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Cyprus

Is the Varosha case like the halloumi case?, lawyer asks in ECHR property case

File photo: Varosha

Lawyer Achilleas Demetriades on Thursday called on the government to duly inform Famagusta refugees if it was a new policy to abandon them and let their properties in the fenced-off town of Varosha evaporate.

Demetriades, who is representing KV Mediterranean Tours, a company that applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over a complex of residences it owns inside Varosha in Famagusta, said the absence of the Republic of Cyprus in this and recent previous cases was glaring.

“Is the Varosha case like that of halloumi?” Demetriades said in comments to the Cyprus Mail, referring to Cyprus losing the halloumi trademark in the UK last December after the government failed to act on time.

“The question is: the halloumi was negligence. Is the Varosha case negligence or was it intentional?” Demetriades asked.

The state legal service said on Thursday the government has the final word over handling such cases, but also warned of the risks such appeals pose to the interests of the Republic.

The company filed a case to the ECHR over the protracted length and ineffectiveness of the proceedings before the north’s immovable property commission (IPC). KV Mediterranean Tours, had filed an application with the IPC in July 2010 asking for compensation for loss of use and restitution of the property. In 2012, the IPC decided that Turkish Cypriot religious foundation Evkaf must be included in the process as a litigant, after the Turkish side argued that that the closed-off town and large areas outside of it belonged to Evkaf.

The company then applied to a court, which decided in 2015 that Evkaf cannot be included in the process. The decision was overturned by the ‘supreme court’ in the north in 2016. The process has stagnated since.

The ECHR has invited the Republic of Cyprus to submit its observations on the Turkish positions and offer support its citizen by June 18, Demetriades said. He added that given that the government failed to submit its remarks in two recent similar cases before the ECHR over the IPC’s ineffectiveness, it appeared it would do the same in the current case.

If this is the government’s new policy, Demetriades said, it should be made known to all “especially to Famagusta refugees who see their lands evaporate.”

Demetriades said if the ECHR accepts claims that Varosha used to belong, since 1570 to Lala Mustafa, the Ottoman general who conquered Cyprus from the Venetians, “what’s stopping Evkaf claiming all other areas of the island?”

The lawyer said that the Turkish Cypriot claims have no merit but the issue is that the Republic of Cyprus seems unwilling to support the title deeds it had issued on the Varosha properties.

A government source told the Cyprus Mail that ECHR issues are being handled by the state legal services. There might have been consultations between the presidential palace and the legal service this week, the source said, but it is the attorney-general’s office that is handling these cases.

The legal service said however later in the day that it was studying cases filed by individuals with the ECHR against Turkey to offer advice to the government on the possibility of intervention but the final word lies with the executive branch.

In an announcement, the legal service said that Demetriades’ statements in the media aimed at forcing the government to intervene in procedures “concerning faits accomplis created with uncertain outcomes that pose serious risks to both the rights of a large proportion of citizens and the settlement of aspects of the Cyprus problem.”

In March 2019, it said, three appeals by individuals were sent to the attorney-general, as Representative of the Republic of Cyprus at the ECHR, concerning claims by Greek Cypriots before the IPC. The parties were given a three-month deadline to investigate the possibility of reaching an amicable settlement. If a compromise is not reached after the expiry of that period, the Republic will be asked to inform the ECHR whether it intends to intervene as a party to the proceedings, it said, adding that the legal service is in consultations with the foreign affairs ministry on the matter.

The legal service also said that these appeals were filed privately and without any involvement of the RoC, while very serious issues are raised in one of the three cases, that concern the general interests of the Republic, “since the ownership of property within the enclosed area of ​​Varosha has become a disputed issue before the ‘IPC’ and the ‘Courts’ of the pseudo-state.”

Therefore, through the initiative of individuals, the non-negotiable ownership of properties within the enclosed area of ​​Varosha has now been put in doubt before the ECHR, it said.

Demetriades said in response that the legal service’s references were inaccurate arguing that the deadline in one of the cases is lost. He also said that the only way for one to prove the ineffectiveness of the IPC is to file an application to it and then take it to the ECHR.

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