|Monday, 4 December 2023|
UNFICYP: THE DEMONSTRATIONS OF 11 AUGUST 1996
From: Panayiotis Zaphiris <pzaphiri@Glue.umd.edu>
THE DEMONSTRATIONS OF 11 AUGUST 1996
The United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has completed its review of the events surrounding the demonstrations of Sunday, 11 August. The facts that have emerged are as follows:
1. On Sunday, 11 August, some 3.500 persons gathered at various locations in anticipation of proceeding to Dherinia, the originally intended starting point for the demonstration route. The demonstrators included some 120 motorcyclists from 12 countries who had arrived in Cyprus on 10 August, following a journey which began in Berlin on 2 August. During the weeks leading up to the demonstration, UNFICYP liaised closely with all relevant authorities to ensure that all necessary measures be taken to prevent any violations of the United Nations buffer zone.
2. On 10 August, the Secretary-General issued a statement in which he expressed his concern at reports that a Greek Cypriot motorcycle association was planning to violate the cease-fire lines as well as the United Nations buffer zone in Cyprus. He expressed his hope that the organizers of this event would avoid a course of action that could only harm efforts to resolve the long standing Cyprus problem. The Secretary-General also called on the Government of Cyprus to take effective measures, in exercise of its responsibilities, to prevent any unauthorized entry into the United Nations buffer zone.
3. In response to an appeal from President Clerides early on Sunday morning, the President of the Cyprus Motorcycle Federation agreed to cancel the planned demonstration route and instead called on all participants to assemble in Makarios Stadium in Nicosia. Some 1.500 motorcyclists and associated motorists proceeded to Makarios Stadium late on Sunday morning to hear the message from their leader who also conveyed a message from President Clerides.
4. Meanwhile, a major counter-demonstration had been organized in north Nicosia of some 2.500 persons, including a significant number of members of the Grey Wolves who had come from Turkey. This demonstration remained under peaceful.
5. Shortly before noon, the demonstrations left the Makarios Stadium, split up into many groups, and began to move around the city and beyond to various destinations that were difficult to anticipate. Groups of motorcyclists and persons in cars assembled in various locations in Nicosia, notably the Ledra Palace Checkpoint, the United Nations Protected Area Foxtrot Gate and the Presidential Palace. These demonstrations remained peaceful.
The main incidents
6. A group of some 150 Greek Cypriot demonstrators, who were subsequently joined by another 200, arrived at the United Nations buffer zone at the Old Famagusta Road at about 1240 hours. The Cyprus Police (Cypol) lifted the National Guard (NG) cease-fire line barrier from where the demonstrators quickly proceeded into the United Nations buffer zone eventually right up to the Turkish Forces (TF) cease-fire line, starting fires as they went along. UNFICYP troops in the area, subsequently reinforced by elements of UNFICYP's Force Reserve, interposed themselves between the demonstrators and the TF who were soon joined by the Turkish Cypriot Police Element (TCPE) in riot gear. Although the situation became very tense, UNFICYP managed to keep it under control, not least because the TF and TCPE acted in a very disciplined and restrained manner despite considerable verbal provocations from the demonstrators. Cypol was not effective in controlling the demonstrators who had arrived at that location. By 1400 hours the crowd began to disperse and by 1730 hours all demonstrators had left the United Nations buffer zone. There were no casualties.
7. At about 1200 hours, some 150 Turkish Cypriot demonstrators appeared along the Sovereign Base Area (SBA) at the link road near the junction with the Old Nicosia Road. At 1330 hours, some 200 Greek Cypriot motorcyclists arrived along with several TV crews. The 12 SBA police deployed there were unable to keep the situation under control and the two sides began to throw stones at each other. Some Greek Cypriots crossed a few metres beyond the Turkish Forces Cease-fire line and planted a Greek flag. The Turkish Cypriots demonstrators responded by firing shotguns at the Greek Cypriots who retreated and proceeded to set fires. By 1500 hours, the Greek Cypriot motorcyclists left the area and proceeded in the direction of Dhekelia. According to reports, 10 Greek Cypriot demonstrators were wounded, some by shotgun pellets, as were 2 SBA policemen.
