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Judges trump generals in latest Cyprus litigation

19/01/10

The Court of Appeal has upheld a claim by a Greek Cypriot refugee who was forced to flee his family's land in northern Cyprus at the time of the Turkish invasion in 1974 to enforce a judgment upholding his continuing ownership of the land.

The claim was brought by Mr. Meletios Apostolides against David and Elisabeth Orams, a retired couple from Hove in Sussex. In 2002 the Orams ‘purchased' the land and built a holiday home there. The Orams claimed to have obtained title under the law of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus', which is not recognised under international law.

Following the relaxation in 2003 of controls on the movement of people between the northern area and the south of the island, which remains under the control of the internationally-recognised Government of the Republic of Cyprus, the Orams were served with a writ of trespass at the land in Lapithos, near Kyrenia. Mr. Apostolides obtained judgment before the Courts of the Republic, which held that the Orams'‘TRNC' title was legally worthless.

Mr. Apostolides then sought to enforce his judgment in England under the Brussels I Regulation, which applies as between the UK and Cyprus following Cyprus's accession to the EU in 2004. The Orams resisted enforcement alleging that, under a protocol to Cyprus's accession, EU law was inapplicable in respect of northern Cyprus. The Orams' argument was initially successful before Jack J, but was rejected by the European Court of Justice by a judgment of 28 April 2009. When the case returned to England, the Orams' lawyers sought to argue that enforcement should be refused on public policy grounds, because the Cyprus conflict ought to be resolved by negotiations on the international plane, and not by private litigation. The Orams also contended that Judge Skouris, the President of the ECJ (who is Greek) was affected by apparent bias due to his connections to Cyprus, including the fact that Cyprus had awarded him the Grand Cross of Makarios III in 2006.

By a judgment of 19 January 2010 the Court of Appeal rejected the Orams' latest arguments and held that the judgments were enforceable in England.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal is here.

The judgment of the ECJ is here.

Nicholas Green QC appeared for the Orams.

Colin West appeared for Mr. Apostolides.