|Tuesday, 17 October 2017|
Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 08-09-19
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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <http://www.cyna.org.cy>
 ECHR PRESIDENT - INTERVIEWThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) might decide to strike out pending human rights cases, filed by Greek Cypriots against Turkey, once a political settlement is reached, on certain conditions, the Court President Jean Paul Costa has indicated.
In an interview with CNA, Costa also indicated that Court rulings should not have a bearing on efforts for a solution of any political dispute, stressing that settling disputes is a political process whereas Court rulings is a purely judicial matter. However, Costa appeared optimistic that a solution in Cyprus would lead to a reduction in the number of pending cases.
The Court President said that his visit to the Green Line reminded him of the Berlin Wall and said he was moved to see the country divided.
On the work of the Court, he said that human rights cannot be relinquished in the fight against terrorism as far as the Court is concerned, noted that internal reforms are in place to meet the increasing number of cases filed, and explains that execution of judgments depends heavily on the good faith of states.
Asked about the criteria which led the Court to select eight property cases against Turkey, filed by Greek Cypriots, as pilot cases, the judgment of which will determine the validity or not of the self-styled property commission in Turkish occupied Cyprus, Costa said that we selected eight cases because they were slightly different each from the other and we covered all the problems which possibly could influence the Court by deciding whether this mechanism established at the end of 2005 is an effective one to be exhausted by the applicants or not.
Costa said that depending on the speed of the parties in sending their observations to the Court, the admissibility of those cases should normally be decided by the Court by the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
On another 32 property cases, filed by Greek Cypriots against Turkey, which have been declared admissible, Costa said they would proceed, expressing at the same time the hope that there will be some kind of political settlement solving the very long lasting and very difficult problems of Cyprus since 1974. This, he pointed out, doesnt mean that we can simply wait for that.
Asked about pending cases, once there is a political solution, Costa said it is impossible to speculate, but it is possible to envisage - and I am very prudent by saying so - that a political agreement between both communities in Cyprus could have as an outcome some kind of friendly settlement of many cases and in this case it would also be possible for the Court to check if these settlements are correct from the human rights point of view, and if this is so to strike the cases out of the list of cases of the Court.
Asked if Court rulings in cases of human rights violations in Cyprus by Turkey must be taken into consideration, in efforts for a political settlement, Costa acknowledged that repetitive findings of violations of the European Convention of Human Rights leads to the improvement of the situation in a particular state, which has been found guilty of violating the Convention.
For instance in cases of freedom of speech many states have changed their legislation because they were repeatedly condemned by our Court and even Turkey has improved internally its records in the human rights due to the influence of our rulings, he said.
He added though that in this particular case Cyprus - he was not so optimistic, because the main problem is a political one and the Courts decisions are purely judicial, noting that if there is a political solution in Cyprus it means that probably a number of cases will decrease and old cases will be settled.
Asked if there can be a compromise on human rights issues, Costa replied: it depends on what kind of violations of human rights. It is clear that when it deals with very serious articles of the Convention, Article 2, Article 3, Article 5 it is difficult to compromise. But as regards property rights they are complex, there are big financial amounts of money at stake but there could be a compromise, he explained.
Questioned on recent changes in the way the Court functions in terms of administering justice quickly, Costa said that protocol 11 which was the most important reform in the past several years was a very good idea, but the effects finally have not been so good.
As he explained Protocol 11 merged the Commission and the Court and made the Court as a unique body and at the same time decided that the right of individual petition would be automatic and compulsory jurisdiction of the Court as well.
But, as he noted, due to the increase of the number of member states and generalisation of the right of individual petition there is a very big work load and a huge back load for the Court, and that is why the operation of the Court is less smooth than it was and than what it should be. Our main problem now is delay in dealing with these applications, Costa noted.
As he explained there have been efforts to promote reforms. One of them is Protocol 14 to the Convention, for which a unanimous ratification is needed, and which has been ratified two years ago by all countries except the Russian Federation.
