‘TCs are human rights victims’

Turkish Cypriots are victims of violence, racism and discrimination in the South, according to a major human rights report that the Greek Cypriot administration sought to suppress.

The damning report by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) –  held up for over 10 years by officials in the South- said that  there had been a “rise in incidents of racially motivated verbal and physical abuse by rightwing extremists and neo-Nazi groups against persons of foreign origin, human rights defenders and Turkish Cypriots”.

The UNHRC urged South Cyprus authorities to “eradicate” racial discrimination against Turkish Cypriots and “ensure that cases of racially motivated violence are promptly investigated, that the perpetrators are prosecuted and, where appropriate, punished and that compensation is awarded to victims”.

Former president Mehmet Ali Talat was attacked in Limassol last year by far-right fanatics who barricaded him inside a conference hall, and in 2010 a Turkish Cypriot musician was stabbed in the chest in clashes with anti-immigration protesters during a festival in Larnaca. Vehicles with TRNC number plates have been vandalized on numerous occasions in the South.

The UNHRC also raised concern over reports that investigations of Greek Cypriot “missing” persons are being “prioritized” over those relating to Turkish Cypriots and at the “lack of information provided regarding redress afforded to relatives of victims and measures taken to investigate cases of missing persons and to prosecute those responsible”    .

It called on the Greek Cypriot administration to “investigate all outstanding cases of missing persons of both the Greek and Turkish communities in an effective, transparent, independent an impartial manner”.

The review, released on Thursday, is the first time the highly respected UNHRC has published a report on human rights in South Cyprus since 1998.

Yuval Shany, a member of the UN committee, told Cyprus Today that the Greek Cypriot authorities – a “State Party” to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – had been due to report on their promotion of human rights in 2002 but did not come back to the UNHRC until 2012 for “logistical” reasons.

It has taken a further three years for a final report to be published, fuelling fears that officials in South Cyprus sought to block publication.

Mr Shany would neither confirm nor deny such suggestions, but expressed his “regret and concerns about the prolonged delays”. He said he was particularly concerned about the “integration” of Turkish Cypriots in the South’s civil service and allegations of discrimination.

The report said: “The Committee is concerned about the low numbers of Turkish Cypriots in the ….. Civil service, including its police force and judiciary.

“It is also concerned about reports that demanding Greek language proficiency tests serve as a de facto barrier to the integration of minority communities in the civil service.

“Finally, it is concerned that no steps are being taken to establish a Turkish school in Limassol.”

Worries were also raised over discrimination on the basis of nationality, access to mosques and allegations that “significant” numbers of Turkish Cypriots were unable to vote during the May 2014 European Parliament elections. The committee also called for new border crossing points to ease access to the South for residents in the North.

Cyprus Today contacted Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades’s office for a response, but was told his spokesman was not available.

(Cyprus Today, April 4, 2015)

The report by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC)