The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday unanimously upheld a complaint filed by a Greek Cypriot refugee against Turkey over the lack of effectiveness of the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) in the breakaway north to which she had applied for compensation for her property in 2008.
The ECHR unanimously rejected Turkey’s preliminary objection concerning the non-exhaustion of domestic remedies by Adriani Joannou and found there was a violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1, which concerns the right to property.
According to the ECHR decision, “the applicant’s complaint that the proceedings by which she sought compensation for her property located in the “TRNC” had been protracted and ineffective, under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1”.
The court ordered Turkey to pay Joannou €7,000 plus any tax that may be chargeable for non-pecuniary damage and €6,325 plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant in respect of costs and expenses, within three months from the date of the final judgement.
The court also ruled that from the expiry of the three months until settlement, simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.
It dismissed the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
The court said, however, that their ruling concerned the particular case only and is “not calling into question the effectiveness of the IPC remedy as such”.
While stressing that, for the present, the IPC remedy remains a remedy to be exhausted by other applicants who wish to invoke their rights, the ruling said, the court “remains attentive to the developments in the functioning of the IPC remedy and its ability to effectively address Greek Cypriot property claims”.
The IPC was set up in 2005 to deal with Greek Cypriot claims for compensation for their occupied properties.
Joannou, who lives permanently in the UK, received five plots of land in the village of Koma Tou Yialou in the occupied Famagusta area in 1997 as a gift from her aunt.
In May 2008, Joannou filed a claim with the IPC for compensation amounting to UK£1,800,000 (approximately €2,285,000).
The case remained pending for almost a decade as the regime in the north filed an objection to the IPC alleging that Joannou had failed to prove that she was the legal heir to the property, while a number of preliminary hearings before the commission were repeatedly adjourned.
In 2014, Joannou filed a complaint to the ECHR over the excessive length of proceedings to obtain compensation.
Joannou’s lawyer, Achilleas Demetriades, said the court ruling was a “huge success”, as it dealt a blow to the supposed effectiveness of the IPC.
“The fact that the court has found that treatment for the violation of property rights before the IPC is ineffective is a huge success, given the ECHR case law so far,” Demetriades told the Cyprus News Agency.
The ECHR is now monitoring the IPC, Demetriades said, and this control will force Turkey to fully comply with human rights provisions.
He added that the ECHR now expects the continuation of procedures before the IPC for Joannou to be compensated for her property claims.