By Stefanos Evripidou
BRITISH MEMBER of the European Parliament (MEP) Marina Yannakoudakis will be holding a follow-up meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu tomorrow to discuss progress on the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the breakaway regime.
So far, homosexuality in Cyprus has only been decriminalised in the areas under the effective control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus.
When Yannakoudakis visited Cyprus in 2011, she received assurances from Eroğlu that he would proceed with the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Since then, Yannakoudakis has been lobbying the Turkish Cypriots for decriminalisation while the Turkish Cypriot community has received technical assistance from the European Union to support that aim.
The British MEP will hold meetings with members of the Turkish Cypriot community today and tomorrow to discuss the next steps regarding decriminalisation.
In early 2012, members of the European Parliament condemned reports that two inmates in a Turkish Cypriot prison had appeared in court on charges of having had homosexual sex in a prison cell. The condemnation was yet more damning because it came after earlier personal promises to Yannakoudakis by Eroglu that the law would be repealed.
In August 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) agreed to examine a legal challenge against Turkey for the north’s continued failure to repeal a law banning homosexuality.
The application was filed in Strasbourg in February 2012 by the Human Dignity Trust (HDT), a London-based NGO made up of active and retired judges which helps local groups and individuals challenge the legality of laws that criminalise same-sex relationships.
The HDT took the decision to pursue Turkey after a wave of arrests for homosexuality in the north.
The current law on homosexuality in the north dates back to British colonial times and has never been repealed or amended, despite the fact homosexuality is no longer illegal in Turkey or the Republic of Cyprus, where the colonial law was repealed after a decision by the ECHR.
The legal challenge has been levelled at Turkey because under international law the unrecognised breakaway state remains the responsibility of Ankara, effectively leaving it to Turkey to defend the legacy of British colonialism at the ECHR.
Speaking at the time, human rights lawyer and head of HDT, Jonathan Cooper, described the law in the north as “archaic”, violating international law and decisions of the ECHR.
“The criminalisation of identity puts people beyond protection of the law. This is not an issue of gay rights but one of upholding universal human rights,” he said.