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
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.