I am a lawyer by profession and I have up to now acted in a number of cases of Greek citizens from Turkey who are, however, of Greek descent and Turkish subjects in connection with their claim to their rights over their properties situated in Constantinople.
After 30 years' practice as a lawyer, chiefly in the area mentioned above:
- I address myself to you because after the last case in which I represented Magdalini Kallinoglou, in practical terms any possibility of justice being done and a sense of justice, which has been blatantly violated, satisfied has been exhausted.
- I address myself to you because these cases concern economic interests of citizens (Greeks) of the European Union who are located in a third country (Turkey) which is associated with the Union.
- I address myself to you because the Association Agreement between the EC and Turkey (1963) expressly prohibits any discrimination based on nationality.
- I address myself to with a view to the recovery of the natural sense of justice which has been blatantly violated through forms of discrimination against citizens of the Union and Turkish subjects as to the right of property, as well as the natural right, respected since antiquity, of the last wish of the dead, as that finds expression in the right of inheritance.
In 1964, the Ministerial Council of Turkey, prompted by events which were taking place in a third country, Cyprus, issued a secret decree (6/3801) regulating the fate of the estates of those residents of Turkey who were of Greek nationality, regardless of citizenship, and who at that time were fleeing the country in their tens of thousands because of the tenseness of the relations between Greece and Turkey.
(I append the secret order of the Minister of Justice, Salahattin Okatan in which he quotes in detail and interprets the secret decree of 1964, as well as the 1964 decision itself - p. 15).
The existence of this decree, after 30 years of implementation, is not in dispute, and its existence has been publicly admitted, as it has been by the law of 1988, as I will explain below.
As is also proved by the document which I cite, the secret decree suspended every real right over immovable properties in Turkey belonging to persons of Greek nationality (transfer, revenue, succession in title), with the result that the properties came into the hands of the Turkish State, as has been the case up to now with estates worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Permit me to make the following comments:
1. The secret Decision of the Turkish Ministerial Council No. 6/3801, as is expressly stated in its text, is based on Law 1062 of 15 April 1927 concerning the imposition of reprisals, by which the rights of ownership of foreigners in Turkey were restricted in the event of the imposition of similar restrictive measures on the rights of Turkish citizens in the relevant foreign states. This law, a product of outdated concepts, introduced measures of reprisal which according to modern international law constitute unlawful acts and which are, of course, contrary to the United Nations Charter and the European Treaty of Human Rights, which Turkey is obliged to respect. It is to the retention in force of this piece of legislation that the imposition of measures against Greek citizens who were formerly resident in Constantinople is due, while it constitutes a legal basis for the introduction of similar measures against the citizens of any other country.
2. We would stress that the 1964 decision and the demand for its effective abolition do not concern the status of Turkish citizens of Greek descent or Greeks who belong to the Muslim minority in Western Thrace. The demand concerns exclusively the retrospective restoration of the capacity of Greek subjects to dispose of or acquire property inter vivos or causa mortis, as well as to manage their property in Constantinople, the ownership of which they for the most part retain.
3. There is a danger of estates or inheritances belonging to Greek citizens being irrecoverably lost cumulatively and to a great extent, particularly after 1990, if their subjection to the enforced administration of a 'trustee appointed by the Turkish court' becomes general. This system has been employed since 1979 and after an eleven-year period results in confiscation, following the abuse of the right of declaring the owners of estates 'missing persons' or on the false pretet of the existence of an estate 'in abeyance'. The abolition of Decision 6/3801 without retroactive effect would be for this reason without an object, since the generative cause which leads by stages to the confiscation of properties and inheritances would not have been removed. If the retrospective abolition of the 1964 decision is not confirmed, this would be equivalent to toleration of the consequences which it has already brought about to the detriment of Greek citizens and to their penalisation by measures which do not affect the citizens of the rest of the member states of the EC.
4. It is my view that the Greek citizens who were expelled or forced to leave Constantinople and the very few who perhaps still remain there should have it made possible for them to exercise in person or by proxy, without discrimination, all the civil rights which were suspended in 1964 and for each of them to claim individually compensation for the losses which they have suffered.
On the occasion of the re-activation of the EC-Turkey Association Council, the secret decree was put on the negotiating table and was one of the reasons why a member state put obstacles in the way of the reconstituting of the above Council.
In 1968, after the meeting between the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey, the withdrawal of the 1964 decree was agreed upon and thus Greek and Community reactions over this point came to an end. Thus, in 1988, Turkey introduced special laws with retrospective force by virtue of which the force of Decree 6/3801 was supposed to have been abolished. From that point on, however, the Turkish courts have acted as though that law had never existed, have fully implemented the secret decree of 1964 and have engaged in the creation of a variety of legal and bureaucratic obstacles aimed at avoiding rendering the real rights stemming from their estates to those entitled to them.
I could quote a a host of instances in proof of the above. I will choose the case of Magdalini Kallinoglou since it is the most recent and because your role does not involve the reviewing of a multipilcity of complex instances, but consists in the quest for a right judgment as to the practice to be followed and the legal thinking of the Turkish courts, which have introduced forms of discrimination against the interests of citizens of the European Union.
In this case, the Turkish State has had recourse to the courts in order to annul the deed of probate, thus following tactics which have been applied to all the properties of the Greeks. In 1988 the 2nd Police Court of Constantinople dismissed the petition of the State for the annulment of the deed of probate by its decision No. 206. In 1991, after a second appeal by the State, the same court issued its decision No. 998, which also dismissed the appeal. On 27 October, the Court of Appeal of Constantinople annulled both the above decisions, and the case, in accordance with Turkish legislation, was re-introduced at the first degree to be tried again from the beginning.
In the petition drawn up by the Turkish State in the last instance it seeks the annulment of the previous decisions on deeds of probate issued by the 9th and 7th Police Courts of Constantinople on the grounds that they are contrary to the prohibitions of the Secret Decree - Decision of the Ministerial Council of Turkey of 1964.
I append the decision of the Pera Police Court. As will be seen from the text (p. 36), the court accepts the petition of the Turkish State since the principle of reciprocity has not been verified (!!!).
It is clear that:
a. As you will be aware, the requirement of reciprocity in the treatment of minorities is an inadmnissible practice and a form of discrimination which has been condemned by all the internationally accepted texts which deal with the human rights of minorities.
b. There has been in practice a revival of the secret decree of 1964, and thus a blatant violation of Article 9 of the EC-Turkey Association Agreement.
I am submitting the present petition to you because I believe that the European Union should take drastic measures, on the one hand, to secure the right of European citizens to lay claim to their properties and, on the other, to restore the natural right of inheritance for each European citizen, regardless of his place of residence.
Elpida Frangopoulou (Lawyer)