British Parliament on Greek affairs
April 2000
Extracts from Debates, Motions and Written Answers at the House of Commons related to Cyprus and other Greek affairs.
House of Commons Written Answers (20 Apr 2000)
10.37 am

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting): I declare an interest in the issue that I shall bring to the attention of the House.I chair the Cyprus Commonwealth parliamentary group in the House, and I want to raise the case of Loizidou v. Turkey. Mrs. Loizidou is a Greek Cypriot, and her home was in Kyrenia, which is now in the occupied area of northern Cyprus. As a result of the Turkish military invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Mrs. Loizidou was forced to leave her home and possessions.

The case involves two members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Cyprus and Turkey. As hon. Members will know, the United Kingdom is also a member of that Parliamentary Assembly. I raise the issue this morning because Cyprus is a Commonwealth country, and the United Kingdom is one of the guarantor powers for the Republic of Cyprus.

The case goes back some years, and while preliminary discussions about it were taking place, there was hope that the case would be resolved. It went before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in July 1998. Turkey and Cyprus had every opportunity to present their views on the case to the court, and they did so. The court found by 15 votes to two in favour of Mrs. Loizidou.

The case came before the court under article 50 of the European convention on human rights, which clearly states:

That is something that Mrs. Loizidou cannot do. Her property and possessions are in the occupied area of northern Cyprus, to which she is refused access by the Turkish military authorities. That action by Turkey violates article 1 of the first protocol of the convention.

Following the decision of a human rights court of which all Council of Europe states are members, there have been many attempts by the Council, by the Secretary General of the Council and by the Committee of Ministers, which represents the member states of the Council, to ensure Turkey's compliance with the judgment of the court. Regrettably, Turkey continues to refuse to recognise the court's decision.

As a member of the British delegation to the Council of Europe, I have put questions to whoever has been the Chairman-in-Office during the Council's sittings in Strasbourg. I tabled a question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as long ago as October 1998. I asked the then Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Ms Quin), to set out the actions of the Government with regard to the judgment. On 3 November she replied:

Despite that reply, there has still been a total refusal by Turkey to honour the judgment. Regrettably, no progress is being made.

At a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in January, the Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen, made a statement of regret that the Committee of Ministers had made no progress towards the execution of the judgment in the Loizidou case. He said that it was the unanimous view of the committee that the compulsory jurisdiction of the court is an obligation that is accepted by all contracting parties, which obviously includes Turkey. He added that he had sent a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Mr. Cem, emphasising the Committee's concern at Turkey's continued failure to meet its obligations.

Recently, I asked the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to express his view about the failure of Turkey to honour the court's decision. He said clearly that he deeply regretted the lack of response and commitment, and that it cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. So we have clear statements from the Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

It is apparent to me and to many other parliamentarians that a decision has clearly been made by the European Court of Human Rights in favour of Mrs. Loizidou in a judgment supported by 15 votes to two. Yet we are still seeing a member state totally refusing to honour the judgment. This is at a time when on-going discussions are taking place, in which the Government are involved, about Turkey's possible future membership of the European Union. Is the deliberate flouting of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights acceptable behaviour by a future possible member of the EU? I believe that the Government have a clear duty. Is it acceptable that the case is allowed to drag on? Where do the Government stand on the judgment, and what action will we seek to take, along with our fellow member states of the Council of Europe, to see that Turkey honours the decision of the court, which many members of the Council and Governments believe should have been honoured long ago?

10.46 am

House of Commons  (20 Apr 2000)
House of Commons Debates for 20 Apr 2000 (pt 8)
Adjournment (Easter)

Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): I was not here at 9.30 am and I did not think that I would be recognised, so I have not written anything down. It is no use sending me little envelopes, because .....
Speaker: Dr. Rudi Vis

11.39 am

Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): I was not here at 9.30 am and I did not think that I would be recognised, so I have not written anything down. It is no use sending me little envelopes, because I will not know exactly what I have ended up saying. I am a member of the Council of Europe and in January we had a debate about Chechnya. Many right hon. and hon. Members from this House and colleagues from the other place contributed to that excellent debate. We made several proposals to which we believed the Government of Russia should adhere and said that we would revisit the issue in April to see whether any progress had been made. However, not much progress was made, and there have been enormous human rights violations in Chechnya. These matters have been discussed by the Prime Minister and the new president of Russia, Mr. Putin.

In the context of the Council of Europe, there are other nations with poor human rights records. I wish to refer to Turkey, a nation with phenomenal human rights problems. It has other problems, such as the divided Cyprus on which there have been a large number of UN resolutions, none of which Turkey has adhered to. There is the Ilisu dam, into which we are potentially putting 200 million which will flood many of the historical areas of the Kurdish people. We have had the Loizidou case, which is now nearly 20 months old, on which Turkey is not listening to the European Court of Human Rights.

The main issue is the human rights violations by Turkey, its military and Government, against the Kurdish people. I have always been amazed that we have no Kurdish representatives on the Council of Europe, the Western European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, NATO or any of the international bodies, despite the fact that a large percentage of the population of Turkey is Kurdish. We must ask why there is no fair representation of the Kurdish people.

The PKK, depending on where one stands, is either a terrorist organisation or a group of freedom fighters. However, it has come up with new plans for peace, to which the Turkish Government have not reacted. I would argue that the PKK should no longer be seen as a terrorist organisation. We have been willing in other parts of the world to start discussions with organisations which may have been terrorist in the past. If we could start discussions with the PKK, it would be a good step for stability in that part of southern Europe and the middle east.

The PKK's peace plans were sent to the Foreign Office, where officials said that the plans were wonderful but that they could go no further because the PKK was a terrorist organisation. Perhaps the Foreign Office could examine those plans again and build bridges with the political wing of the PKK to help the peace process in Turkey for the Kurdish people.

11.44 am

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