The Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church, still present on the

The island of Cyprus, given its
strategic position between East and West, has been influenced by several
different civilisations and traditions, such as the Egyptian, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman,
Greek, Turkish and finally, the British one.1

Historically the island, in fact, was
part of the empires of Egypt, Persia, Macedonia and the Roman one. As a
consequence, “the population has been predominantly ethnically Greek since
then.”2 However, when the Roman
Empire collapsed in the fourth century, the island “was ruled by Byzantium, the
Franks, the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks. It was during the Ottoman period
that the ancestors of the Turkish Cypriots settled on the island.”3

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For the sake of this
thesis and the subject it addresses, I decided to limit the timeline of the
historical background presented between the 1820 and the 1980s, namely between
the Greek War of Independence and the declaration of independence of the
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The Ottoman Empire ruled the island
between 1571 and 1878 and the Greek Orthodox faith was practiced. The Greek War
of Independence erupted in 1821, giving rise to Greek nationalism in Cyprus, which
resulted in the Greek Cypriot demand for enosis, meaning the union
with Greece. However, under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the British Empire
acquired the administrative powers on the island. Turkey, successor to the
Ottoman Empire, officially withdrawn its claims to the island and the latter
was later declared a Crown Colony of the British Empire in 1925.4

In 1950, the Greek Cypriot Orthodox
Church, still present on the island of Cyprus under the leadership of the
Archbishop Makarios III, proposed a plebiscite for the Greek enosis, meaning the incorporation of
Cyprus into the Greek State. The result of the plebiscite showed 96% of the
Greek Cypriot population voting in favor of the incorporation.5
Notwithstanding the will of the people, Great Britain, Greece and the UN
Secretary-General remained inactive, probably not to compromise the bilateral
relations between the two States. Given the circumstances, in 1955, the EOKA –
the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters – was founded with the aim of ending
the British power in Cyprus and reaching enosis through armed combat.6
Meanwhile, the Turkish Cypriots refused the idea of annexation of the island to
Greece and claimed to be taken into account when deciding over the future of
Cyprus. As a consequence of the autonomous push by the Greek Cypriot towards
annexation, a deterioration of relations between the two communities was
witnessed. By 1959, the situation in Cyprus became intolerable and the Greek
and Turkish Foreign Ministers agreed to enter into bilateral negotiations. A
formal meeting took place in London with the British, Greek and Turkish powers
following which Great Britain granted the independence to the newly declared
Republic of Cyprus. Three documents were created, a draft of the Constitution
of the Republic of Cyprus, the Treaty of Guarantee and the Treaty of Alliance.7
With the Treaty of Guarantee, Cyprus undertook not to participate in “union
with any other State” or to proceed to partition and the three powers granted
independence and territorial integrity to the Republic, with the possibility to
take action in case of breach of the treaty.8
Furthermore, with the Treaty of Alliance between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, the
deployment of 950 Greek and 650 Turkish troops on the island was regulated. The
official aim of the stationing of troops was to train the Cypriot army,
however, it was also intended as an assurance for the security of the two
communities.9

In general, the Republic of Cyprus was created on the basis of bi-communalism between Turkish Cypriots and
Greek Cypriots, recognized as co-founders of the Republic. Nevertheless, this
status was quickly overthrown when the Greek Cypriot President Makarios
proposed a revision of the Constitution which was firmly opposed by Turkey, as
the amendments were seen as aiming at undermining the Turkish Cypriot power
within the Republic.10 The
amendments were proposed in a document comprising 13 points of revision of the
Constitution. Among those points it was proposed the abolition of the veto
power of the President and the Vice-President, the election of both Presidents by the
House of Representatives, the unification of the judiciary, the police and the
gendarmerie, The determination of the amount of security forces and military
troops by law, the participation of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the public
and the military service in proportion to the strength of the population and the
abolition of the Greek Cypriot Communal Chambers, while the Turkish Cypriots
could maintain their Communal Chamber if they wished to do so.11 ?

