THE DECISION of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to make Turkey pay €90 million in compensation to Greek Cypriot enclaved and relatives of missing persons would have surprised most people. This was a very big amount of money, which must be distributed by the Cyprus government among the individual victims – €60m would go to the enclaved and the remainder to the relatives of the missing – but how and when this would be done nobody can say. Turkey would have to pay up first.
The amount of money is important only in as far as it showed the ECHR still considered Turkey’s violations of human rights in Cyprus a major issue. As its decision noted, the passing of time did not absolve Turkey of responsibility. Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the decision, was “flawed,” and had come at “a very bad time” as it “will not do the negotiations any good.” The Cyprus government welcomed the decision.
This was a moral as well as a legal victory for the Republic, but its practical value is negligible as it will change nothing as far as the Cyprus problem is concerned. It will not lead to the withdrawal of the occupation army or the return of refugees to their homes. Ongoing negotiations would continue and the two sides would still be expected to find a political solution to the problem, regardless of the ECHR decision.
There will still be the Greek Cypriot politicians/lawyers that will see the decision as a vindication of the idea that pressure could be applied on Turkey through legal means. It was not surprising that on the day of the decision, DISY MEP Eleni Theocharous declared that the “decision provides us with powerful legal and political weapons to keep fighting on a European level.” She also said that Cyprus could achieve its goals if it actively participated in all EU bodies.
This is the type of false hope that favourable ECHR decisions give rise to. After the 2004 referendum, a couple of thousand recourses were filed at the ECHR by refugees in the misguided belief, propagated by politicians, that this would cause big problems to Turkey. The result was the establishment of the Immovable Property Commission in the north, with the blessing of the ECHR which had had enough of recourses filed by Greek Cypriot refugees.
That was a political decision as was Monday’s. Both were aimed at underlining the fact that the Cyprus problem was a political rather than a legal issue that could only resolved politically.