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Turkey’s suspension of European Convention on Human Rights could impact north, legal experts say

Turkey’s decision to invoke article 15 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), temporarily suspending its implementation in a state of emergency, could extend to the occupied northern part of Cyprus, legal expert Achilleas Demetriades told the Cyprus Mail on Friday.

Article 15 of the ECHR allows a state to “take measures derogating from its obligations” in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation, “provided that [the measures] are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law”.

The article does not allow for derogations from article 2 (‘Right to life’), except in respect of deaths resulting from lawful acts of war, or from articles 3 (‘Prohibition of torture’), 4 (‘Prohibition of slavery’), and 7 (‘No punishment without law’).

The articles affected include the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, the right to respect for private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, the right to marry, the right to an effective remedy, and prohibition of discrimination.

The Turkish government has said that the state of emergency it has declared may be lifted as early as six weeks from now.

In terms of the possible spillover effect into Cyprus, the short answer is that Turkey could apply the measures to the occupied areas, although there is no way of assigning probability.

“There’s basically two interpretations that could be argued,” said Demetriades.

“If I were Turkey, I would argue that the derogation does not apply to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) as it is an independent country.”

In reality, he added, the rest of the world does not share this interpretation.

“For the rest of the world, the so-called TRNC is not a separate country, but a subordinate local administration of Turkey’s.”

Therefore, the argument goes, political decisions made by the Turkish state could apply to the breakaway regime in the north of Cyprus, depending on the expediency of invoking either of the two interpretations.

But such a development could impact any number of facets of life in the occupied areas as they may relate to human rights – including Turkey’s Immovable Property Commission in northern Cyprus, which was set up to settle Greek Cypriots’ claims on their occupied properties via monetary compensation.

“Yes, in theory the commission’s operation could be impacted, depending on the argument Turkey chooses to put forth – whether the derogation applies in the north or not,” another legal expert said on condition of anonymity.

“However, it would probably be wrong to limit the possible impact of Turkey’s decision to invoke article 15 to the IPC’s operation – if the derogation does apply in the occupied areas, it’s going to impact any aspect of life there, not just the commission.”

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