‘Tax’ on humanitarian aid to ‘enclaved’ Cypriots ‘an inhumane breach of Geneva convention’

UNFICYP vehicle in Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus @Lobby for Cyprus
UNFICYP vehicle in Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus @Lobby for Cyprus

“The new discriminatory charges imposed by Turkey’s illegal regime on humanitarian supplies to the ‘enclaved’ Cypriots in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus are inhumane. They are also in breach of international humanitarian law and international criminal law” said Lobby for Cyprus spokesman Vangelis Christou. 

Christou was referring to the decision of Turkey’s occupation regime in the north of the island to impose ‘taxes’ and ‘fees’ on aid delivered by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) to the dwindling population of Greek and Maronite Cypriots who reside in the occupied part of the island.

Following Turkey’s two invasions of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, approximately 20,000 Greek and Maronite Cypriots remained in the occupied north, including parts of Kyrenia District and the Karpas peninsula. As the remainder of the 1970s unfolded, most were forced out after being bullied, coerced or otherwise intimidated into fleeing. According to 2013 statistics the ‘enclaved’ constitute 328 Greek and 109 Maronite Cypriots. Today, that dwindling population represents all that remains of the Greeks and other Christians who made up the overwhelming majority of the population in the north of the island prior to 1974. Today, most are elderly or otherwise vulnerable. They rely on humanitarian supplies including food and medicine brought to them on a weekly basis.

“Despite the crushing violation of the fundamental human rights of the enclaved for more than 43 years, Turkey and its occupation regime are now applying further coercive pressure on the remaining ‘enclaved’ Cypriots who were not ethnically cleansed by Turkey” said Christou.

“Not only is the ‘tax’ on the ‘enclaved’ a blatantly racist, discriminatory, degrading and otherwise inhumane imposition. It is in violation of international humanitarian and, thus, of international criminal law.”

Christou explained that Article 61 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 states that the distribution of relief consignments:

“… shall be exempt in occupied territory from all charges, taxes or customs duties… The Occupying Power shall facilitate the rapid distribution of these consignments. All Contracting Parties shall endeavour to permit the transit and transport, free of charge, of such relief consignments on their way to occupied territories.”

The ‘taxes’ and ‘fees’ on humanitarian aid imposed by Turkey’s occupation regime are the latest in a long list of inhumane measures and violations of law.

Christou went on to say “disappointingly, the UN has been lukewarm in its reaction, describing the decision by the occupation regime merely as an ‘unfortunate development’. We urge the UN to take a firmer stance on this latest outrage. We are disappointed that on 4 October, UNFICYP complied with the occupation regime’s demands by restricting its aid deliveries, stating it was ‘obliged to limit today’s delivery to medical aid supplies’.”

Christou concluded that the detrimental ‘taxes’ and ‘fees’ which target the Greek and Maronite Cypriots are a throwback to the discriminatory taxes that the Ottomans would impose in areas under their control: “What more evidence is needed that Turkey is Turkifying and re-Ottomanising the occupied area by imposing a neo-Ottoman version of the jizya, the degrading and discriminatory tax that the Ottomans used to impose on some of their subjects? These latest actions demonstrate the bullying, oppressive and racist nature of Turkey and its occupation regime. This is yet another manifestation of the ongoing re-Ottomanisation of our occupied territories.”

Notes

  • In 1974 Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus and continues to unlawfully occupy 37 per cent of the territory and 57 per cent of the coastline of Cyprus, with approximately 40,000 troops, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
  • Approximately 200,000 Cypriot refugees are prevented from returning to their homes, properties and lands in the occupied north.
  • Turkey continues its policy of colonising the occupied territory of Cyprus with Turkish nationals, in violation of the Geneva convention.

Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation that campaigns for a Cyprus free from Turkish occupation and a unitary Cypriot state without segregation along ethnic and religious lines.

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