According to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey has to pay 90 million Euros in damages to Cyprus in compensation for its 1974 invasion of the island. Turkey was again called by the ECHR to pay a 13 million Euro compensation to Cyprus over property rights violations in the occupied territories, in 2009.
The Court’s decision is a victory, not only for Cyprus and its people, but also for Justice itself. An internationally renowned Court has yet again ruled the Turkish invasion and occupation of 37% of the island illegal, along with a big number of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
However, 40 years later, Turkey still maintains around 40,000 troops on the island, it is accountable for around 200,000 refugees and around 1600 missing persons while it has been illegally transferring Turkish settlers to Cyprus, in addition to a host of other violations of human rights and freedoms.
Clearly, International Law is not an issue for Turkish politicians. They are not concerned with abiding by such rulings. They rather prefer to not recognize the Republic of Cyprus – a European Union member-state – while they complain to the EU for not having their candidacy being equally treated. That is, while they are in clear and internationally acknowledged violation of International Law and the Copenhagen Criteria.
Just before the announcement of the ECHR verdict, Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, stated that the ruling would “neither be binding nor be carrying any value” for Ankara, and he went on to say that a negative ruling would affect negatively the Cyprus peace negotiations. Not for one minute did the foreign minister consider that the ruling was about justice or that Turkey’s occupation and military on the island are already affecting negatively the Cyprus peace process.
Perhaps the biggest question, the elephant in the room so to speak, is, why do European states – notably the UK and other states of the inter-governmentalist club – and the United States still support Turkey’s EU accession process, and its illegitimate foreign policy. Well the question is rhetorical but the answer lies in politics. The US has itself a long record of International Law violations while the EU has long been putting politics and economics over legal issues and the fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria. At the end, it’s all about what a state can or can’t do, not about what it should or shouldn’t do.
The powerful gets to dictate what is right and legal while the weak and oppressed is left with no options battling for its survival, with Justice being its only weapon – a Justice that was never respected. It’s obvious that the international community and most importantly the international society needs to change its approach to politics, adopt a more critical stance, be informed; in turn, choose and critique its governments within this framework.