Cyprus Colonial Litigation

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K J Conroy & Co are pleased to announce that the UK Government has settled – without admission of liability – the claim brought against them by 33 Greek Cypriots in the Gross Sum of £1,000,000.00 with costs to be assessed at a later date.  Sir Alan Duncan has confirmed this in a written Ministerial Statement made to Parliament on 23rd January 2019.

This is an excellent result for the Claimants which brings this long running litigation to an end and goes some way to putting right a historic wrong.  During the course of the litigation, four of the Claimants died and a further four lost mental capacity.  The remaining Claimants are all very elderly and, had the dispute continued for much longer, very few of them would have been able to enjoy their settlement payments.

The claim will not now be tried and the question of what really happened in Cyprus during the Cyprus Emergency and who was responsible for it will be left to the judgement of historians rather than that of a Judge.  That something happened is not in doubt, there is ample evidence of mistreatment of suspects and detainees.  While there were, at the time, undoubtedly wrongs on both sides, this settlement brings to an end an episode which, in the minds of many Cypriots, was a stain on the record of the United Kingdom.  The past has now been put to bed.

We therefore agree with the Government that, what is now important for both countries is for them both to move forwards in friendship.

The Claimants were required to navigate a whole range of difficult and unusual legal questions including issues of constitutional law, private international law, the international and domestic law on Torture, jurisdictional issues, limitation law and the calculation of damages in cases of wrongs committed by the state. These matters required input from specialist lawyers in those fields.

It has been a massive effort by everyone involved in what may fairly be described as a ‘David & Goliath’ action. Claims such as these are usually conducted by large law firms with deep pockets.  In this case, two solicitors and a graduate historian assisted by a number of barristers and lawyers in Cyprus took on the might of the UK Government and achieved a very creditable result for the Claimants.

We spent many hours in research at the National Archives and other document repositories including the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva and the Cyprus State Archives.  We have accumulated 83 lever arch files of relevant documents all of which had to be catalogued and we had identified many more relevant documents, still secret, that we would, had the claim continued have needed to see. We took nearly forty witness statements necessitating repeated visits to Cyprus.

Everyone gave their time in the full knowledge that if the claim had failed they would not be paid for their work. Our Historian, Ruth Shelley committed four years to the project.

Kevin Conroy, the lead solicitor for the Claimants said, “I always believed in this case as did the many other people who became involved. My faith in the clients and in the team I put together to assist the Claimants has been vindicated.”

Howard Shelley, the other solicitor involved in the case said “this has been the most interesting and challenging case I have ever been involved in. I shall now have to return to doing ‘ordinary’ law.”