Northern Cyprus anti-gay law to be challenged

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A case has been lodged at the European Court of Human Rights against Turkey today to decriminalise homosexuality in Northern Cyprus.

The move, by the Human Dignity Trust, follows reports that Northern Cyprus’s anti-gay law continues to be employed despite assurances given by its leader that it would be repealed.

Cyprus was required by the ECHR to decriminalise consensual sex between consenting adults in 1993, but in the Turkish-occupied part of Northern Cyprus, homosexual acts are still illegal.

The case has been filed against Turkey, which the Trust said is responsible for protecting and promoting human rights in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Gay acts in Turkey have been legal since the Ottoman Empire of the 19th century.

The challenge, brought on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff, asserts that the laws violate his private and family life and that the resulting discrimination he suffers amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Commenting today, human rights barrister and Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust Jonathan Cooper said: “The fact that homosexual relations remain criminalised in Northern Cyprus is a violation of international law and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

“Criminalisation of identity puts people beyond protection of the law. This is not an issue of gay rights but one of upholding universal human rights. More than 80 legal systems across the globe continue to criminalise homosexuality – almost half the countries in the world.”

The Human Dignity Trust, an international organisation which uses law to decriminalise homosexuality across the globe.

The case is supported by the Northern Cyprus LGBTI organisation, the Homofobiye Karsi Inisiyatif (Initiative Against Homophobia).

The legal team, led by Nigel Pleming QC, includes Northern Cyprus lawyer Oncel Polili and Tom Mountford.

Instructing solicitors are international law firm Taylor Wessing LLP, who will be working pro bono.

Paul Callaghan, partner at Taylor Wessing LLP, said: “We are delighted to work on a pro bono basis with the Human Dignity Trust for such an important cause. This case highlights a clear breach of the international human rights law and we hope to see the legal, as well as moral, obligations addressed in the judgment.”

The Homofobiye Karsi Inisiyatif added: “All of our efforts to amend the law have been futile and Turkish Cypriot authorities are reluctant to show any good will. Despite the promises to amend the law authorities still charge people with this archaic law. The situation shows that Turkish Cypriot authorities have no courage to defend human rights.

“We are very pleased to show a good example of international solidarity with our work together with the Human Dignity Trust.”

Earlier this month, Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis criticised the arrests in Northern Cyprus after the region’s leader Derviş Eroğlu had told her draft repeal legislation had been drawn up.

She said: “Dr. Eroğlu has twice promised me that the northern part of Cyprus would repeal the ban on homosexuality. I have so far taken him at his word, but now he needs to back up these words with deeds.

“There must be an immediate moratorium on arrests under Section 171 and the men arrested last month must be released without delay. Draft legislation submitted by the Communal Democratic Party must be fast-tracked through the assembly to ensure that there are no further miscarriages of justice and Dr. Eroğlu must keep his promise to sign the repeal into law.”