By Ersu Ekrem…
In 1961 Joseph Heller in his novel “Catch 22” coined the term Catch 22, it described the absurd bureaucratic constraints imposed on the soldiers in World War II. The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes “ Catch 22” to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity – hoping to be found not sane enough to fly a plane and thereby escape dangerous missions – demonstrates his own sanity in making the request and thus cannot be declared insane.
Many Turkish Cypriots (TCs) enjoyed the novel and the film that was made with the same catchphrase. Little did they know that only a few years later they themselves would be caught up in one that would last for over fifty years, and still continues to this day. How did this absurdity occur? I will try to explain.
In 1960 the Cyprus Republic was formally formed as a partnership state based on the equality of the two communities of the island, Greek and Turkish, with minority rights afforded to Armenians, Catholics etc. Unfortunately, after only 3 years, the majority community which felt betrayed that Independence and not Enosis was the outcome of the founding agreement set about destroying the newly found state and set into motion the ‘Akritas Plan’ which was designed to take full control of the Island.
Turkish Cypriots were attacked, atrocities against them committed and forced out of the state machinery. The Greek Cypriots (GCs) will give a different version of events stating TCs left the Government of their own free will, which does not stand up to scrutiny and not the subject matter of this article. TCs were driven into small enclaves which constituted only 3% of the island and forced to live in ghettos or open prisons reminiscent of the Ghettos that Jews were forced to live in during WW2. Strict embargoes were applied on these ghettos where over forty items necessary for daily life, even milk for the young children, were not permitted to enter on the pretext that these items may be used for military purposes. Furthermore TCs were being persecuted indiscriminately with hundreds of lives lost and 30.000 (25% of the population) made homeless .
In a recorded conversation now available in the ”Lyndon Johnson Library” The American President Johnson describes the events to Truman.
Something had to be done to prevent the onslaught and provide some badly needed aid to TCs who were in dire straits and faced with starvation and annihilation. United Nations peacekeepers were asked to intervene, but to be able to do that a UN resolution was required which would involve recognising the government of the day which effectively had no TC representation whatsoever. Turkey was advised that this recognition would only be a temporary one until UN peacekeeping force arrived on the island to stop the bloodshed and murder.
In order to understand the conditions prevailing in that period It is necessary to quote a figure to bring the matter into perception. In only a ten-day period between 21st Dec 1963 to 1st January 1964 0.12 % of the TCs , which equates to 82,432 British Citizens at today’s population lost their lives. Turkey accepted the UN proposal with reservations, but with the condition of the TCs deteriorating by the day and immense American pressure for them not to intervene, it gave them a breathing space to stop the bloodshed and take badly needed food supplies etc to the TCs who were cut off with thousands living in refugee camps. Thus UN resolution 186 was passed on 4th March 1964 recognising the Cyprus Government of the time, without TC representation as the legitimate government and in control of the Island’s security, and lo and behold the GC dominated Cyprus government is still recognised as the legitimate government to this day and UN have not made the necessary amendment to rectify this injustice to Turkish Cypriots!
With this advantage taken, GCs have refused the application of over 100 articles of the Cyprus constitution invoking the “doctrine of necessity” as a reason for not doing so. To look at only one consequence of these that is relevant to the topic at hand namely the judiciary.
a) there is not a single Turkish Cypriot judge sitting on the bench,
b) the language conducted in court is not Turkish when one of the parties is Turkish,
c) Only solicitors registered with GC authorities are allowed to represent parties (thus discriminating against TCs ),etc .
TCs are therefore not recognising the present “Cyprus Government” controlled by the GCs with no TC representation all decisions taken are and continue to be discriminatory against TCs
With the background explained above, TCs have no faith in the judiciary of the present Cyprus state. This is akin to asking a thief to be the judge at his trial. Yet today we are dismayed to see that ECHR are recognising the judiciary of the Cyprus state as the only legitimate judiciary system on the island. When TCs pointed out the murders and atrocities committed against them in 1963-1974, they were advised by westerners to seek justice through the so-called local remedy system first, and then approach ECHR.
Some TCs taking their advice had applied to Greek Cypriot controlled court System.
On the domestic level TCs went to GC Courts on the grounds that GC Authorities failed to ascertain the fate of those TCs that had disappeared. These did not conduct effective investigation, and failed to prosecute the known perpetrators in some of the cases, even failing to return the remains of some of the missing.
THE GC COURTS DECLINED JURISDICTION AND EVEN FAILED TO LOOK AT THE SUBSTANCE OF THESE CLAIMS. BY DECIDING THAT THE CASES WERE WITHIN THE SPHERE OF “ACT OF GOVERNMENT”. GC GOVERNMENT HAS IN FACT GIVEN IMMUNITY TO ITS OFFICIALS.
Lets now look at the decision dated 16 October 2003, The” Cyprus Supreme Court” in its appellate jurisdiction rejected the case on the basis that the case did not concern an administrative decision but an act of government outside the court’s jurisdiction. Matters relating to missing persons were part of the Cyprus problem and fell within the power of the political authority (please see Ozalp Behic, Ece Behic, Suzan Behic and others v. Republic of Cyprus Attorney–General, Council of Ministers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior [case nos. 589/06, 590/06, 591/06, 592/06, 593/06].
This is a continuing violation of the procedural obligation under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the right of life, under article 5 of the Convention. Furthermore, as found by ECHR with respect to the GC missing persons, the silence of the authorities …. in the face of real concern of the relatives of the missing persons attains a level of severity which can only be categorised as Inhuman Treatment within Article 3.
When relatives of the missing TCs tried to seek justice in the European Court of Human Rights by lodging an application against the GC Authorities, their applications were rejected, the reason given was ”late lodgement of application”. Thus the courts declined to pass similar judgement against the “Cyprus Authorities” (GCs) on the continuing violation of Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as was given against Turkey with cases like Cyprus v. Turkey, Varnava and others v. Turkey where GC missing persons were involved.
ECHR found the application by the relatives of the missing TC persons inadmissible on the grounds that 2001 was too late to lodge their application (see examples Karabardak. Cyprus [76575/01] , Baybora v. Cyprus [77116/01] cases ). The Court then clarified in the Varnava and other judgements that the applications concerning the missing persons should have been lodged by the end of 1990 at the latest. Thus ECHR did not even consider if the Greek Cypriot authorities had met the requirements under the Articles 2, 3, and 5 of the Convention with respect to the Turkish Cypriots.
TCs are increasingly forced to apply to the GC courts as a local remedy, yet applying to such courts will itself legitimise the illegitimate and unconstitutional state of affairs which have failed to deliver anything remotely fair to the TCs.
This is showing a profound “Catch 22” position of immense proportion, and a great injustice to the TCs that needs to be addressed immediately as TCs cannot seek or get justice. The western powers, especially UK which is a guarantor power of Cyprus need to set up an independent judiciary system with impartial judges to look at the cases brought up by TCs, which they have been waiting to do for nearly fifty years.
As they say “JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED“