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TRNC Compensation Commission

Awarding a Greek Cypriot refugee 800,000 Euros in damages on Thursday 7th December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has given authority to the TRNC Immovable Property Commission to process future cases.

In the high profile Myra Xenides-Arestis case, the ECHR also awarded 50,000 Euros for non-pecuniary damage and 35,000 Euros for costs and expenses. Commenting on the verdict, the ECHR said: "The case concerns a Cypriot national who has been prevented from living in her home and having access to, using and enjoying her property since August 1974 following the conduct of military operations in northern Cyprus by Turkey in July and August 1974.'' This was an extremely significant ruling because it has major implications for future claims by around 1,400 Greek Cypriots. The ECHR said: "The new compensation and restitution mechanism, in principle, had taken care of the requirements of the decision of the Court on admissibility of March 14, 2005 and its judgment of December 22nd, 2005.''

Referring to the ''Immovable Property Commission'' set up by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in 2005, the ruling could now mean that Greek Cypriots will NOT be able to pursue their claims through the ECHR. The decision has been welcomed by the Turkish capital. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said: "The ruling, in principle, shows that the property commission's studies up to today have met the expectations of the European Court of Human Rights and that it may become a domestic remedy."

The Foreign Ministry added: "The ruling, which we welcome, is important not only regarding the Xenides-Arestis application but also regarding other similar applications, and also constitutes an important phase of the process foreseen by the court for resolving of property claims." However, since Arestis' claim goes back to 1987,and the property commission has only existed in its current form since March this year, the ECHR cannot force Arestis to apply to the commission.

This case became a precedent for future similar cases. The ruling of the ECHR is significant since it authorizes the Turkish Cypriot Immovable Property Commission, blocking the Greek Cypriots from carrying their cases to the ECHR in the future. So far around 80 Greek Cypriots have applied to the commission seeking either financial compensation or restitution of the property rights they lost during Turkey's intervation in 1974. Nine cases have so far been resolved, with six Greek Cypriot refugees accepting financial compensation, and a further three securing restitution.

Commenting on the decision, North Cyprus land and property consultant, Tom Roche, said: "This is definitely a step in the right direction. The Arestis case represents another example of the ECHR using itsauthority to resolve hundreds of disputes in a mass-claims process, so-called 'class action. The court has acknowledged that the Turkish Cypriot side is trying to establish an effective local remedy for the 1,360 cases outstanding. Greek Cypriots have been discouraged from applying by their own government, but I expect many more will now come forward and settle for monetary compensation, as the prospect of a comprehensive solution to the socalled Cyprus problem seems far off."
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