Turkey firmly opposed the application of the amendments and was ready to
intervene if those would have been implemented without any external consent. Even
Greece, in April 1963, represented by Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos
Averoff-Tositsas had previously warned Makarios that any attempt to alter the
1960 agreements, as the constitutional amendments, could result in severely
undermining the relations between the two communities on the island, Greek and
Turkish, as well as, in a wider scale between Greece and Turkey.12 The unstable situation culminated in the events
of 1963 during which “109 villages, most of them Turkish or mixed villages,
were partially or completely destroyed and 25000-30000 Turkish Cypriots were
uprooted from their homes and became internally displaced.”13 A
resettlement of Turkish Cypriots took place and citizens were forced to live in
the Turkish Cypriots enclaves, that “represented only 2% of the island’s
territory, but were inhabited by 59,000 Turkish Cypriots”14, bearing
the difficulties of a life without certain goods and services. Those, in fact,
were made unavailable by the Greek Cypriots and later contributed to the
dependency that the Turkish Cypriot part developed and still has on Turkish aid.15
In reaction to the current situation, in 1964, the UN Security Council adopted
a resolution with the purpose of stabilizing the situation on the island. A
recommendation against any action to worsen the situation and towards the
ending of violence was made, together with the creation of the United Nations
Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).16
Its task was to prevent violence and restore the status quo ante on the island. Following a riot, also approximately
6000 UN soldiers were deployed.17

A dramatic turning
point is registered in 1974, when the Greek dictator, Ioannidis, ordered and
successfully accomplished a coup d’état against the Cypriot President Makarios, in
order to substitute him with Nikos Sampson, a Greek nationalist member of EOKA,
and achieve enosis.18
Turkey, threatened by the Greek rising power on the island, reacted by
ordering the landing of Turkish army on the island, an action that was in
condemned by the UN, that was demanding the ending of foreign interventions
that could undermine the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.19
In the meantime, Turkish Cypriots within the Government of the Republic of
Cyprus started demanding a bi-zonal State, with the territory of the new
Turkish Federated State covering 34% of the island. The Turkish troops present
on the Cypriot island were re-enforced to 35000-40000 soldiers without any
reaction from Greece nor Great Britain, respectively because unable and unwilling
to militarily fight Turkey.20
Consequently, 95% of the Greek Cypriots living in the north part of the island
left for the south and Turkish Cypriots were given incentives by Turkey to move
and resettle in the north. These facts brought, in 1975, to the official
unilateral proclamation of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus and, later in
1983, to the self-declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an
independent State.

 

1.    Current situation of the island

 

1.1.Legal status of TRNC under international law

 

At
present, the island of Cyprus is still divided between the Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus. The separateness was emphasized
when the latter joined the European Union in 2004. Instead, the Turkish
Republic of Northern Cyprus is formally recognized as an independent State only
by Turkey, for which it has naturally developed a strong economic and political
dependency due to its isolation. This is one of factors, together with the
presence of Turkish army, compromising the independence of the TRNC. Despite
that, in fact, the TRNC could be potentially recognized as an independent legal
entity given its defined territory and population, as well as its government,
legislature and judiciary that are legitimized under the Constitution of the
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Nevertheless, in practice, the Turkish
army is still present on the north side – even though the exact and realistic
number of troops is disputed – and it is said to control the TRNC police and, consequently,
matters of internal security and border control as well as influence internal
politics. Matters that should be left, in principle, to the Turkish Cypriot
government. Moreover, the UNFICYP is still in place within the island of
Cyprus, following several mandate renewals, in order to “prevent a recurrence
of fighting, contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and
to a return to normal conditions.”21

In fact,
according to the most recent Security Council Resolution on the Cyprus problem,
the Council recalled the importance for the TRNC and Republic of Cyprus to
engage in negotiations towards a settlement, stressing that the status quo is “unsustainable”.22

 

1.2.Protection of Human Rights

 

Human
rights of the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are protected
under the Constitution of the TRNC. Differently from the adjacent side – that
is one of the signatories of the ECHR – 
there is no supervision mechanism to check compliances with fundamental
rights at a supranational level. This is due to the lack of international
recognition of the TRNC. As of 1974, human rights became a primary concern
within the “Cyprus problem” given the massive displacement of persons that led
to potential violations of the freedom of movement and residence, as well as
the freedom of property both in the south and north side.23
This problem was addressed by the European Court of Human Rights as a result of
the applications by Greek Cypriots lodged against Turkey. How the Court is
holding Turkey accountable for the human rights violations in the TRNC is the
focus of this essay and it will be addressed in the next sections.