The event was organised on the initiative of Cypriot MEP Costas Mavrides (DIKO, S&D) and, according to participants, the case of Cyprus should be a priority for the EU. They wondered at the same time why the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has done so little for the case.
Launching a preliminary investigation to identify Turkish settlement activities in Cyprus lies at the discretion of the ICC Prosecutor, law professors Eugene Kontorovich and William Schabas told the conference.
In July 2014, a group of Cypriot refugees and MEP Costas Mavrides filed a complaint against Turkey, asking the ICC to investigate possible war crimes regarding its policy of bringing settlers from mainland Turkey over to the North part of the island to change its demographics. The initiative received the backing of the Cyprus government, as Kornelios Korneliou, the Permanent Representative of the Republic to the EU has said.
Mavrides noted that it is the first time such an issue has been raised at the ICC since its founding in July 2002.
From his part, Korneliou noted that the issue of settlers is one of the most delicate and difficult aspects of a Cyprus settlement, with the government concentrating its efforts in solving it in a way that is compatible with international law.
Although the ICC has no jurisdiction over actions committed prior to 2002, Turkey's settlement activities in Cyprus continue unabated, and today there are more than 120 thousand settlers illegally residing on the island, he noted.
Eugene Kontorovich, professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said that it is known from Wikileaks that according to official accounts of the US government, there are around 10 to 15 thousand arrivals in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus every year, which significantly alter the demographic character of this part of the island.
He expressed his awe over the fact that part of EU territory is under occupation and said that the Union, which defends international law, should prioritise the Cyprus issue.
Professor William Schabas from the Middlesex University School of Law said that the case lies at the discretion of the ICC prosecutor. He noted that the case file is presently in a state of limbo, pending a decision to proceed with a preliminary investigation on the matter.