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Our View: Government correct to stay out of ECHR case

Lawyer Achilleas Demetriades

The state legal services and the government will no doubt face heavy criti-cism for steering clear of the case filed at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Turkey by a Cypriot expat but it was the correct de-cision. Achilleas Demetriades, the lawyer of the applicant, called a news conference on Tuesday at which he complained that the Cyprus Republic’s non-participation in the proceedings would undermine his client’s applica-tion to the ECHR. If the applicant’s country refused to support the case there was a good chance the court would reject the application, he said.

Demetriades’ client, Andriani Joannou, had applied to the Immovable Prop-erty Commission in the north in 2008 for compensation for 18 donums of land she had inherited in the Karpas peninsula in 1997. She was demanding €2.6 million in compensation and was offered €80,000 by the Commission. In 2014 she applied to the ECHR claiming that the IPC, to which everyone seeking compensation for property in the north was referred by the ECHR, before it would accept an application (all local means of remedy had to be exhausted), offered an ineffective remedy.

The ECHR accepted Joannou’s application, which according to Demetri-ades was a “very important development” as this “is the first time the effec-tiveness of the IPC is examined.” However the Cyprus Republic has not filed its observations to the court, as Turkey had done, choosing to have no involvement. It was the right decision, because successive governments had never approved of individuals applying to the IPC even though they did not have the power to stop them. Having no way of stopping applications being filed, the Cyprus authorities had tried to discourage them by public pleas that were largely ignored.

Against this background, it seems a bit unreasonable for the applicant’s lawyer to complain that the Republic was refusing to participate in the pro-ceedings. It has no obligation whatsoever to support an individual who had applied to the IPC against the general advice of the state authorities. This is a democratic country in which individuals are free to apply to the IPC if they chose to, but it is ridiculous to expect the government to participate in a procedure that resulted from an action it did not approve of.

As much was said by the State Legal Service, which issued an announce-ment saying all its “officials that dealt with the matter, including the attor-ney-general and an expert called in to give an opinion, were of the view that this was not at all a suitable case in which the Republic should have become involved.” It might not prove a popular decision but it was the correct one because settlement negotiations are currently under way. And we should all know by now that the Cyprus problem and the property issue will never be solved by lawyers or the ECHR.

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