8. The most serious incident took place in Dherinia. On Sunday morning a peaceful demonstration by some 250 Greek Cypriot took place. They entered the United Nations buffer zone and requested to deliver a petition to the Turkish Cypriot checkpoint. When the latter refused to receive the petition, the demonstrators left the United Nations buffer zone, but remained in the area. At 1430 hours, some 300 motorcyclists together with some 700 persons in vehicles escorted by Cypol arrived at the NG cease-fire line checkpoint in Dherinia. Cypol deployed along the NG cease-fire line but left the checkpoint unattended, thus enabling the demonstrators to enter the United Nations buffer zone unimpeded.
9. In the meantime, the Turkish Forces had allowed some 1.000 persons in buses to pass through their 3 km deep military zone and to assemble along the TF cease-fire line, including persons carrying the flag of the Grey Wolves who had come from Turkey.
10. The situation soon became violent, after Greek Cypriot demonstrators entered the buffer zone and approached the TF cease-fire line to provoke the TF, the TCPE and demonstrators assembled there with verbal abuse and throwing stones. Cypol was not effective in controlling the Greek Cypriot demonstrators.
11. At about 1600 hours, the Turkish Forces allowed the Turkish Cypriot demonstrators to enter the United Nations buffer zone armed with bats and iron bars. The Turkish Cypriot demonstrators, joined by the Turkish Cypriot Police, then proceeded to pursue the Greek Cypriots and mercilessly beat all those who they were able to catch. At the same time, there was shooting, including by Turkish Cypriot police, from behind the Turkish Forces cease-fire line towards the Greek Cypriot demonstrators.
12. During this period, a Greek Cypriot demonstrator, Anastasios Isaak, was beaten to death by a number of Turkish Cypriot demonstrators, including three Turkish Cypriot policemen. By 1800 hours the situation began to calm down. In addition to the one dead, it was reported that some 54 Greek Cypriots and 17 Turkish Cypriots were injured, 12 UNFICYP personnel suffered injuries.
13. The UNFICYP investigation revealed conclusively that the killing of Anastasios Isaak had occurred some 50 metres from the scene shown on television in which three Greek Cypriots were being severely beaten by Turkish Cypriot demonstrators while helplessly entangled in barbed wire. Two UNFICYP Irish Civilian Police had done their best in trying to rescue Anastasios Isaak at considerable personal risk.
14. The two United Nations Civilian Police had observed two Greek Cypriot demonstrators being set upon by two groups of Turkish Cypriot demonstrators who proceeded to beat them with brutal force. The two United Nations Police went to the assistance of one of the Greek Cypriots and managed to facilitate his escape. When they turned to assist the second Greek Cypriot (Isaak), and were finally able to push aside the Turkish Cypriots, including three Turkish Cypriot policemen, who were still beating him, it was too late. The location of the killing inside the United Nations buffer zone was about 95 metres from the National Guard cease-fire line and about 32 metres from the Turkish Forces cease-fire line.
15. A video broadcasted on "Euronews" inter alia clearly shows the killing of Anastasios Isaak and the intervention of the two United Nations police. The autopsy, attended by UNFICYP, which was performed late afternoon of 13 August, revealed that Anastasios Isaak died of "multiple blunt trauma to the heard". UNFICYP has completed the collection of the evidence at the scene of the crime and is in the process of completing its investigation in cooperation with Cypol.
The role of UNFICYP
16. Following the cancellation of the original demonstration route, the Greek Cypriot demonstrators broke up into numerous small groups with unknown destinations. As a result, their moves could not be anticipated, making it difficult for UNFICYP to reinforce in advance the likely flashpoints. At the same time, UNFICYP had to place effective coverage at all critical locations along the buffer zone while maintaining minimum coverage in other areas. UNFICYP's force reserve had to be moved over considerable distances at short notice in order to respond to fast developing situations. Given the prevailing situation on the ground as described above, UNFICYP's resources were stretched to the extreme.