by Rhodri C. Williams
Along similar lines to my earlier piece on the UNRoD, I recently wrote an introductory note for the publication in International Legal Materials of a key decision on property rights in Cyprus by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Demopoulos decision is interesting from a number of perspectives, but not least for the new approach it brings to the issue of what standards should guide the question of when compensation can be provided in lieu of restitution (an issue I’ve opined on a number of times in the past, including here with regard to the IASC framework on durable solutions for IDPs).
The proper name of the final version of this article is “Introductory Note to the European Court of Human Rights: Demopoulos v. Turkey” and it was published in its final version in the Volume 49 No. 3 issue of International Legal Materials. The version reproduced below is an edited draft.
INTRODUCTORY NOTE TO THE European Court of Human Rights: Demopoulos v. Turkey
BY RHODRI C. WILLIAMS
On March 1, 2010, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights decided to reject the applications of seventeen Cypriot citizens against Turkey as inadmissible.[i] The applicants had alleged various violations of the European Convention of Human Rights, but the Court’s decision in Demopoulos turned on examination of their claims related to the right of property under Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the right to the home under Article 8 of the Convention.
All of the applicants in Demopoulos are Greek Cypriots who were displaced by the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of north Cyprus, and subsequently denied the use of their properties and access to homes they left behind. Essentially, this ruling is the latest in a fourteen-year line of decisions against Turkey related to the unresolved conflict in Cyprus. However, this ruling also breaks with its antecedents. First, it finds that the property claims process set up in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus may constitute an effective domestic remedy; and, secondly, it requires Greek Cypriot applicants to demonstrate that they have exhausted this remedy before their applications to the Court will be found admissible.
The broader significance of the Court’s decision in Demopoulos is two-fold. On the one hand, the decision represents the most emphatic expression to date of the Court’s determination to implement a new “pilot case” procedure. This procedure is meant to relieve the Court of a large backlog of cases by encouraging States Parties to the Convention to adopt systematic approaches allowing the domestic resolution of repetitive, or “clone” cases pending before the Court. On the other hand, the decision appears to represent a conscious effort by the Court – as one of many international players involved in the protracted negotiations over the Cyprus issue – to strike a practical balance between heretofore irreconcilable Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiating positions.