Press Release by the European Court of Human Rights, 96-12-18
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PRESS RELEASE (18.12.95)
BY THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
LOIZIDOU v. TURKEY
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS -- HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS
Press release issued by the Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights
JUDGEMENT IN THE CASE OF LOIZIDOU v. TURKEY
In a judgement delivered in Strasbourg on 18 December 1996
in the case of Loizidou v. Turkey (Merits), the European
Court of Human Rights dismissed the Government's
preliminary objection ratione temporis that the Court could
not examine the complaint because it concerned matters
which occurred prior to Turkey's acceptance of its
jurisdiction (11 votes to 6) and held that the denial to
the applicant of access to her property in the northern
part of Cyprus and consequent loss of control thereof was
imputable to Turkey (11 votes to 6) and amounted to a
violation of the applicant's property rights under Article
1 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention of Human
Rights (11 votes to 6). It also held unanimously that there
had been no interference with the applicant's right to
respect for her home under Article 8 of the Convention, and
that the question of just satisfaction under Article 50 was
not yet ready for decision and should be reserved.
The judgement was read out in open court by Mr. Rolv
Ryssdal, the President of the Court.
BACKGROUND TO THE CASE
A. Principal Facts
The applicant, Mrs. Titina Loizidou, is a Cypriot citizen.
She grew up in Kyrenia in northern Cyprus, where she owned
certain plots of land. In 1972 she married and moved with
her husband to Nicosia. Since 1974, she had been prevented
from gaining access to the above-mentioned properties as a
result of the presence of Turkish forces in Cyprus.
On 19 March 1989 a Greek Cypriot women's group, "Women Walk
Home", organised a march with the announced intention of
crossing the Turkish forces' cease-fire line. From Nicosia
the demonstrators drove to the village of Lymbia, where a
group managed to cross the buffer zone and the Turkish
forces' line. Some of the women, including Mrs. Loizidou,
were arrested by Turkish Cypriot policemen. Later the same
day, they were released to United Nations officials
(UNFICYP) in Nicosia and taken over to the Greek Cypriot
B. Proceedings before the European commission of Human
The case originated in an application lodged with the
Commission on 22 July 1989.
Having failed to secure a friendly settlement, the
commission drew up a report on 8 July 1993 in which it
expressed the opinion that there had been no violation of
article 3 of the Convention (unanimously); Article 5 par. 1 of
the Convention (9 votes to 4); Article 8 of the Convention,
as regards the applicant's private life (11 votes to 2);
Article 8 of the Convention, as regards the applicant's
home (9 votes to 4); or of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to
the Convention (8 votes to 5).
The case was referred to the Court by the government of
Cyprus in so far as it related to the alleged interference
with the applicant's property rights and her home (Article
1 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 8 of the Convention).
C. The Court's first judgement in the case
The Turkish Government had submitted, by way of preliminary
objections, inter alia, that the case fell outside the
Court's jurisdiction on the grounds that it related to
facts and events which occurred before 22 January 1990,
when Turkey declared that she accepted the compulsory
jurisdiction of the Court (objection ratione temporis) and
that it did not concern matters arising within the
territory covered by this declaration (objection ratione
In a separate judgement of 23 March 1995 the Court rejected
the latter objection but joined to the merits the first
preliminary objection (ratione temporis).
SUMMARY OF THE JUDDGEMENT (1)
(1) This summary by the registry does not bind the Court
1. The Government's preliminary objection
The Turkish Government had claimed inter alia that the
applicant had irreversibly lost ownership of her property
prior to Turkey's declaration of 22 January 1990 accepting
the Court's jurisdiction under Article 46 of the
The Court observed that its case-law recognised the concept
of a continuing violation of the Convention. The present
case would in principle concern alleged violations of a
continuing nature, but only if Mrs. Loizidou could still be
regarded as the legal owner of the land.
According to the Turkish Government, however, she had lost
ownership on 7 May 1985 as a result of the operation of
Article 159 of the Constitution of the "Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus ("TRNC") which purported to expropriate
inter alia properties within the boundaries of the "TRNC"
which were considered abandoned after 13 February 1975.
In this context, the Court took note of United Nations
Security Council Resolution 541 (1983) declaring the
proclamation of the establishment of the "TRNC" as legally
invalid and calling upon all States not to recognise any
Cypriot State other than the Republic of Cyprus.
A similar call was reiterated by the Security Council in
Resolution 550 (adopted on 11 May 1984). The Committee of
Ministers of the Council of Europe in a Resolution of 24
November 1983 also condemned the proclamation of statehood
and called upon all States to deny recognition to the
"TRNC". A position to similar effect was taken by the
European Community and the commonwealth Heads of
Government. Moreover, it was only the Cypriot Government
which was recognised internationally as the government of
the Republic of Cyprus in the context of diplomatic and
treaty relations and the working of international
In the Court's view, the principles underlying the
Convention could not be interpreted and applied in a
vacuum. Mindful of the Convention's special character as a
human rights treaty, it had also to take into account any
relevant rules of international law when deciding on
disputes concerning its jurisdiction.
In this respect it was evident from International practice
and the various strongly worded resolutions referred to
above that the international community did not regard the
"TRNC" as a State under international law and that the
Republic of Cyprus had remained the sole legitimate
government of Cyprus. Against this background, the Court
could not attribute legal validity for purposes of the
Convention to such provisions as Article 159 of the "TRNC"
Constitution, and Mrs. Loizidou could not be deemed to have
lost title to her property as a result of it.
