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Alfred de Zayas -- Abstract – Limassol 8 October 2005

The implantation of Turkish settlers in Northern Cyprus violates numerous provisions of international law, international humanitarian law and human rights law.

It constitutes a “grave breach” of article 49 of the IV Geneva Convention of 1949, giving rise not only to State responsibility, but also to personal criminal liability.

The fact that the Turkish politicians responsible for grave breaches of the Convention have thus far enjoyed impunity does not mean that the norms of international humanitarian law have ceased to exist or that they are not applicable in the Cypriot context -- it once again illustrates the reality that the international mechanisms of law enforcement are extremely weak.

Following the reunification of the Island of Cyprus, the sovereign Republic of Cyprus will have to decide how to solve the problem of some 120,000 illegal settlers, who have been implanted in defiance of international law, and who accordingly have not obtained any rights to residence or citizenship vis a vis the Republic of Cyprus.

In order to reaffirm the validity of international law and the credibility of the international prohibition of the use of force, the consequences of an illegal aggression must be reversed. The principle of general law ex injuria non oritur jus means in this context that the State that has committed an illegal act may not continue to enjoy the fruits of its own illegality, and that out of this illegality, no new rights can emerge for the Turkish Stake or its subjects.

At the same time, the human rights of the settlers must be respected. They cannot be subjected to collective expulsion, but have a right to due process and to the individual determination of their status. It is for the people of Cyprus to define the criteria according to which permanent residence or citizenship may be granted to settlers, taking into account such grounds as inter-marriage with native Cypriots and length of stay.

The interests of the Turkish settlers must be balanced against those of the 200,000 expelled Greek-Cypriots, whose rights have been recognized in numerous United Nations resolutions and in the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Among those rights are the right of Greek Cypriots to return to their homes in the North and their right to restitution of property or to appropriate compensation.

It is to be expected that a relatively high number of illegal settlers should return to their country of origin, Turkey. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration possess vast practical experience in carrying out repatriations, and should therefore be called upon to assist in devising a repatriation scheme.

Since Turkey is responsible for multiple violations of international law, it is Turkey that should bear the financial burden of the repatriation. The international community and, in particular, the European Union, have a legitimate interest in facilitating the process.

A Constitutional Convention for Cyprus could also address the issue of the status of the Turkish settlers.


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