(Application no. 16160/90)
22 September 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Saveriades v. Turkey,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Nicolas Bratza, President,
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Işıl Karakaş, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 1 September 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
9. The applicant further claimed that at the time of the 1974 Turkish invasion he was the owner of land in Famagusta on which was located an Intercommunal Secondary Grammar school, known as the “Centre of Higher Studies”. This land covered a total area of 6,299 m², on plot no. 900 of block D and sheet/plan 24/59W2. It was registered in the name of the applicant under registration no. D-4840. On this land the applicant had erected a three-storey building, which had a total area of 2,020 m², comprising a basement, ground floor and two vertical floors above it. The applicant submitted that he was the owner and headmaster of the above-mentioned school, the premises of which are now part of the “Eastern Mediterranean University”.
10. In support of his claims to ownership, the applicant produced the following documents:
- an agreement reached on 1 September 1968 between a certain G. Nicolaides and Mr Takis Saveriades (a member of the applicant's family) for the sale of an apartment located on the seventh floor of a flat on the Famagusta coast;
- a certificate issued on 28 November 2002 by the Department of Lands and Surveys of the Republic of Cyprus stating that the applicant was the owner of a flat without parking space, located in Famagusta, Kennedy Avenue, registered under plot no. 937, sheet/plan 3/21.2.3;
- a certificate issued on 11 September 2001 by the Department of Lands and Surveys of the Republic of Cyprus stating that the applicant was the owner of a field with an unregistered building, located in Famagusta, Salaminas Avenue, registered under plot no. 900, sheet/plan 24/59;
- a building permit issued on 11 September 1963 concerning plot no. 900, sheet/plan 24/59
11. At the time of the 1974 Turkish invasion, the applicant and his family fled to southern Cyprus. He claimed that since then he had been deprived of his property rights, all his property being located in the area which is under the occupation and the control of the Turkish military authorities. The latter prevented him from having access to and from using and possessing his home and property in Famagusta as well as from practising his profession there.
I. THE GOVERNMENT'S PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL NO. 1 TO THE CONVENTION
He invoked Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, which reads as follows:
“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.”
A. The arguments of the parties
1. The Government
2. The applicant
B. The Court's assessment
“63. ... as a consequence of the fact that the applicant has been refused access to the land since 1974, she has effectively lost all control over, as well as all possibilities to use and enjoy, her property. The continuous denial of access must therefore be regarded as an interference with her rights under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. Such an interference cannot, in the exceptional circumstances of the present case to which the applicant and the Cypriot Government have referred, be regarded as either a deprivation of property or a control of use within the meaning of the first and second paragraphs of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. However, it clearly falls within the meaning of the first sentence of that provision as an interference with the peaceful enjoyment of possessions. In this respect the Court observes that hindrance can amount to a violation of the Convention just like a legal impediment.
64. Apart from a passing reference to the doctrine of necessity as a justification for the acts of the 'TRNC' and to the fact that property rights were the subject of intercommunal talks, the Turkish Government have not sought to make submissions justifying the above interference with the applicant's property rights which is imputable to Turkey.
It has not, however, been explained how the need to rehouse displaced Turkish Cypriot refugees in the years following the Turkish intervention in the island in 1974 could justify the complete negation of the applicant's property rights in the form of a total and continuous denial of access and a purported expropriation without compensation.
Nor can the fact that property rights were the subject of intercommunal talks involving both communities in Cyprus provide a justification for this situation under the Convention. In such circumstances, the Court concludes that there has been and continues to be a breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.”
“187. The Court is persuaded that both its reasoning and its conclusion in the Loizidou judgment (merits) apply with equal force to displaced Greek Cypriots who, like Mrs Loizidou, are unable to have access to their property in northern Cyprus by reason of the restrictions placed by the 'TRNC' authorities on their physical access to that property. The continuing and total denial of access to their property is a clear interference with the right of the displaced Greek Cypriots to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions within the meaning of the first sentence of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
189. .. there has been a continuing violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 by virtue of the fact that Greek-Cypriot owners of property in northern Cyprus are being denied access to and control, use and enjoyment of their property as well as any compensation for the interference with their property rights.”
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 8 OF THE CONVENTION
This provision reads as follows:
“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. 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 others.”
