 74 claims have been settled on the basis of compensation, there have been 4 ‘friendly' settlements of restitution, and 2 cases of exchange and compensation. In all some £37m has been paid out in compensation to date.

The number of applications to the IPC has been significant, but is less than the number of cases pending at the ECHR, which numbers some 1,475. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the IPC has only been in existence since 2006, and many Greeks made claims to the ECHR before this date. Secondly, the government of the Greek Republic of Cyprus has persistently attempted to dissuade Greek Cypriots from making applications to the IPC, for purely political reasons. Thirdly, the Greek Republic of Cyprus has used every opportunity to criticise and undermine the work of the IPC. Lastly, some Greek Cypriots may feel they may receive a more attractive settlement from the ECHR.

The main complaint of the Greek Republic of Cyprus is that the Immovable Property Commission does not offer an effective remedy to dispossessed Greek Cypriots because the prospect of restitution is extremely limited. Restitution is the return of land and property which a dispossessed Greek Cypriot owned prior to 1974. A TRNC minister allegedly stated that a mere 4% of land could be returned to dispossessed Greek Cypriots, with immediate effect.

Greek apologists have drawn on property precedents considered by the ECHR and are promoting an aggressive campaign against the Immovable Property Commission, due to the small number of cases resolved on the basis of restitution.

The TRNC case is that restitution is only one of the several remedies available, the others being compensation and exchange of land. In reality, a lot of the land abandoned by dispossessed Greeks in 1974 has been allocated to other persons, and this includes Turkish mainland settlers in addition to Turkish Cypriots. TRNC title deeds have also been issued to these persons.

Also, very few Greek Cypriots, or rather the heirs of the original dispossessed Greek Cypriots, would wish to return to their ‘lost properties' in North Cyprus. North Cyprus no longer has any significant Greek Cypriot presence, and most Greeks would consider it a foreign land with an alien culture. Therefore, the prospect of compensation as opposed to restitution is an attractive remedy for claimants.

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

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