European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) made various decisions on Northern Cyprus.
These decisions included "validity of laws of Northern Cyprus in the north of Cyprus island" and "the independence/impartiality of the courts of NC".

Besides ECtHR, USA's Federal Court and UK's High Court also made various decisions related with the "statehood" and "legality" of Northern Cyprus.

So, what are the international and country-based court decisions that make Northern Cyprus legal, and what is the reasoning behind them?

Indicate the related court decisions, also facts and references where possible.

  • 3
    Can you link to some of these judiciary decisions that validate Northern Cyprus' statehood? I honestly don't know of any and was under the impression that pretty much everyone except Turkey did not recognize Northern Cyprus as a state Feb 12, 2017 at 1:39
  • @DavidGrinberg The answer includes some of them.
    – user12034
    Feb 13, 2017 at 6:01
  • 1
    What do you mean make it legal? What is there that wouldn't be legal about it in the first place? You should include details that explain what you are asking about.
    – Joe W
    Feb 25, 2023 at 20:03

3 Answers 3


Let me just write out this small rebuttal/frame-challenge since this whole question-answer appears to be little more than self-promotion of a certain viewpoint.

You wrote in a couple of places that the ICJ Kosovo decision found that international law doesn't forbid declarations of independence. That is true to some extent. What they said more fully is that the UNSC can declare them illegal though, and that in fact it did that with respect to Northern Cyprus. Here is the relevant bit (para 81).

Several participants have invoked resolutions of the Security Council condemning particular declarations of independence: see, inter alia, Security Council resolutions 216 (1965) and 217 (1965), concerning Southern Rhodesia; Security Council resolution 541 (1983), concerning northern Cyprus; and Security Council resolution 787 (1992), concerning the Republika Srpska. The Court notes, however, that in all of those instances the Security Council was making a determination as regards the concrete situation existing at the time that those declarations of independence were made; the illegality attached to the declarations of independence thus stemmed not from the unilateral character of these declarations as such, but from the fact that they were, or would have been, connected with the unlawful use of force or other egregious violations of norms of general international law, in particular those of a peremptory character (jus cogens). In the context of Kosovo, the Security Council has never taken this position. The exceptional character of the resolutions enumerated above appears to the Court to confirm that no general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council.

So yea, they Kosovo ICJ decision (or rather "advisory opinion" is one wants to be precise) does say that given the UNSC resolution on northern Cyprus their declaration of independence was, in fact, illegal.

If one wants to parse that more closely, there is a fair amount of ambiguity left whether the illegality is an effect of the UNSC resolution or whether that is merely a confirmation of the illegality, due to the obvious facts on the ground.


I am a victim of this mess. I have an order for custody of my children from the UK and this was not liked by their mother so she fled to the TRNC to avoid the implementation of justice. There are a numerous Return Orders and Interpol Red Notices. To anyone this would highlight that there are serious welfare concerns for my children from UK authorities. Yet, rather than recognise the Interpol Red Notice, Return orders and years of investigation and findings made by the UK family courts, the only judicial process the TRNC can offer me is a "retrial". Essentially, the TRNC offers protection from foreign Justice and provides a second chance for my children's mother. The TRNC does not consider the many years I have been without any contact whatsoever or the children's welfare needs when they don't consider returning this matter to the professionals who are steeped in experience of the case. I have been refused welfare reports of my children by TRNC officials seemingly as I am not yet in court, because the TRNC does not recognise me as my children's father let alone their lawful custodial parent. I am applying for a contact arrangement for the 2 boys who are meant to be living with me because this is the only application (I am advised) that is available to me. No enforcement, no extradition, no mirror orders, nothing but a contact application. This application is an expensive, slow and difficult process to navigate as a foreigner and from another country. How can this possibly be deemed as a fair or valid process or indeed beneficial to a Childs welfare needs? Time and money has been lost, my children are almost of an age where courts of any kind have no jurisdiction in ordering contact. This complete mess has stolen many years from a decent relationship between me and my children. Any normal situation would recognise the years of professional intervention and findings, but not the TRNC, no, the process IN THE TRNC is to begin from the beginning and ignore anything else. How can this violation of my families Article 8 and 6 Human Rights be allowed. The ECHR does indeed state I must exhaust TRNC law, yet beginning again something that took 10 years to consider and decide just to satisfy this ECHR application criteria is a violation of Article 8 and 6 HR itself and just doesn't make any sense.