“172. The Court observes that the official policy of the 'TRNC' authorities to deny the right of the displaced persons to return to their homes is reinforced by the very tight restrictions operated by the same authorities on visits to the north by Greek Cypriots living in the south. Accordingly, not only are displaced persons unable to apply to the authorities to reoccupy the homes which they left behind, they are physically prevented from even visiting them.
173. The Court further notes that the situation impugned by the applicant Government has obtained since the events of 1974 in northern Cyprus. It would appear that it has never been reflected in 'legislation' and is enforced as a matter of policy in furtherance of a bi-zonal arrangement designed, it is claimed, to minimise the risk of conflict which the intermingling of the Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities in the north might engender. That bi-zonal arrangement is being pursued within the framework of the inter-communal talks sponsored by the United Nations Secretary-General ...
174. The Court would make the following observations in this connection: firstly, the complete denial of the right of displaced persons to respect for their homes has no basis in law within the meaning of Article 8 § 2 of the Convention (see paragraph 173 above); secondly, the inter-communal talks cannot be invoked in order to legitimate a violation of the Convention; thirdly, the violation at issue has endured as a matter of policy since 1974 and must be considered continuing.
175. In view of these considerations, the Court concludes that there has been a continuing violation of Article 8 of the Convention by reason of the refusal to allow the return of any Greek-Cypriot displaced persons to their homes in northern Cyprus.”
IV. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF THE CONVENTION AND OF ARTICLE 14 OF THE CONVENTION, TAKEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH ARTICLE 8 OF THE CONVENTION AND ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL NO. 1
The relevant provisions read as follows:
Article 1 of the Convention
“The High Contracting Parties shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of [the] Convention.”
Article 14 of the Convention
“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in [the] Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”
V. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
A. Pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage
1. The parties' submissions
(a) The applicant
(a) the trade disturbance for not being allowed to conduct the established course of business and for being forced to relocate and restart the business in Nicosia in 1992 (amounting to CYP 2,155,519); in this respect, the expert noted that the profits which could have been expected from running the school were CYP 118,818 (approximately EUR 203,012) in 1987 and CYP 170,732 (approximately EUR 291,712) in 1992, while the profits obtained by the applicant from the business he restarted in Nicosia were, in 1992, only CYP 102,236 (approximately EUR 174,680);
(b) the rents expected to be collected from renting or leasing the school until 1991 (the annual rent in 1987 being estimated at CYP 23,054 – approximately EUR 39,390);
(c) the rent paid by the applicant from 1992 onwards for occupying the premises in Nicosia where he had restarted his business (amounting to CYP 220,757);
(d) the statutory interest on the above sums.
(b) The Government
46. The Government filed comments on the applicant's updated claims for just satisfaction on 30 June 2008 and 15 October 2008. They pointed out that the present application was part of a cluster of similar cases raising a number of problematic issues and maintained that the claims for just satisfaction were not ready for examination. The Government had in fact encountered serious problems in identifying the properties and their present owners. The information provided by the applicants in this regard was not based on reliable evidence. Owing to the lapse of time since the lodging of the applications, new situations might have arisen: the properties could have been transferred, donated or inherited within the legal system of southern Cyprus. These facts would not have been known to the respondent Government and could be certified only by the Greek-Cypriot authorities, who, since 1974, had reconstructed the registers and records of all properties in northern Cyprus. Applicants should be required to provide search certificates issued by the Department of Lands and Surveys of the Republic of Cyprus. Moreover, in cases where the original applicant had passed away or the property had changed hands, questions might arise as to whether the new owners had a legal interest in the property and whether they were entitled to pecuniary and/or non-pecuniary damages.
2. The Court's assessment
B. Costs and expenses
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT
(a) reserves the said question in whole;
(b) invites the Government and the applicant to submit, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, their written observations on the matter and, in particular, to notify the Court of any agreement that they may reach;
(c) reserves the further procedure and delegates to the President of the Chamber the power to fix the same if need be.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 22 September 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Fatoş Aracı Nicolas Bratza
Deputy Registrar President
In accordance with Article 45 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 74 § 2 of the Rules of Court, the separate opinion of Judge Karakaş is annexed to this judgment.
DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE KARAKAŞ
Unlike the majority, I consider that the objection of non-exhaustion of domestic remedies raised by the Government should not have been rejected. Consequently, I cannot agree with the finding of violations of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 8 of the Convention, for the same reasons as those mentioned in my dissenting opinion in the case of Gavriel v. Turkey (no. 41355/98, 20 January 2009).