The Human Rights situation in Cyprus

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Mr. Nicos Agathocleous to the 3rd Committee of the General Assembly
21 November 1996

Madame Chairperson,

In 1993, forty-five years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Community happily recognized, that all Human Rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and therefore their promotion and protection is a global legitimate concern. In this regard, the role of the United Nations has always been very important. We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Ayala Lasso, to the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Mr. Ibrahim Fall, and all others involved, for their untiring efforts in the field of Human Rights.

Cyprus attaches utmost importance to the issue of human rights and is fully committed to their universal application and promotion. We feel, therefore, that it is our duty to continue to promote and protect International Human Rights standards, and , at the same time, to show the necessary firmness and determination against all forms of human rights violations. In this context we must face up to the problem of holding fully accountable, those who refuse to respect the human rights of others and who choose to disregard the international commitments which they have freely accepted. Although we understand the concerns expressed by some countries, which view such firmness as somehow an interference in the internal affairs of nations, we join our voice to the plea for the protection, without discrimination, of Human Rights Standards, which must remain central to all our endeavors to promote peace, security and prosperity throughout the world.

Allow me, Madame Chairperson, to take this opportunity to remind this august body of the experiences of my country and its people. For more than 22 years, Cyprus continues to be forcibly divided, while 37% of its territory remains under the military occupation of Turkey.

As a result of the forcible expulsion of the indigenous population from their ancestral homes, nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots are still denied their basic human right to return to their homes and properties, in safety, in the occupied part of the Republic. Furthermore, foreign settlers from Anatolia are still being brought in and settled there, thus changing the ages-long demographic structure of the island. All this is accomplished in flagrant violation and total disregard of United Nations Resolutions and decisions.

Madame Chairperson,

Of particular interest and grave concern to the Government of Cyprus are the serious violations of the most basic and fundamental human rights of the Greek and Maronites Cypriots living in the Turkish occupied area known as the "enclaved", perpetrated daily by the Turkish occupation forces.

Basic rights such as the right to freedom of movement, personal security, religion, education, health, etc., are denied to the 654 persons remaining, out of the 20,000 enclaved at the time of the Turkish invasion. The Secretary-General, himself, in his report, S/496/411 of June 7, 1996, states, inter alia, that the Greek-Cypriot and Maronites living in the northern part of the island are subjected to severe restrictions and limitations in many basic freedoms, which had the effect of ensuring that inexorably, with the passage of time, these communities would cease to exist. In addition in the latest resolution on Cyprus 1062 (1996) the Security Council regrets that the Turkish side has not responded more fully to the recommendations made by UNFICYP (S/1995/1020 of December 10th 1995) and calls upon the Turkish side to respect fully the basic freedoms of the Greek-Cypriots and Maronites living in the northern part of the island.

The oppressive policies in the occupied area continue, despite the calls made by the Security Council. The refusal to give permission to a Greek Orthodox priest to conduct services for the enclaved and to allow the replacement of a retired teacher of the Greek Cypriot elementary school in the occupied village of Rizokarpaso, leaving 31 pupils of all grades with one teacher in two classrooms, is further proof of the existence of a policy to force the enclaved to abandon their homes and properties.

Such actions are in full contravention, not only to the Third Vienna Agreement of 1975 which provided for normal living conditions for the enclaved, but also of the relevant international humanitarian law especially of the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the protection of civilians in occupied territories.

Madame Chairperson,

Allow me to apprise you on the tragic issue of the missing persons in Cyprus, a humanitarian problem which is still unresolved. This Committee is fully aware of the problem as it was seized of, and discussed it several times in the past. It is worth reminding that it was on the basis of a number of resolutions initiated in this Committee that an investigatory Committee was established in 1981 under the auspices and with the participation of the UN to ascertain the fate of the missing persons in Cyprus.

Unfortunately, although the Committee started its investigatory work in 1984, no real progress was made towards the fulfillment of its humanitarian mandate. Moreover, since the retirement of Ambassador Paul Wurth, the UN Secretary General's representative in the Committee, in March 1996, the Committee's investigative work is at a standstill.

In 1993 the Secretary General of the United Nations, in order to remedy this unsatisfactory situation, made certain suggestions. Further suggestions were made in 1996.

The Government of Cyprus in its desire to see progress in the efforts to ascertain the fate of the missing persons and to end the agony and the trauma of their families, in a spirit of goodwill, accepted the suggestions and fully cooperated for their implementation. The hope and the expectation of the Government of Cyprus in accepting the Secretary General's suggestions is that the Committee will immediately restart its humanitarian work with the appointment by the Secretary general of a new Third Member and, that real progress and conclusive results, which have been elusive since the Committee's establishment, can be achieved in this new phase.

The Government of Cyprus repeats its appeal to all concerned for their assistance, co-operation and help for a speedy resolution of this tragic humanitarian problem which concerns both Greek and Turkish Cypriot families. To this end the co-operation and help of the Republic of Turkey is essential and indispensable.

Madame Chairperson,

We have time and time again displayed our commitment as well as our good will for a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem in accordance with the United Nations resolutions and the High Level Agreements; a solution which will guarantee the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Cyprus; a solution which will safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the whole of its population, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike. Recent events have highlighted once again the urgency for solving this international problem.

The brutal killings by the Turkish occupation forces and Turkish extremists imported from mainland Turkey, of two unarmed Greek Cypriot demonstrators (one beaten to death and the other killed in cold blood), witnessed on television screens by the entire world, as was the wounding of many others, including United Nations peace-keepers, vividly depicts the tragedy of this divided island and underlines the grave dangers emanating from the continuation of the status-quo.

Perpetuation of the status-quo means continuation of human rights violations in my country.

It must never be forgotten, Madame Chairperson, that not to uphold international law and respect for human rights in one situation, sets a precedent for similar failure elsewhere. Furthermore, the credibility of the UN would be eroded if they cannot ensure the effective implementation of human rights everywhere and in all cases.

Thank You.