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Nicosia, 19 February 2011



“A Principled Basis for a Just and Lasting Cyprus Settlement on the Basis of International Law”

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I wish to endorse the concrete proposals formulated by Dr. Theofil Malkides and by Christos Jakovu.  A Union of Hellenes should be strengthened and it should liaise with other victims of Ottoman and Turkish oppression, including all Christian minorities of Asia Minor such as the Armenians and the Chaldeo-Assyrians .  Not only “historical inequities” must be made known and vindicated, but also the continuing discrimination and intimidation, the continuing cultural genocide and destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and other places of memory.  The Greek Cypriots must raise their voices internationally to denounce the pillage of Greek Cypriot churches and sacred places by the Turkish occupation since 1974, and demand full restitution of icons, mosaics and other items of the Greek Cypriot cultural heritage.

A Union of Hellenes together with the Armenians and other “unsung victims” must again and again remind the international community of the historical events and demand the realization of the right to truth, including the right to historical truth.  This is a right de lege ferenda that the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay strongly supports .  The Hellenes must redouble their efforts so that these outrages be formally recognised by Turkey, so that the international community deny recognition to the consequences of the genocide. Academics the world over must make sure that the Turkish attempt at destruction of memory – damnatio memoriae – be repudiated.

This conference is devoted to the unsung victims – Greeks of Pontus and Smyrna, Greeks of Constantinople, Greek-Cypriots, Armenians, Chaldeo-Assyrians.  Last September 2010 Hilda Tchoboian held a very good lecture on “Three Genocides – One Perpetrator” at the Athens Conference.  I endorse her observations and wish this follow-up conference a broader international echo.  Human Rights Law and International Law are on the side of the victims. It is important to know what your rights are and how to invoke them.

Now, I wish to alert  you to certain realities.  International Law is not mathematics.  The Norms are not identical with implementation.  On the other hand, the absence of implementation does not imply an absence of law, but rather an absence of effective mechanisms of enforcement, and more often than not an absence of political will. The strategy must therefore include education and information campaigns so as to prepare the ground for the exercise of informed political will.  One cannot expect that the international community will impose sanctions or that a disinvestment campaign will take hold, until there is a general feeling that an injustice has been committed and that the victims are entitled to rehabilitation, restitution and compensation.  Everybody agrees that there should be no impunity – in principle – but not everybody agrees about the guilt of the perpetrators.  Information is crucial in order to make it “click”.

And even when the information is available, there are other obstacles to overcome, including neo-colonial and imperialistic paradigms, strategic and geopolitical concerns, and (how could it be otherwise!) economic interests.   A classical example of how geopolitical and economic interests trumped human rights considerations is the disgraceful handling of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus by the international community in 1974, the connivance of the major powers, the lip service given to international law and human rights, and the absence of any political will to correct the obviously illegal situation, even though more than 36 years have elapsed since the Turkish aggression and illegal occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

The United Nations has been in Cyprus for decades.  The Security Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council have adopted relevant resolutions – but there has been no implementation, nor any genuine effort to enforce international law with respect to the continuing violation of the rights of the Greek Cypriot people. The gap between law and implementation remains as large as ever.

On 24April 2004 a United Nations drafted “Foundation Agreement” laid down in “The Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus Problem” (the Annan Plan for Cyprus) was put to a democratic vote in Cyprus and 75.8% of the Greek-Cypriot population rejected the plan.
The vote was followed by unjust and unjustifiable criticism of the Greek-Cypriot electorate from the side of politicians and the media, both in the European Union and in the United States.  Yet, if indeed the international community aimed at a democratic settlement of the artificial division of Cyprus and of the consequences of the illegal Turkish invasion of 1974, the best method was to allow the Cypriot population to negotiate freely and not to attempt to impose a plan in which the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities had not fully participated.  The reunification of the island should be the result of community dialogue and not of international interference, which in many ways reflect neo-colonial paradigms.

