Boost for Foka in ECHR case against Turkey

A FORMER Greek Cypriot enclave resident and teacher, who claims she was assaulted by officials and subsequently suffered discrimination and threats from her local community there, has won the first part of her case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The ECHR accepted Eleni Foka’s application against Turkey, concluding that “the application is not manifestly ill-founded” and that there are “no other grounds declaring it inadmissible”.

Foka took her case to the ECHR in 1995, claiming that she had been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment; deprived of her liberty and security; suffered disrespect for her private life; suffered interference with her home and was persecuted because of her ethnic origins, religious beliefs and because of her opposition to the occupation of northern Cyprus by the Turkish military.

Foka was a teacher in a Greek Cypriot enclave in the north and one of the few Greek Cypriots that remained after 1974. In 1997 she crossed the Green Line to seek ‘urgent medical treatment’, however on attempting to return to north she was refused entry by officials and Turkish forces. She has been living in the south of Nicosia ever since.

The incident put before the ECHR took place nearly 12 years ago in January 1995.

Foka claims that on returning to the north after having spent Christmas with her family in the south, officers and police physically assaulted her because she refused to be submitted to a second ‘unnecessary’ search.

Foka says that following her refusal; officers forced her into a private car, covered her mouth with their hands and hit her on the hands and feet. She was then taken to a police station in the north where police proceeded to rifle through her belongings, and hit her whenever she tried to see what was going on.
She goes on to describe how she was mocked during interrogation, after which her belongings were returned to her minus £120, implying that the investigating officers stole the money. She was then taken back to her hometown of Ayia Triada.

The day after this harrowing ordeal, Foka went to her local doctor to receive treatment for the injuries she had sustained at the hands of the officers. The doctor provided treatment but refused to certify the existence of bruises on her body.

Her injuries were later confirmed and noted by representatives of the ‘Doctors of the World’ and a United Nations medical officer.

Over the next few nights, Foka suffered regular attacks on her property by way of stones thrown at her house. She also claims that she was subsequently subject to constant surveillance and harassment by local police, and even received death threats.

Turkey predictably rejected Foka’s accusations stating that TRNC authorities “had not used any force over the applicant [Foka] other than which had been proper and necessary in the circumstances.”

Turkey claimed that it was not responsible for the mistreatment suffered by Foka, because the ‘TRNC’ is independent and therefore responsible for any actions that take place within its borders.

The ECHR rejected this, saying that because the TRNC is not officially recognised by the international community as a legal entity it cannot therefore be held legally responsible.

Turkey also tried to quash Foka’s right for a trial at the ECHR, saying that she had not exhausted the legal remedies available to her in the occupied areas. In a damming rejection of this claim, the ECHR said, “The government [Turkey] have not provided any convincing submissions, including any case-law, demonstrating the effectiveness of such remedies… especially in view of the nature of the applicants complaints.”

Foka’s lawyer, Christos Triantafyllides, said that the ECHR rejection of Turkey’s claims will have ”an immediate impact on the allegations of the Turkish Cypriot regime that there is a corporate state in the occupied areas.”

Triantafyllides said that he was “very happy with the decision” of the ECHR, and thanked his late father – who was the Attorney General when the case was first taken to the ECHR – adding that the decision was “the best way to commemorate his memory”.

The case will now move to the next stage, which will involve the presentation of testimonies from both Foka and Turkey.