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The Greek government’s obligations to respect the rights of the Turkish minority, including its right to a nationality, are well established under international law. Numerous international conventions, resolutions, and declarations recognize and protect the rights of members of national minorities. Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), notable among these, accords specific protection to minority group members, declaring that they “shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their own group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”5

An additional source for understanding the content and scope of minority rights is the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.6 Although the declaration lacks the binding legal force of a treaty, it constitutes an authoritative explication of existing treaty norms protecting the rights of minority group members. The declaration mandates, in particular, that states “protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.”7 Other provisions relevant to the situation of the ethnic Turkish minority in Greece are those stating that members of minorities have “the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and to use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination . . . the right to establish and maintain their own associations . . . the right to establish and maintain, without any discrimination, free and peaceful contacts . . . across frontiers with citizens of other States to whom they are related by national or ethnic, religious or linguistic ties.”8

Besides these international protections, Greece has, by ratifying the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, acquired a number of specific obligations with respect to its Turkish minority. Articles 37 through 45 of the treaty, described as “fundamental laws,” set forth the obligations of the Greek and Turkish governments to protect the Greek and Turkish minorities on their territories.9 Each country has agreed to ensure:

· protection of life and liberty without regard to birth, nationality, language, race or religion;

· free exercise of religion;

· freedom of movement and of emigration;

· equality before the law;

· the same civil and political rights enjoyed by the majority;

· free use of any language in private, in commerce, in religion, in the press and publications, at public meetings and in the courts;

· the right to establish and control charitable, religious, and social institutions and schools;

· primary schools in which instruction is given in both languages; and

· full protection for religious establishments and pious foundations.

In 1951 and 1968, moreover, the Greek and Turkish governments signed additional protocols issued by a Greek-Turkish cultural commission. Among other things, the protocol guaranteed that each country would respect the religious, ethnic, and national consciousness of the Greek or Turkish minority within its borders and allow an exchange of textbooks and educators.

Finally, Greece is not free under international law to discriminate against members of the Turkish minority by depriving them of Greek citizenship. Although states enjoy considerable leeway in determining who their citizens are, the rules on citizenship and nationality are not entirely left to state discretion. Most fundamentally, Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights bars states from “arbitrarily” depriving someone of his nationality, as does the European Convention on Nationality, which Greece has signed but not yet ratified.10 The deprivation of nationality on the basis of ethnicity is addressed in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Greece ratified in 1970. Article 5 of the CERD, in particular, prohibits states from discriminating on the basis of ethnic origin with regard to the right to nationality.11

5 Greece acceded to the ICCPR on May 5, 1997. 6 G.A. Res. 47/135, U.N. GAOR, 47th Sess., 3d Comm., Annex, U.N. Doc. a/47/678/Add.2 (1992). 7 U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, art. 1. 8 Ibid, art. 2. Similar protections are contained in the Council of Europe’s 1995 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which Greece signed in 1997 but as of October 1998 had not yet ratified. The European Convention forthe Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention), in contrast, does not include a specific provision on the protection of minorities, although it does contain a reference to the enjoyment of convention rights without discrimination on grounds of “association with a national minority.” European Convention, art. 14. Greece ratified the European Convention in 1974. 9 G.A. Res. 47/135, U.N. GAOR, 47th Sess., 3d Comm., Annex, U.N. Doc. a/47/678/Add.2 (1992).

10 Greece signed the European Convention on Nationality on November 11, 1997, the day that it opened for signature. As of November 1998, the treaty had not yet entered into force.

11 Article 9 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness also bars states from depriving anyone of his nationality on ethnic grounds. Although Greece is not a party to this treaty, the principles embodied in it are authoritative in that they reflect an international consensus on minimum legal standards on the question of nationality.

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