A decision of the European Court of Justice, 27th April 2009, has upheld the principle that Cypriot land and homes taken by force during Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 remain the property of the people who fled the invading forces for safety.

The Court’s judgment effectively underlines the enormous risk to potential buyers of usurped Greek Cypriot properties in the areas of northern Cyprus under Turkish military occupation. It reinforces the property rights of Cypriot refugees who will now be able to seek redress against purchasers of their stolen land in the courts of all other EU member states.

The Court’s ruling reaffirms the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus as well as the competence of the Republic’s authorities on the whole territory of the island. As such, it has the potential to prevent or minimise the creation of further illegal faits accomplis in the Turkish-occupied areas of the Republic by discouraging the illegal sale and exploitation of usurped Greek Cypriot land in those areas.

Peter Droussiotis, President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, welcomed the Court’s decision:

“In this landmark judgment, the European Court of Justice has reaffirmed that the legitimate authorities of the Republic of Cyprus have competence to take decisions in relation to the whole of the island and has ruled explicitly that such decisions must be recognised and enforced by all other EU member states. This ruling sends a clear and very important message to people thinking of buying property in the occupied area. These properties were taken by force, against the will of their legitimate owners, and the European Court of Justice has correctly recognised the rights of refugees over what is justly theirs.

“The National Federation of Cypriots in the UK welcomes this ruling, as it defends the property rights of a great number of Cypriots, many of them now living in the UK, who wish one day to return to their homes.”

The Court’s ruling refers to the case of Meletis Apostolides V. David Charles Orams and Linda Elizabeth Orams. The dispute went before the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, which in turn requested a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice. The original owner of the property, Greek Cypriot refugee Meletis Apostolides, disputed the claims to ownership of British couple David and Linda Orams, seeking the recognition and enforcement of a judgment of the District Court of Nicosia in the United Kingdom. The British couple had purchased the land from a third party and built a holiday house on it.