But once the international community decided to put the Annan Plan to a vote, it was committed to respect the voice of the people, for indeed, if the international community was acting in good faith, then it had to welcome the results of the referendum and not protest against the clear expression of the will of the people.  The very nature of the democratic process is that the result of a vote may or may not be as anticipated.  What matters is the freely expressed choice of the people concerned and not the interests of the major external powers.  The choice was given to the Cypriot people, and they spoke clearly, as was their democratic right.

Nearly seven years after the vote, upon rereading of the Annan plan, the non-committed observer may wonder why anyone could have possibly expected the Greek-Cypriot population to vote for a plan that entailed abandoning positions held by the Security Council and the General Assembly since July 1974, abandoning the reports of the European Commission of Human Rights, abandoning the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and compromising fundamental principles of law including:

  1. art. 2, paragraph 4, of the United Nations Charter stipulating the prohibition of the threat and of the use of force
  2. Principle VI of the Nuremberg Principles, which defines the crime against peace as a crime under international law
  3. General Assembly Resolution 2650  on “Friendly Relations”
  4. General Assembly Resolution 3314 on the Definition of Aggression
  5. Common Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, which stipulates the right to self-determination, more fundamentally the right to one’s homeland and the prohibition to be expelled from one’s homeland
  6. Article 12 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the right to return of refugees and expellees
  7. Protocol I of the European Convention on Human Rights, stipulating the right to property
  8. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, which prohibits forced population transfers and the implantation of settlers in occupied territory
  9. The Report of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights on the Human Rights Aspects of Population Transfers, which unequivocally condemns forced population transfers and the implantation of settlers in occupied territory, Al Khasawneh Report of July 1997, E/CN.4/Sub .2/1997/23, see annexes 1 and 2, and UN Sub-Commission Resolutions 1994/24, 1998/26, 1999/47, 2000/53, 2001/54, 2002/30, etc.


Moreover, the Annan Plan was contrary to several general principles of law recognized by the International Court of Justice as a fundamental sources of law (article 38 of the statute), including the principle

Ex injuria non oritur jus, according to which out of a violation of law no legitimacy can arise,

The principle ubi jus ibi remedium, according to which there is State responsibility for internationally wrongful acts and a remedy for every violation.

The Annan Plan was incompatible with the prohibition of unjust enrichment, according to which a thief cannot keep the fruits of a crime

Many provisions of the Plan are also inconsistent with specific human rights norms developed by the competent United Nations organs following the rejection of the Annan Plan, including

The Pinheiro Pinciples of 2005, in particular the right to return of refugees and expellees

The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy, adopted by General Assembly on 16 December 2005 .
In view of the above it is clear that the Annan Plan was rightly rejected and that no one should be tempted to resuscitate it.

This is why in 2005 an International Expert Panel composed of eight independent international lawyers including Professor Andreas Auer, Professor Marc Bossuyt, Professor Peter Burns, Professor Malcolm Shaw and myself were called upon to prepare a study for a Constitutional Convention for Cyprus. The purpose of our Report was to seek a just Cyprus settlement providing for the peaceful and prosperous future of all the people of the island. In order to do this, we endeavoured to apply principles drawn from international and European law for the settlement of international disputes, including disputes concerning members of the European Union. Such principles lie at the heart of international and European law. Failure to respect such principles is likely not only to prejudice the success of any particular settlement plan by internalising contradictions with international law and thus weakening its sustainability, but also to constitute a destabilising element for the future.  A political settlement contrary to accepted international and European legal principles would entail serious consequences for the stability of the international order.

The fundamental principles of international and European law offer a unique guide and methodology by which to initiate and successfully conclude a process leading to a Cyprus settlement within the framework of a new and genuinely Cypriot Constitution in accordance with the right of self-determination. This is at the very core of a European solution for Cyprus, consistent with international and European law.

We completed our Report in the fall of 2005 and presented it to the Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, and to the leader of the Turkish community in occupied Northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, as well as to the European Parliament in Brussels .  We conducted an international  workshop on the Constitutional Convention for Cyprus in April 2008 at the Centre for Research on Direct Democracy in Aarau, hosted by Professor Andreas Auer of the University of Zürich.

In or Report we recommended:
a) The acknowledgement of the aforesaid Fundamental Principles by those parties involved in seeking peace, justice and security in Cyprus.
b) The adoption of a Resolution in the European Parliament (and in other pertinent international institutions) reaffirming the Fundamental Principles.
c) The establishment in the European Parliament (and in other pertinent international institutions) of a monitoring mechanism by which the conformity of any proposed Cyprus settlement with the Fundamental Principles may be ensured.
d) The creation of a Constitutional Convention under European Union auspices and on the basis of the 1960 Cyprus Constitution to bring together the parties directly concerned in order to reach a settlement in conformity with the Fundamental Principles.”
We concluded our Report by pointing out that the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union has fundamentally changed the internal as well as the external aspects of the Cyprus problem. Greek and Turkish Cypriots have now become citizens of the Union, enjoying the rights and subject to the duties provided for in the European legal order. The Republic of Cyprus is a member state and thus one of the “Masters of the Treaties”. Had the Annan Plan been accepted and implemented before accession, that very accession would have rested on shaky legal grounds, as the Union would have integrated a new member state which would not even have signed the accession treaty, while the Republic of Cyprus, which has signed the treaty, would have ceased to exist. Now that accession has become a reality, the abolition of the Republic of Cyprus through a revised Annan Plan is prevented by the very existence of the European Union.
Our Report noted that the European Union has the historic opportunity and the special responsibility for promoting a new process of democratic constitution making in Cyprus and for convincing all communities to take part in such a process. In so doing, the European Union would ensure the application of its own principles and values, as well as those of international law generally, within the territory of one of its own member-states.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is no doubt that international law is on the side of the Greek Cypriots.  But, as indicated above, the problem lies elsewhere – in power politics, in the vestiges of British colonialism, in the geostrategic interests of the United States, in the economic interests of the European Union, in Turkish imperial fantasies and in the intellectual dishonesty of countless politicians, journalists and university professors.

Yet, the victims should never give up.  Gutta cavat lapidem.  Perseverence ultimately prevails.  I therefore encourage you to serenely and firmly demand that International law be applied uniformly, even if we all know that it is applied à la carte.  We should insist that Human rights principles be respected, always keeping the human dignity of each individual in mind, and notwithstanding the fact that human rights continue to be applied selectively.

We note that there are consensus victims and those whom the world would prefer to forget.  These are the “unsung victims” – the Greek Cypriots, the Greeks of Pontos and Smyrna, the Chaldeo-Assyrians, the Greeks and Armenians who endured the Setemvriana pogrom , the Ukrainians who endured the Holodomor, the 15 million ethnic Germans expelled from their 700-year homelands of East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, East Brandenburg, Bohemia, Moravia, Yugoslavia, the Amerindios of South America, the First Nations of the United States and Canada, who are still subjected to the indignity of being called “Indians”, the Aborigines of Australia and Tasmania.  When will these unsung victims experience justice?

When will their status as victims be recognized by the international community?

Let me conclude with the thought that you all should manifest your willingness to dialogue: 

Yes, -- there is room for dialogue, but not for the destruction of memory.
No, -- there is no room for dialogue on the existence of the crime of genocide, but there is an urgent need for dialogue on rehabilitation and reparation for the victims.
No, -- there is no room for distractions and red herrings.  There is a need for sincere dialogue and intellectual honesty, for emotional maturity in coming to grips with the past.
Yes, -- the United Nations, the European Union, the international community have a role to play here, but not by imposing a “plan” top-down, but rather by facilitating a true democratic dialogue between the parties bottom-up.
Yes, -- there is need to focus on the future, but not at the expense of the past,

For one cannot build a sustainable future on the uncertain sands of untruth and injustice.


Alfred de Zayas, The Genocide against the Armenians 1915-1923 and the Relevance of the 1948 Genocide Convention, Haigazian University Press, Beirut, 2010.





Alfred de Zayas, “The Istanbul Pogrom of 6-7 September 1955 in the light of international law” in Genocide Studies and Prevention, University of Toronto, 2007.

Alfred de Zayas, « Nemesis at Potsdam », Routledge, London 1977 ; Alfred de Zayas « A Terrible Revenge » Palgrave/Macmillan 2006.


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