(Neither of them is a "necessary" or a "sufficient" condition for the other one)

Recognition is completely a political notion/act (as stated by International Court of Justice, Kosovo 2010 decision) and has nothing to do with legality. 1/193 country recognizes Northern Cyprus; but even if 0/193 countries recognize NC, this has nothing to do with legality of NC.

The President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Hisashi OWADA (2010): "International law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence."

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) (2010): "while the declaration may not have been illegal, the issue of RECOGNITION was a POLITICAL one". (in OSHISANYA 2016, An Almanac of Contemporary and Comperative Judicial Restatement, p.64)

Recognition is a political, not a legal matter.

That is to say, "being recognized/not recognized does not affect legality/illegality of a country". Recognition is a political action.

The definition of "country" is bigger than whether being a UN member or not. There are countries that are not member of UN. See, "country" definition in Wikipedia:

A country is a region identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated peoples with distinct political characteristics.

That’s why, even the sources from United Nations (UN) cite Northern Cyprus as a different country: World Happiness Report 2015 of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) ranked Northern Cyprus 66th among 158 countries, directly above the Republic of Cyprus, which was ranked 67th. UN SDSN World Happiness Report 2015 p.27: 2012-2014 country rankings.

United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) World Happiness Report 2016. See "Figure 2.2: Ranking of Happiness 2013-2015 (Part 2)" North Cyprus: 62th among 157 countries (1:best, 157:worst) (South, Greek) Cyprus: 69th among 157 countries.

The President of the Int’l Court of Justice (ICJ) Hisashi OWADA, 2010: "International law contains "NO PROHIBITION" on declarations of independence."

4. United Nations Peace Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) operates based on the laws of Northern Cyprus in north of Cyprus island
Without a status-of-forces agreement (or similar arrangements) between the United Nations and the Government of the TRNC UNFICYP operates solely within the framework of the laws, rules and regulations of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which may be altered by the TRNC authorities unilaterally and without prior notice.
(Stefan Talmon, "Impediments to Peacekeeping: The Case of Cyprus", p.58-59., in "International Peacekeeping: The Yearbook of International Peace Operations", Vol.8, 2002)


5.1 In north of Cyprus island, the laws of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are valid:
ECtHR’s 02.07.2013 Decision: "...notwithstanding the lack of international recognition of the regime in the northern area, a de facto recognition of its acts may be rendered necessary for practical purposes. Thus, THE ADOPTION BY THE AUTHORITIES OF THE "TRNC" OF CIVIL, ADMINISTRATIVE OR CRIMINAL LAW MEASURES, AND THEIR APPLICATION OR ENFORCEMENT WITHIN THAT TERRITORY, may be regarded as HAVING A LEGAL basis in domestic law for the purposes of the Convention".

Note: In the related ECtHR’s decision above, the case application of the Greek Cypriot was IMMEDIATELY REJECTED; i.e., his application was found INADMISSABLE. That is to say, he was expelled by ECtHR just at the beginning; therefore, his case was not handled (no sessions were held) by ECtHR at all.

5.2 In north of Cyprus island, the ONLY country whose laws are valid is NORTHERN CYPRUS:
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Article 35/1 Admissibility criteria: "The Court may ONLY deal with the matter after ALL DOMESTIC REMEDIES have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law."

In order to apply to ECtHR for an issue related in Poland, Poland's ALL DOMESTIC REMEDIES MUST be exhausted. Similarly:
In order to apply to ECtHR for an issue related in north of Cyprus island, Northern Cyprus' ALL DOMESTIC REMEDIES MUST be exhausted.

