Are Turks committing war crimes against Greek Cypriots?

A group of Greek Cypriots, supported by a member of the European parliament, Kostas Mavrides, lodged a complaint, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), an International Tribunal located in The Hague, against Turkey, on July of 2014.

The group, known as Cypriots Against Turkish War Crimes (CATWC), accused Turks of continuously committing war crimes against Greek Cypriots, since the invasion of 1974, which was performed by Turkish military forces against Greek Cypriots and took place in Cyprus island.

Although the complaint was formed by individuals, the minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides expressed his opinion on the ministry’s press release.

He explained that Turks adopted a systematic colonization policy for the occupied part of Cyprus, since 1974. The Greek Cypriots claimed that the Turks expelled, under this policy’s frame, thousands of Greek Cypriots and attempted to change the island’s demographic character.

Is colonization considered a war crime?

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Article 8 (2) (b) (viii)), committing war crimes includes an occupying power which is transferring parts of its own civilian population to the area it occupies.

“Turkey has, continuously since the invasion, recruited, encouraged and transported Turks from rural areas of the mainland to come settle the occupied territory”, Athan Tsimpedes, legal represICC1entative of the CATWC, mentioned on the press release of Tsimpedes Law Firm.

During those 12 years since the invasion, many diplomatic conversations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have taken place in order to find a solution regarding the division of the island.

Nevertheless the diplomatic route didn’t bring the desired results.

As the diplomatic procedure didn’t solve the problems and the ICC proved its value throughout the years, Greek Cypriots were convinced to reconsider a report.

Is it realistic for the ICC to investigate the report?

“The prosecutor’s decision is beyond our control and there is no set timetable for a decision,” said Tsimpedes.

He also mentioned in the press release that as the legitimacy of the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus is not recognized by any nation except for Turkey, the ICC has the jurisdiction to investigate reports regarding war crimes committed by Turks. In addition, as Cyprus is a member of the ICC since its set up in 2002, the ICC has the jurisdiction to proceed in further investigations regarding a complaint.

As the ICC received 10,470 complaints by the end of 2013, it is still unclear if CATWC’s complaint is enough to lead to further investigations.

“We do not know what are the prospects of an investigation by the ICC against Turkey, and it is certainly reasonable to think that the chances are not high,” said Avi Guez, member of the Shurat HaDin Law Center, an Israeli-based rights organization which helped the group draft the complaint.

By Valia Papadopoulou

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