“If you do pursue a career in Human Rights, do it because you like it, and because you want to establish justice for the individual.”
That, is how Mr. Achilleas Demetriades started the lecture that he gave to the students of UCLan Cyprus on the 1st of November 2016. Mr. Demetriades is an advocate and partner at Lellos P. Demetriades Law Office, a law firm that specializes in Intellectual Property Law. But Mr. Demetriades did not discuss Company Law. Instead he gave a lecture about the way the Council of Europe has managed to protect Human Rights in Cyprus.
Mr. Demetriades explained that although he is an Intellectual Property lawyer, he enjoys taking up Human Rights cases. He described this as his hobby. A hobby that has contributed to the establishment of fairer conditions for the citizens of Cyprus, and greater protection of Human Rights.
He began his lecture by giving an introduction about the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECtHR is the Court of the Council of Europe, which is responsible for the protection of Human Rights and the ECHR is the Convention that the ECtHR relies on.
In the past, only states could bring a case against another state, but later on it was established that now an individual could file a case against a state as well. This secures greater protection of the rights of the individual and a fairer representation of the case. Mr. Demetriades argued that the ultimate justice for Human Rights is in Strasburg, since if an individual loses his case there then he cannot find justice anywhere else. In order for an individual to be able to bring a case to the ECtHR, the domestic remedies of the country that the individual lives in need to be exhausted. After that, based on Article 34 of the ECHR, the individual can file an application as the victim and once the file application to the ECtHR is submitted, the respondent state will be informed of the case that is brought against it. Then, the case goes through the admissibility stage, where the Court checks if it can actually hear the case. If yes, the next stage is called Merits, where the facts of the actual case are being discussed and if the Court identifies a violation of Human Rights the individual will receive Just Satisfaction (money) based on Article 41 of the ECHR.
Mr. Demetriades proceeded to explain important human rights cases from Cyprus that he had taken up. These include the Modinos v. Cyprus case, regarding gay rights of an individual, the Kafkaris v. Cyprus case regarding life imprisonment in Cyprus and the aim of prison to rehabilitate the inmates, rather than keeping them isolated until they die. Also, he referred to the case of Ranstev v. Cyprus, and the duty of a state to investigate a crime properly, while he also discussed the property rights of Turkish Cypriots in Sophi v. Cyprus. Mr. Demetriades highlighted that the beauty of handling Human Rights cases is that one is acting for the principle of justice and to right the wrong that one’s client has suffered, to change the law that allows the injustice and make an impact. Money should never be a person’s primary objective.
The cases that Mr. Demetriades is most well-known for are the cases he handled representing individuals against Turkey, which regarded mostly property issues. The most famous case is Loizidou v. Turkey in which it was successfully argued that Turkey prevented the peaceful enjoyment of property by the owners through its ‘de facto’ control over the TRNC. Mr. Demetriades also made reference to Demopoulos v. Turkey which dealt with the Immovable Property Commission and its ineffectiveness to provide effective remedies. Another well-known case is Varnava v. Turkey, where Mr. Demetriades represented a group of families of missing persons who filed against Turkey for failing to conduct a proper investigation for the missing persons of the invasion and successfully argued that the silence about this matter is a form of inhuman treatment.
When it comes to the enforcement of the decisions of the ECtHR, through the Article 46 of the ECHR, the judgement of the Court is sent to the Committee of Ministers. Then political pressure is used to ensure that the state will follow the legally binding decision of the Court.
In conclusion, Mr. Achilleas Demetriades, apart from explaining the procedure that a case follows in the ECtHR and some important cases, has explained the important principles and duties that a lawyer has when taking up a Human Rights case. Justice and fairness over personal gain and motivation to continue fighting is vital, even for cases you know you might lose. Applying pressure on the system to make it effective even if you fail will still make an impact and accentuate attention to the issue.
Written by Antonia Michaelidi