If the legal domestic system of Republic of Cyprus had any validity in north Cyprus, then before taking the case to ECtHR, RoC's ALL DOMESTIC REMEDIES MUST have been exhausted AS WELL besides those of Northern Cyprus. Since, according to ECtHR, legal system of Republic of Cyprus has NO validity in north Cyprus, ECtHR accepts cases from north Cyprus AS SOON AS Northern Cyprus' ALL DOMESTIC REMEDIES are exhausted.

5.3 All the people of Rep. of Cyprus (even the President of RoC) MUST apply to the LEGAL SYSTEM of Northern Cyprus about an issue related with north Cyprus in order to take their cases to the ECtHR:
ECtHR 04.01.2011 decision: "the procedure before the Immovable Property Commission ("IPC"), and further appeal to the "TRNC" High Administrative Court, provided for in Law 67/2005, were to be regarded as "domestic remedies" of the respondent State and that NO GROUND OF EXEMPTION has been established in that regard".
In the last part: "Court unanimously Declares the APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE" means "EXHAUST ALL DOMESTIC REMEDIES OF TRNC (Northern Cyprus) first, before coming to ECtHR".

5.4 The courts of Northern Cyprus are independent and impartial:
ECtHR’s 02.09.2015 Decision: "..the COURT SYSTEM in the "TRNC", including both civil and criminal courts, reflected the judicial and common-law tradition of Cyprus in its functioning and procedures, and that the "TRNC" COURTS were thus to be considered as "ESTABLISHED BY LAW" with reference to the "constitutional and legal basis" on which they operated...the Court has already found that the COURT SYSTEM set up in the "TRNC" was to be considered to have been "established by law" with reference to the "constitutional and legal basis" on which it operated, and it has NOT ACCEPTED THE ALLEGATION that the "TRNC" COURTS as a whole LACKED INDEPENDENCE and/or IMPARTIALITY...when an act of the "TRNC" authorities was in compliance with LAWS IN FORCE WITHIN THE TERRITORY OF NORTHERN CYPRUS, those acts should in principle be regarded as having a legal basis in domestic law for the purposes of the Convention.."

Note: Here, what ECtHR means by "laws in force within the territory of northern Cyprus" is the laws that TRNC published and put into implementation (See: ECtHR’s 02.07.2013 decision above).

USA Federal Court (09.10.2014): "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a democratic country"
"Although the United States does not recognize it as a state, the TRNC purportedly operates as a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC with a president, prime minister, legislature and judiciary...TRNC is NOT VULNERABLE to a lawsuit in Washington"

The news of the Court decision (13.10.2014)
Page of the Court case (The Defendant: Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)
Decision of the Court


UK's High Court (03.02.2017): "THERE WAS NO DUTY IN UK LAW UPON THE GOVERNMENT TO REFRAIN FROM RECOGNISING NORTHERN CYPRUS. The United Nations itself works with Northern Cyprus law enforcement agencies and facilitates cooperation between the two parts of the island."

High Court judges dismissed a challenge ... that co-operation between UK police and law agencies in northern Cyprus was illegal. (http://ambamarblearch-media.com/sites/default/files/dpp_files/TT.pdf, page 6).

  • 4
    Points 3 and 4 appear to repeat point 1. Since recognition is a political act, US and UK courts will defer recognition to their respective governments. Point 5 literally repeats point 1. And point 6 flat out contradicts point 2. The only way Northern Cyprus could be more disputed is if all 193 UN members disputed its country status. BTW, that "UN SDSN World Happiness report" is not endorsed by the UN, and literally says so.
    – MSalters
    Feb 13, 2017 at 16:16
  • 3
    Also, on reading the ECtHR link from point 2, it seems that the statehood of Northern Cyprus was irrelevant to the case as the whole of Cyprus is part of Europe. And since Human Rights are fundamental, everyone is bound by them. In particular, this is a principle that is more fundamental than the existence of countries. That's why the ECtHR didn't need to decide that Norther Cyprus was a country; Human Rights apply regardless.
    – MSalters
    Feb 13, 2017 at 16:27
  • 1
    Regarding #6, you need to look up the word "purportedly", which is included in the quote you gave. Feb 26, 2023 at 22:32

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