Since no other facts indicating that she had ceased to own
the land had been advanced by the Turkish Government or
found by the Court, she had still to be regarded as legal
owner for the purposes of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and
Article 8 of ;the Convention. The objection ratione
temporis therefore failed.
[paragraphs 32-47 of the judgement and point 1 of the
2. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
A. Imputability issue
The Court observed that the concept of "jurisdiction" under
the Convention was not restricted to national territory. In
particular, the responsibility of a Contracting State could
arise when it exercised effective control in an area
outside its national territory as a consequence of military
In the present case, the court found it significant that
the Turkish Government had acknowledged at an earlier stage
in the case that Mrs. Loizidou's loss of control of her
property stemmed from the occupation of the northern part
of Cyprus by Turkish troops and the establishment there of
the "TRNC". Moreover, it had not been disputed that on
several occasions she had been prevented by Turkish troops
from gaining access to her property.
In the Court's view, it was obvious from the large number
of troops engaged in active duties in northern Cyprus that
the Turkish army exercised effective overall control there.
In the circumstances of the case, this entailed Turkey's
responsibility for the policies and actions of the "TRNC".
Thus the denial to Mrs. Loizidou of access to her property
in northern Cyprus fell within Turkey's "jurisdiction" for
the purposes of Article 1 of Convention and was imputable
The Court did not find it necessary to determine whether
Turkey exercised detailed control over the policies and
actions of the "TRNC" authorities or to examine the
lawfulness of Turkey's intervention in the island in 1974.
[paragraphs 49-57 of the judgement and point 2 of the
B. Interference with property rights
The Court observed that although Mrs. Loizidou had remained
the legal owner of the land, since 1974 she had effectively
lost all control over it and all possibility to use and
enjoy it. The continuous denial of access amounted,
therefore, to an interference with her rights under Article
1 of Protocol No. 1.
The Turkish Government had not sought to justify this
interference and the Court did not find any reason that
could justify the complete negation of Mrs. Loizidou's
property rights in the form of a total and continuous
denial of access and a purported expropriation without
There had therefore been a violation of Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
[paragraphs 58-64 of the judgement and point 3 of the
C. Article 8 of the Convention
Mrs. Loizidou had grown up in Kyrenia. After her marriage
in 1972 she had moved to Nicosia and had made her home
there ever since, although she had planned to live in one
of the flats she had been building in northern Cyprus in
The Court observed that it would strain the meaning of the
notion "home" in Article 8 to extend it to comprise
property on which it was planned to build a house for
residential purposes. Nor could that term be interpreted to
cover an area where one had grown up and where the family
had its roots but where one no longer lived.
Accordingly, there had been no interference with Mrs.
Loizidou's Article 8 rights.
[paragraphs 65-66 of the judgement and point 4 of the
D. Article 50 of the Convention
Since the Turkish Government had not commented on Mrs.
Loizidou's claim for just satisfaction, the Court decided
to reserve the question and to invite the government and
the applicant to submit written observations on the matter
within the following six months
[paragraphs 67-69 of the judgement and point 5 of the
In accordance with the Convention, judgement was given by a
Grand Chamber composed of seventeen judges, namely Mr. R.
Ryssdal (Norwegian), President, Mr. R. Bernhardt (German),
Mr. F. Golcuklu (Turkish), Mr. L.E. Pettiti (French), Mr.
B. Walsh (Irish), Mr. A. Spielmann (Luxemburger), Mr. S.K.
Martens (Dutch), Mrs. E. Palm (Swedish), Mr. R. Pekkanen
(Finnish), Mr. A.N. Loizou (Cypriot), Mr. J.M. Morenilla
(Spanish), Mr. A.B. Baka (Hungarian), Mr. M.A. Lopes Rocha
(Portuguese), Mr. L. Wildhaber (Swiss), Mr. G. Mifsud
Bonnici (Maltese), Mr. P. Jambrek (Slovenian), Mr. U.
Lohmus (Estonian), and also of Mr. H. Petzold, Registrar,
and Mr. P.J. Mahoney, Deputy Registrar.
Six separate opinions are annexed to the judgement.
The judgement will be published shortly in the Reports of
Judgements and Decisions for 1996 (available from Carl
Heymanns Verlag KG, Luxemburger Strabe 449, D-50939 Koln).
Subject to his duty of discretion, the Registrar is
responsible under the Rules of court for replying to
requests for information concerning the work of the Court,
and in particular to enquiries from the press.
Registry of the European Court of Human Rights
F - 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Contact: Mr. Roderick LIDDELL
Telephone: (0)3 88 41 24 92; fax: (0)3 88 41 27 91
A P P E N D I X
Convention Articles referred to in the release
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
"Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful
enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of
his possessions except in the public interest and subject
to the conditions provided for by law and by the general
principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way
impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it
deems necessary to control the use of property in
accordance with the general interest or to secure the
payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties"
"1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and
family life, his home and his correspondence.
1.There shall be no interference by a public authority with
the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance
with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in
the interests of national security, public safety or the
economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of
disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals,
or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of
"If the Court finds that a decision or a measure taken by a
legal authority or any other authority of a High
Contracting Party is completely or partially in conflict
with the obligations arising from the ...,Convention,...
the decision of the Court shall, if necessary, afford just
satisfaction to the injured party."