Similarly, Costa added, the Committee of Wise Persons proposed a number of reforms but all of them, like Protocol 14, demand unanimity by the member states. So we try now as much as possible internal reforms without amending the Convention because the experience shows that it is too difficult, and for instance we plead for better applications by the domestic authorities, for domestic effective remedies, in order to decrease a little the flow of applications to Strasbourg, he said.
Asked if the citizen, as an individual, trusts the Court or whether the Court`s impartiality was at stake, Costa said that it seems that the citizen normally trusts the impartiality of the Court, but he is also very disappointed with the delay in dealing with the cases.
He told CNA that he had never heard really very much criticism about the impartiality of the Court, but also noted that people who are disappointed by a judgment feel at times that the Court is not impartial or effective.
Asked whether states can be penalized by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers for delaying or failing to implement judgments, Costa said that Protocol 14 provided a solution to this problem because it gives some additional powers to the Committee of Ministers and to the Court.
As he noted for the time being the Committee of Ministers is trying to exert political pressure on defending states which are reluctant to enforce judgments but the Committee of Ministers itself is now facing a back load. They have not sufficient staff to deal with the execution of judgments and this is also a drawback which should be improved as soon as possible, he added.
Asked what can or must be done to have a more effective mechanism to achieve execution of judgments, ECHR President said execution of judgments of the Court relies very much on the good faith of the states.
When good faith is missing, it is very difficult. You can for instance increase the sums which have to be paid by the state. And usually the states pay the compensation, he said adding however that in very serious cases the victims receive financial compensation, as a follow up of the judgment of the Court, but this it is not enough to have a full execution of the judgment. As Costa noted according to Article 41 of the Convention just satisfaction is relatively effective but not sufficient.
Commenting on his visit to the Green Line in Nicosia, Costa said that it reminded him of the Berlin Wall, adding that it is moving to see that an island which could be a unique territory and a unique entity divided.
Asked how he would rate Cyprus in terms of respect of human rights, Costa said the record is good, noting that there are some problems, most of them of procedural nature, and lack of domestic remedies in Cyprus and some isolated incidents. He gave examples of cases where Cyprus was found violating the Convention, for instance the Kafkaris case or the Kyprianou case, noting that normally the legislation in Cyprus should be amended in order to abide by the rulings of the Court. So the situation is not bad.
Asked which case has either shocked, puzzled or impressed him most, in his career as a judge, Costa referred to the Selmouni v France case of 1999, noting that it was the first time that his country, France, was found in breach of Article 3 on the grounds of torture.
And it was a unanimous ruling of the Great Chamber which means that I was sitting in the bench and I voted also in favour of finding a violation of an article on the grounds of torture. And it was not shocking but very moving for me to see that my own country was responsible for torture, he said.
Another example he gave is that of case Saadi v Italy, where as he said the Court decided unanimously that to extradite someone to a country where he faces serious violations of human rights, even if he may be suspect of links with terrorism, extraditing him is contrary to the Convention.
This is a very important case because even if the Court is very much in favour of fighting against terrorism, we do think that it is not possible to give up human rights as a way of fighting against terrorism, he concluded.
 DIRECTOR OF SERVICE FOR OVERSEAS CYPRIOTS - INTERVIEWThe Service for Overseas Cypriots is moving forward to create a digital library and is in search of a place to establish a Museum for the Cypriot Diaspora, Director of the Service Stavros Epaminondas has told CNA, in an interview in which he analyses the role and the new goals of the Service.
Epaminondas stressed that the main aim of the Service for Overseas Cypriots is to provide guidance and support to the Cypriots all over the word by keeping continuous and close contact with them, explaining that it has no exclusive jurisdiction or authority to take decisions.
He said that the number of Cypriots abroad exceeds 500,000, adding that the Cypriot Diaspora is important, not only in size but also in economic power.
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