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Cyprus v Turkey, 10 May 2001 [ECtHR]


Case no 25781/94

258.  The Commission proceeded on the understanding that the applicant Government's essential complaint under Article 11 concerned an alleged violation of the right of the population concerned to freedom of association in the sense of founding or joining associations or taking part in the activities of associations with a minimum organisational structure, to the exclusion of social contacts. The Commission found on the evidence that, during the period under consideration, there was no restriction on any aspect of the right as defined. As to impediments to the participation of enclaved Greek Cypriots in bi-communal events organised by the United Nations, the Commission noted that UN documents mentioned impediments having been placed in the way of inter-communal meetings as from the second half of 1996. However, given that these events were based on distinct facts occurring after the date of the admissibility decision, any complaints based thereon could not be entertained.

259.  Having regard to its conclusion that there had been no violation of the right of Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus to freedom of association, the Commission considered that it was unnecessary to examine whether any available remedies had been exhausted in respect of the applicant Government's allegations.

260.  The Court observes that the matters raised by the applicant Government are essentially issues of fact which have been carefully examined by the Commission in the context of the fact-finding procedure. It observes that on the basis of the evidence analysed the Commission found it impossible to conclude that during the period under consideration there was any interference by the “TRNC” authorities with attempts by Greek Cypriots to establish their own associations or mixed associations with Turkish Cypriots, or interference with the participation of Greek Cypriots in the activities of associations (see paragraph 258 above). The Court accepts the Commission's finding and would add that the evidence does not allow it to conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that an administrative practice of violating the right of the enclaved Greek Cypriots to freedom of association existed during the reference period.

261.  Like the Commission, the Court also considers that its conclusion does not require it to examine whether any available domestic remedies have been exhausted in relation to these complaints.

262.  As to the applicant Government's complaints in respect of an alleged practice of imposing restrictions on Greek Cypriots' participation in bi-communal or inter-communal events during the period under consideration, the Court considers, having regard to the subject-matter of the events relied on, that it is more appropriate to consider them from the standpoint of Article 8 of the Convention. It will do so in the context of its global assessment of that Article (see paragraphs 281 et seq. below).

263.  The Court concludes that no violation of Article 11 of the Convention has been established by reason of an alleged practice of denying Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus the right to freedom of association.

...

364.  The applicant Government stated that, as a result of the “TRNC”'s general policy in the area of freedom of movement, there was an administrative practice of interference, dating from 1974, with the right of Turkish Cypriots living in the north to meet or foregather with Greek Cypriots and others in Cyprus, particularly in the United Nations buffer-zone and in the government-controlled area.

365.  The applicant Government highlighted several instances of arbitrary restrictions being imposed on persons wishing to attend bi-communal meetings, including sports and music events. They drew attention to their claim that the respondent Government had themselves in their observations on the admissibility and merits of this complaint submitted evidence to the Commission of the administrative practice of imposing from 1994 through to 1996 continuing restrictions on the right of Turkish Cypriots to travel to the south. This period, they recalled, was the period under consideration.

366.  The applicant Government acknowledged that the original complaint formulated to the Commission was framed in terms of an administrative practice of interference with the right of Turkish Cypriots living in the north to freedom of association. They requested the Court to examine also the complaint in the terms described above. As to the restrictions on the right to freedom of association, they contended that the evidence heard by the delegates clearly established a violation of this right. They further observed in support of this allegation that “Articles 12 and 71 of the TRNC Constitution” precluded the formation of associations to promote the interests of minorities. In their view, the existence of such a prohibition should in itself be considered a violation of Article 11 of the Convention.

367.  The Commission observed that nothing was brought to its attention to the effect that during the period under consideration there had been attempts by Turkish Cypriots living in northern Cyprus to establish associations with Greek Cypriots in the northern or southern parts of Cyprus which were prevented by the authorities. On that account the Commission found the complaint to be unsubstantiated.

368.  As to impediments to participation by Turkish Cypriots in bi-communal events, the Commission noted that, according to relevant United Nations documents, certain restrictions had been placed in the way of inter-communal meetings as from the second half of 1996. In the Commission's opinion, any complaint to that effect related to distinct facts which occurred after the date of the admissibility decision. For that reason a complaint could not be entertained.

369.  The Court recalls that it has accepted the facts as established by the Commission (see paragraphs 339-40 above). It does not consider that, on the basis of the evidence before it, there was, during the period under consideration, an administrative practice of impeding all bi-communal contacts between Turkish Cypriots living in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. The Court notes that the “TRNC” authorities took a much more rigorous approach to such contacts after the second half of 1996 and indeed prohibited them. However, and as noted by the Commission, alleged violations of Convention rights occurring during that period are outside the scope of the admissibility decision (see paragraph 368 above).

370.  As to the alleged interference with the right of Turkish Cypriots living in the north to freedom of association, the Court observes that the Commission found on the evidence that the “TRNC” authorities had not made any attempt to intervene to prevent the creation of bi-communal organisations in the north of Cyprus. In the absence of any concrete evidence to the contrary, and having regard to the requisite standard of proof for establishing the existence of an administrative practice of violating a Convention right, the Court concludes that there has been no violation of Article 11 from this standpoint either.

371.  The Court finds therefore that it has not been established that there has been a violation, as a matter of administrative practice, of the right to freedom of association or assembly under Article 11 of the Convention in respect of Turkish Cypriots living in northern Cyprus.

 

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