The Significance of the Apostolides v Orams Case For Greek-Cypriots

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The British Court of Appeal (Civil Division) with its judgement in the Apostolides v Orams case (Case No: A2/2006/2114) on 19 January 2010 has created an unexpected new legal situation in the ongoing struggle in Cyprus between Greek-Cypriot owners of property who had been forced to flee in 1974 and whose land had been grabbed by the invading Turkish Army, and for the mostly foreign speculators who took control of those lands, building, at times, plush ‘holiday’ dwellings on them.

The judgement  of the Appelant Court, which under UK law is final and cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court,  is expected to be of intense interest not only to the owners of property whose lands were being exploited illegally by foreigners but also by the political groupings of both Turkish and Greek Cypriots who are in the midst of very sensitive negotiations attempting to find a solution to the division of the country and the continuing occupation of the northern part of the island by Turkey.

According to Michael Jansen’s article in the Irish Times (Jan 21st 2010), a journalist who lives in the Republic of Cyprus,

“Irish nationals face the possibility of losing property in northern Cyprus following a London appeals court ruling in a case brought by a Greek Cypriot against a British couple. The court ordered David and Linda Orams to demolish the villa they built in the village of Lapithos on land owned by Greek Cypriot refugee Meletios Apostolides and pay him rent and damages. The Orams are compelled to execute the ruling within 14 days or be held in contempt… If they do not comply, however, the British court could order the sale of their home in Britain to pay compensation to Mr Apostolides, whose costs are estimated at €1 million.”

Michael Jansen further points out that the London ruling could serve as a precedent in several thousand potential cases that could be raised by Greek Cypriots against EU citizens who acquired Greek Cypriot property after 1974 when 200,000 members of the community fled or were expelled from the north following the Turkish occupation. The UN regards 78 per cent of the land in the north as Greek Cypriot property.

The ruling effectively nullifies the 1975 Turkish Cypriot absentee property law, which deprived Greek Cypriots of their properties and enabled foreigners to acquire their land and homes in the occupied area.

The judgment provides that the earlier Cyprus Court judgments, against whom the Orams appealed in the British Courts, and the European Court of Justice judgements in Luxembourg,(1) be registered and enforced in the UK.  In particular, the Cyprus Court had ordered that the Orams should:

  • Cease trespassing on the land belonging to Mr. Apostolides;
  • Deliver up possession of the land to Mr. Apostolides;
  • Pay ‘mesne profits’ (effectively, rent) to Mr. Apostolides in respect of the period of their occupation;
  • Knock down the villa and fencing they had built on the land.

The Orams will also be ordered to pay the legal fees incurred by Mr. Apostolides, regarding the London and Luxembourg proceedings. It is significant that neither the Orams nor their barrister Cherie Blair were present in the Appelant Court when the decision was announced.

Political Responses

D Christophias, President of the Republic of Cyprus, responded to the judgement by saying that the British Appelant Court’s decision had very significant legal as well as political implications. He focussed on the human rights aspect of the decision and said it was a very eloquent answer to the Turkish attempt to deny peoples right to property.

The issue of property rights is a key aspect of the second round of Greek-Turkish negotiations due to start on January 25th. The Greek Cypriot side has been arguing that the owners of the properties, who are in control of the deeds,  must have the final say as to the future of the property. The Turkish side, on the other hand, has been putting the emphasis on the rights of those who took control and exploited  the property over the recent past. This is an issue that would have serious implications for about 5,000 UK and a few tens of Irish citizens, as mentioned by Michael Jansen, who have taken control of these properties building holiday homes and villas on them.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara  made the comment that the British Appelant Court judgement had arrived “…at a very inopportune time…” and it could have “….very negative implication for the Greek-Turkish negotiations!”

This is a key issue to follow as it is likely to have implications not only on the bi-zonal negotiations but also on the overall process of Turkey’s accession to the European Union. All comments welcome.

Notes:

(1) In a landmark decision the ECJ decided that judgements by courts in one  EU member state, in this case the republic of Cyprus, are applicable to all EU member states.

Photo of The Orams’ villa in the village of Lapta, nr Kyrenia, Northern CyprusPhoto Credit: Stephen Lock

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26 Responses

  1. Claudia

    January 24, 2010 9:41 pm

    I don’t understand people who go to buy holiday homes on occupied land in the first place, so this is a good result.

    Are there many Turkish-Cypriot lands in the south of the island that could receive the same challenge from the Turkish side?

  2. nicholas

    January 25, 2010 10:11 am

    I know for a fact Claudia that the republic of Cyprus does not sell Turkish owned land.An example of this is a huge plot in the middle of the new marina In limassol that has not been touched because the owner does not wish to sell the land.
    Also the republic of Cyprus also maintains all the places of worship that the Turkish Cypriots use while ours are turned into stables and brothels with all the dead being dug up and dumped outside there villages.
    We welcome the Turkish Cypriots but we want the Turks from mainland Turkey to leave as they have no right to be here.

  3. Dimitris Tsouros

    January 25, 2010 12:50 pm

    SUCH A JUSTIFIABLE DECISION IS LONG OVERDUE AND THE BRITISH COURT OF APPEAL IS TO BE COMMENTED AND IT IS AN EXAMPLE AND A LESSON TO ALL THAT DESREGARD INTERNATIONAL LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS BY AQUIRING LAND IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES WHEREVER THEY ARE…
    THE CYPRIOTS HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR AS JUSTICE IN THERE SIDE AND WHAT REMAINS NOW IS TO PURSUE THE MATTER TO A FINAL RESOLUTION.

  4. Taner

    January 26, 2010 12:58 pm

    So can you explian larnaca airport take was built on turkish land. And how about the old cinema in larnaca that has been destroyed and used by the goverment as a storage unit for the larnaca council?

  5. nicholas

    January 26, 2010 1:11 pm

    To answer Taners question.
    The Larnaka airport was not built on turkish land. The turkish land is on the opposite side of the road by hala sultan tekke. The land that the airport is on was owned by an Armenian family who sold the land to the goverment in 1974 after Turkey Invaded.
    What you have to realize is that Turkish Cypriots are free to sell there land whenever they want not like in the north. Also as a point of interest, the Republic of Cyprus repatriates Turkish Cypriots and gives them refugee status which gives them more benefits than the Greek Cypriots.

  6. Taner

    January 26, 2010 2:18 pm

    I think you will find you are wrong as the turkish owner of this land that larnaca airport was built on is at court. As to turkish cypriots claiming their land back if they fled their lands in 1974 they have no right to claim it back under south cyprus law, only their children or who every they leave it to in their will if they were not here in 1974 can claim it back. I know this as I have family that has land on the south side of cyprus and that is what they have been told in court.
    Also I would like to point out that Turkey didn’t invade Cyprus as it was one of the Guarantors at the time of the civil war the greek cypriots were having. And as the British had put Turkish Cypriots as PM at the time which the greek Cypriots later turned on and tried to wipe out, Turkey had no choice but to enter Cyprus to save its people.

  7. nicholas

    January 26, 2010 2:39 pm

    Again i have to disagree with you and so does the Cyprus, European and the British courts.
    TRNC is not recognized by any country except Turkey so your point about the invasion is not valid.
    All lands owned by Turkish Cypriots is in trust and cannot be sold without the owners consent.If you see the plans for the new marina in Limassol , there is a large empty area in the middle where the land is owned by a Turkish Cypriot and he refuses to sell it.
    Your other point about Turkish Cypriots not being able to claim back there land is ridiculous as a special department is now set up for this very thing.
    As for the airport land,there is no way the Cyprus government would spend hundreds of millions on illegal land, i think you will find that is the problem of the North as stated on the United Nations web site that also states that 78% of all land in the north is illegally owned.
    Please once again research your facts not from Cyprus websites but from international web sites.
    Even Britain who back Turkey cannot even back the North.
    It is an illegal state
    You can believe what you want, but again when the courts agree that

  8. Taner

    January 26, 2010 2:40 pm

    Ok mind boggler…

    The EU which has no jurisdiction in the North of the island has ordered the hand over / demolishment of the property or Else…

    However the T.R.NC government is not allowing this to happen… they are stating that T.R.N.C land is officially the governments and if anyone wants claims they have to go through the commission.

    Thus not allowing the property to be demolished meaning even if this poor couple applied there application would be rejected so it not there fault. Which brings us back to the drawing point what is going to happen?

  9. Michael Youlton

    January 26, 2010 2:58 pm

    Dear Nicholas and Taner,
    First and above all, I want to thank both of you and all the other friends who commented on my article. I wrote it because I believe that the decisions of the Cypriot, European Court of Justice and British Appelant Courts, all backing each other, will have very serious repercussions:
    a. on the thousands of EU citizens, British mainly but Irish and a few others who, foolishly in my opinion, went and bought lands and built dwellings on lands whose control and ownership was, to say the least, under dispute.
    b. on the discussions between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities under way. This point has already been made by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara and my information is that the Greek side also feels that there will be represussions…in the Cypriot President’s words both “legal and political”!
    c. and perhaps, crucially, on the thorny process of Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

    I will, therefore, ask you in the most friendly way to keep your comments on the facts of this particular case. I do not believe that we will be able to prove here the rights or wrongs of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974….not that such a discussion is not important but I wonder whether this is the right context.
    Finally, I am at your service to answer any questions I can on the case. I am in the process of preparing another article based on a large natiowide poll conducted in the Republic of Cyprus couple of days ago and will be back with that article.

    Warm regards
    Michael

  10. nicholas

    January 26, 2010 3:22 pm

    The Orams purchased stolen land knowing fully well there title deeds where post 1974 meaning that there was a chance the land was taken illegally.
    They deserve what they got from 3 Courts of the European union.
    Mr Apostolides the true owner of the land has given permission for the house to be taken down.
    All of Europe acknowledges that the North is an illegal state but i dont expect you to but i think deep down even you do.
    As for the link you have posted, i said international press not from the north.
    Finally, i am from the north and lost everything i own due to the invasion of turkey.
    is this fair or is it finders keepers losers weepers, only i never lost my property it was stolen.
    if i sold you a stolen car and the police seized it from you, who would they return it to.
    You or the poor person i stole it from.
    You work it out.

  11. Dimitris Tsouros

    January 26, 2010 4:07 pm

    I am with interest following the various comments and it is healthy to note friendly opinions expressed, because whatever opinion anyone has, on the subject ,the fact remains that the courts ruling cannot be ignored or questioned as well as the United Nations resolutions which have not yet been implemented.
    With kind regards

  12. Taner

    January 27, 2010 7:48 am

    Hi nicholas, Dimitris Tsouros and Michael Youlton,

    I just wanted to say that I understand were you are coming from and I am upset that you have lost your lands at the moment Nicholas.
    You all have a point but as I see it the only problem is the goverments as the people as far as i know seem to be able to get on together.
    As for the Orams they bought the land as good will not realising the amount of problems that are going on in the island.
    Do you think it is fair that these people should lose everything they have? I think the goverments should pay all the damages on both sides.
    The Turkish Cypriots have been isolated from the world is unable to trade and have to rely on Turkey to fund them for many years. Do you think this is fair?

    The Greek Cypriots are the ones that had a civil war, we were put in as PM’s to try and stop the killing and look what we get in return the killing of our people on both sides, people that didn’t have a problem with eachother end up being enermies.
    It is a shame that we are suffering for trying to keep the peace don’t you think?

    As for Turkey would you sit and watch your people being killed?

    I truly hope that oneday there will be peace on the island and we can all live as one they way it should of been.

  13. nicholas

    January 27, 2010 7:59 am

    its like banging your head on a brick wall.
    the orams deserve what they got because they new the land was occupied.
    i agree Turkish Cypriots should not be isolated from the world so blame turkey.
    And there will be peace in Cyprus only when Turkey, America and the United Kingdom stop getting involved for there own financial and strategic gain.
    As Dimitris pointed out, the courts agree that the invasion was illegal.

  14. Taner

    January 27, 2010 8:20 am

    Banging your head on a brick wall
    You don’t seem to be able to except that your people were killing eachother, we were trying to stop the killing,then you all turned on us and tried to wipe us out and then turkey came and saved us.
    We took over 3/4 of the island and then pulled back, if we wanted the whole island it could of been done easly then there would have been no need for these problems now.
    Land that is lost at war is no longer your land?
    there are many ways to look at a problem and ofcourse everyone will argue in the way it helps them even if they are wrong.
    You turned on us and you paid the price for this.
    and so did we, but it won’t bring back our loved ones will it?

    Yes I fully agree with you that if they just let both sides find a solution between themselves, we would of found one along time ago and the country would be one the way it should be.

  15. nicholas

    January 27, 2010 8:46 am

    Is this what you think about the Greeks, Kurds and the Armenians also.
    They had it coming as well.
    Turkey has been tried in a court of law and been found wanting,it is over and serious repercussions will follow .
    The world agrees Turkey where at fault by invading Cyprus except Turkey,
    you work out who started it and who was to blame.
    The reason why Turkey pulled back and this is a fact,
    was because the Atilla line was drawn up in 1964 to partition Cyprus.
    So please stop with the drama, Turkey thought that if Cyprus joined Greece then The Turkish Cypriots would be forced to leave.
    There was no evidence of the above but Turkey had there excuse to invade.
    These FACTS are every where to be found.
    Turkey will always be a bully so except the fact and move on.
    I wish Cyprus could move on, and maybe now that the World EXCEPT TURKEY OF COURSE has agreed that Turkey was at fault we can.

    please do not respond as i cannot listen to views which are clearly deluded, misguided and wrong.

  16. Nicos

    January 27, 2010 3:06 pm

    I feel I need to respond to the lies and propaganda in some of these comments.

    The Greek Cypriots had a policy of wiping out the Turkish Cypriots and uniting Cyprus with Greece. This continued from 1963 up to 1974. During that period, the Turkish Cypriots lived under dreadful conditions in tiny enclaves surround by hostile Greek Cypriots forces. For poof: read up on Eoka, Eoka B, Enosis, the Akritas plan and the Turkish Cypriot enclaves; Google each of them.

    But the Greek Cypriots made a fatal error when they tried to formally unite Cyprus with Greece in 1974. This was a perfect reason for Turkey to militarily intervene. Proof: read up on the Cyprus treaty of guarantee.

    As the proverb says, a fool throws a stone into the sea and a thousand wise men cannot find it.

  17. donagh

    January 27, 2010 4:16 pm

    Thanks for all the comments on this thread. However, considering the emotion that this issue involves I would ask that commenters treat each other with a certain amount of courtesy. The threads on ILR are there to allow people to post up information, provide informed opinions and engage in a reasonable level of debate with those involved, as many of the contributors have done already. So, while things might be passionately expressed anything that seems to be a personal attack will be moderated.

  18. Clueless Chris

    January 27, 2010 7:28 pm

    Re the Orams case I thought that they had ‘Exchange Title’ on the land implying that they had legally exchanged the land for Turkish Cypriot land in the south or am I completely missing the point?

    Grateful for any comments.

  19. Leyla

    January 27, 2010 11:29 pm

    The EU and the British courts’ recent ruling on the Oram’s
    Case is to get the Greeks off their backs as they are
    probably fed up with their relentless complaints. They know that
    this decision is not enforcable as the TRNC will not
    allow buildings in their territory to be demolished,
    allowing the British courts to let the Orams off the hook. If the Orams intend to demolish their home but
    are prevented from doing so what can anyone do?
    They are just a retired couple who paid good money for the land. Cyprus has had a turbulent history and it looks like this will continue for a long time.
    It was not only Greeks who were displaced. The Turks had to desert their land and homes in the south and move to the north. My mother’s village of Tera near
    Paphos was burnt to the ground by the Greeks but we
    have moved on and made a home for ourselves with what little we had. Unlike Apostolides, we haven’t got
    £1 million to take anyone to court! Land ownership
    before 74 was almost equal. Greeks owned more businesses but not more land. Greeks problem is that
    they are too ashamed to admit that the Greek junta,
    led by Nicos Samson of Greece, brought this situation about and attacked them first before Turkey intervened. The Cyprus problem will continue, because
    the Turkish Cypriots could never again trust the Greeks. They want the Turks out, the British Bases out, and want all the money,land and property to be theirs and theirs alone. No sharing! Greed and deception is their trade.
    Turkish Cypriots are ok and doing well without the south and Turkey is no longer in love with EU. They too are doing well. Europe is not the only market. Look at the current mess!
    Greek Cypriots must ask themselves why any Turkish
    Cypriot would want a united island when they go running to Britain and EU to fix things for them instead of finding a joint workable system. In the meantime TRNC has compensated those Turkish refugees
    who flee the south in fear of their lives from Nicos
    Samson and gave them land they needed to live on
    whoever it belong to. This has nothing to do with
    international law. Its just the human law of survival!

  20. nicholas

    January 28, 2010 7:03 am

    Bravo Nicos, i guess you voted yes to the Un plan and yes Leyla the courts ruled in favor of the greeks because they where fed up f the complaints.
    Great logic and yes we want the british bases out as they have no right to be there.
    they owe millions in rent so as there landlords we have the right to terminate there contract as this is all they have.
    LAND OWNERSHIP WAS NEVER EQUAL, PLEASE GO TO THE UNITED NATIONS WEBSITE TO CLARIFY THAT OR ARE THEY JUST SAYING THAT TO ALSO SATISFY THE GREEKS.
    This is what i found on Tera
    In more recent times, Tera was until 1963 a predominantly Turkish village, with a small Greek minority, but following intercommunal violence in the 1960s the Turkish population abandoned Tera and settled in Paphos town. Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the Turkish population forced to move moved to the north of Cyprus by the Turkish military and the village was fully abandoned except for a small number of Greek refugees.
    No mention on the great fire also, how strange.
    And my final point, the united nations puts land ownership pre 1974 to 73% Greek and 21% Turkish Cypriot and 6% including foreign owners and the British bases.

    Find your facts before talking such rubbish.

  21. Brian

    February 8, 2010 1:43 am

    nicholas, you are completely wrong about the British bases. They are freehold and independant, they are effectively british soil, and the British do not owe any rent. They are there for ever, rent free.

    And don’t accuse ppl of talking rubbish, when you clearly do not know what you are talking about. Try to remain civil.

  22. nicholas

    February 8, 2010 6:26 am

    here you go Brian, research before you talk.

    the m.o.d has also stated that they will give back 50% of the bases if there is a political solution in Cyprus.

    Akrotiri and Dhekelia are two areas on the island of Cyprus that comprise the Sovereign Base Areas Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. The bases were retained by the UK following the transition of Cyprus’ status from a colony in the British Empire to an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. The United Kingdom retained the bases arising from the strategic location of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.

    The Bases are split into Akrotiri (Greek: ????????; Turkish: Agrotur, along with Episkopi Garrison, is part of an area known as the Western Sovereign Base Area or WSBA) and Dhekelia (Greek: ????????; Turkish: Dikelya, along with Ayios Nikolaos, is part of the Eastern Sovereign Base Area or ESBA.)

    History

    The Sovereign Base Areas were created in 1960 by the Treaty of Establishment, when Cyprus, a colony within the British Empire, was granted independence. The United Kingdom wished to retain sovereignty over these areas, as this guaranteed the use of UK military bases in Cyprus, including RAF Akrotiri, and a garrison of the British Army. The importance of the Bases to the British is based on the strategic location of Cyprus, at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, close to the Suez Canal and the Middle East; the ability to use the RAF base as staging post for military aircraft; and for general training purposes.

    In 1974, Turkey invaded the North of Cyprus, leading to the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, this did not affect the status of the Bases, and the British were not involved in the fighting. Greek-Cypriots fleeing from the Turks were permitted to travel through the Dhekelia base, and were given humanitarian aid. The Turkish advance halted when it reached the edge of the base area, rather than risk war with Britain. The Ayia Napa area was thus preserved in Greek hands.

    Cyprus has occasionally demanded the return of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, citing that the bases take up a large amount of territory that could be used for civilian development. For 4 years after Cypriot independence in 1960, the British government paid the Republic of Cyprus rent for the bases. After the intercommunal conflict of 1963-64 they stopped, claiming there was no guarantee that both communities would benefit equally from that money. The Cypriot government is still claiming money for the years from 1964 to now. Estimates for this range from several hundred thousand to over one billion Euros.

    In July 2001, violent protests were held at the Bases by local Cypriots, angry at British plans to construct radio masts at the bases, as part of an upgrade of British military communication posts around the world. Locals had claimed the masts would endanger local lives and cause cancer, as well as have a negative impact on wildlife in the area. The British government denied these claims.

    The UK has shown no intention of surrendering the Bases, although it has offered to surrender 45 square miles of farmland as part of the rejected Annan Plan for Cyprus. Today, around 3,000 troops of British Forces Cyprus are based at Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Ayios Nikolaos, in the ESBA, is a listening station of the intelligence network ECHELON.

  23. Greg Heydon

    February 10, 2010 12:41 am

    I understand that the British owe billions of pounds in unpaid fees to Cyprus, since 1964 as they continue using roads and other infrastructure and services in Cyprus for things like transporting people and equipment to and from Akrotiri to Dehkelia and the Giant golf balls up at the ski fields at Mt Olympus.
    Is this in addition to rent that is owed? I remember reading somewhere that the matter could be decided by the ICJ or the Hague or one of those International Courts. Does anyone know more about this?

  24. nicholas

    February 10, 2010 6:33 am

    Hi Greg, Cyprus wont take Britain to court because they are scared simple answer.
    One of the disused army bases in the Limassol area was supposed to be handed back 5 years ago but has not been yet.
    The thing that might sway it is now Britain wont let residences who own land under SBA territory build on there land and also people are quite rightly getting angry at this.
    The use of the infrastructure is not added nor will it be as the bases pay for the services they use.
    There are cases of civilians taking Britain to court because they are not allowed access to there property due to the erection of military installations.

  25. Jeremy

    March 11, 2010 3:13 pm

    Looks like the Orams ruling is now irrelevant.

    The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Friday recognized the jurisdiction of the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) set up by the TRNC (North Cyprus) as an effective domestic means to address property claims by Greek Cypriots.

    So property owners in North Cyprus need not worry because Greek Cypriots will receive compensation from the IPC.

    article:

    http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=55140