Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN, Mr Andreas Mavroyiannis, on the protection and promotion of human rights
Third Committee of the General Assembly, 18 October 2019
In addition to the statement of the European Union, my delegation would like to make some specific remarks on the violations of individual and collective human rights and fundamental freedoms of Cypriots that stem from the invasion and ongoing occupation of part of Cyprus by Turkey. Cyprus has been raising these violations repeatedly for the past 45 years and will continue to do so until they have been redressed; human rights violations cannot be normalized because they have been in place for a long time.
Firstly, I want to remind the Committee that a third of Greek Cypriots were displaced as a result of Turkey’s armed aggression and continue to be denied the right to return to their places of origin. These displaced persons were also dispossessed of their properties. In addition to their property rights being violated, these forcibly displaced persons witness, from a distance and are unable to put an end to, the rampant unlawful exploitation, development, and use of their properties by others.
Secondly, I want to remind the Committee of the demographic engineering that Turkey has been perpetrating in the areas of Cyprus that it occupies. Turkey has settled a very significant number of mainland Turks in occupied Cyprus, not only in violation of IHL, but with the clear intent of destroying the historical demographic character of the island and obstructing its reunification. Already, by some accounts, two thirds of the population in occupied Cyprus are settlers from Turkey.
Thirdly, I want to recall the daily violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms suffered by the few hundred Greek-Cypriots and Maronites who continue to live under occupation. Various human rights bodies have noted that the practices towards the enclaved constitute discriminatory treatment on the basis of their “ethnic origin, race and religion”. These enclaved persons, drastically reduced in number as a result of persistent harassment, intimidation, and deprivation of their rights, essentially live under a siege that endeavours to decimate them. Their rights to privacy and family life, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and property rights, are constantly violated. Their right to education is violated through the frequent censorship of textbooks and arbitrary rejection of appointed educators. Churches and cemeteries are vandalized, worshippers are intimidated, requests to conduct religious services are arbitrarily rejected and priests are prevented from performing their duties. The deteriorating situation of human rights in the occupying part itself intensifies our concerns on the everyday life of the Cypriot citizens who live under the direct control of the occupying power.
Fourthly, more than half of the remains of a total of 2001 missing persons are yet to be found or identified and returned to their families. We reiterate our request to states in possession of any information on this purely humanitarian issue to share it, in order to help us establish the fate and whereabouts of combatants and civilians who are still missing. We also call on Turkey once again to provide to the Committee on Missing Persons relevant information from its archives, including on the deliberate relocation of remains, as well as unimpeded access to all areas for excavations and exhumations to take place.
Fifthly, the rich cultural, archaeological and religious heritage in occupied Cyprus has been looted, vandalized and destroyed since 1974 and the fate of many historical treasures is still unknown.
The above violations do not, by any means, constitute an exhaustive list. In fact, the armed conflict itself and the status quo it has created, have affected the rights and freedoms of every single Cypriot. This is why it is absolutely imperative for us to ensure that a settlement of the Cyprus problem will provide for the highest standards of human rights protection and will enable us to redress violations, as there can be no sustainable peace without justice. Notwithstanding the ongoing occupation and the resulting non-exercise of effective control by the Cyprus Government in parts of Cyprus’ territory, we will continue to protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots, in line with European and international standards, irrespective of their ethnic origin, race, gender, civil or family status, religion, sexual orientation, age, or disability. We aspire to soon be able to do that in a reunited country.
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