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05-03-21

The International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has stated to make a decision on Turkey’s settlements in Northern Cyprus before her term ends on June 16. The Turkish occupation of the Northern Cyprus issue has been ignored for a long time due to the internal debate of whether the Israeli settlement is considered a war crime. It is a rare case of considering alleged coercive displacement as a war crime as opposed to “classic” war crimes such as genocide.


The decision on the Cyprus case would have significant implications on its future treatment of Israeli settlement. As per reports, the Palestinians filed for ICC intervention in January 2015. However, in contrast, the Cypriot official, represented by Shurat Hadin, filed the case with ICC against Turkey’s settlements in Northern Cyprus in July 2014. It was filed half a year before the Palestinian claims against Israel were filed. It has been unclear why the ICC prosecutor moved forward sooner on the Israeli-Palestinian situation than on Northern Cyprus.

As per Nitsana Darshan Leitner, the president of Shurat Hadin, Bensouda has ignored all the communications concerning Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus despite repeated demands and warnings for over seven years. She also stated that when Shurat HaDin finally complained to the IOC [International Criminal Court Independent Oversight Commission], it forced the prosecutor’s hand to pursue Northern Cyprus’s situation.

The Shurat HaDin president, Darshan-Leitner, stated, “We intended to tie the court’s hands by creating a prerequisite dynamic that involved other territorial disputes around the world, like the Turkish occupation. We wanted to ensure that the ICC must first decide on Turkey occupying Northern Cyprus before dealing with the Palestinian complaints against Israel.”

Bensouda declared Israeli settlements war crimes in December 2019, to which the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber gave a green light on the matter for a full criminal war crimes investigation on February 5. In the Israeli-Palestinian case, Israel, which is not even a member state of the Rome Statute, is being probed. Meanwhile, the issue of turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus has been neglected even though Cyprus is a proud participating member of the Rome Statute and officially filed a complaint with the assistance of Shurat HaDin.

Turkey settlement has been viewed worldwide as Turkey illegally occupying Northern Cyprus since the invasion in 1974 in response to a coup by Greek Cypriots. It was speculated that Bensouda would be ruling on the Cyprus case by the end of 2020, but the decision was delayed. The Shurat Hadin representatives sent a letter on January 18 to the ICC’s IOC complaining about a lack of movement on the Northern Cyprus situation and other issues concerning the Palestinian Authority.