STRASBOURG - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Monday ordered Turkey to pay €90 million in compensation to Cyprus over human rights abuses committed during and after its invasion of 1974.
Ankara said before the announcement it would not be bound by the ruling, whose timing it said was aimed at undermining a fresh peace drive on the island. But a former Turkish judge at the ECHR said Turkey would have to pay the compensation.
Cyprus brought the case to the Strasbourg-based ECHR 20 years ago. The court ruled in Nicosia's favour in 2001, but postponed until now a decision on the sum to be paid.
In its largest ever judgment, the court ordered Turkey to pay €30m euros in damages to relatives of the missing and €60m to the enclaved in the Karpas. The money must be paid within three months.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara an ECHR ruling on the case would not be binding in terms of international law and drew attention to its timing.
"Just when talks within the framework of comprehensive peace have gained serious momentum in Cyprus, when a new process has begun, led by Turkey ... such a decision is not right," he said.
But Riza Turmen, a former judge of the ECHR and now an opposition lawmaker in Turkey's parliament, said Ankara would be legally required to comply with the ruling.
"It's extremely clear from Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says all signatories are committed to comply with final decisions," Turmen told Reuters.
Analysts noted that the case was notable not only because of its size, but also because it took Turkey to task for the invasion and awarded the money to Cyprus on behalf of individuals, a sensitive point that could affect current reunification talks.
Human rights lawyer Achilleas Demetriades, who has won several cases in the ECHR involving Turkey, said that the 22 page judgment made clear that Ankara cannot continue to violate human rights in Cyprus.
The cost is not just financial, but political, particularly in view of Ankara’s EU aspirations. “If Turkey wants to be part of the European club, it must respect human rights,” he told CyBC.