Turkey ordered to reregister historic Orthodox Orphanage


The top European court of human rights has ordered the Turkish government to reregister a historic Orthodox orphanage to the İstanbul-based Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and also told Ankara to pay 26,000 euros in total to the patriarchate for both non-pecuniary damages and costs and expenses.

In its ruling issued on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) referred to its earlier judgment in July 2008 in which it held that the Turkish authorities were not entitled to deprive the applicant of its property without providing for appropriate compensation.

“The church had not received any compensation and it had therefore had to bear an individual and excessive burden, entailing a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property). It further held that the question of the application of Article 41 (just satisfaction) was not ready for decision and reserved it. In today’s [Tuesday’s] judgment, the Court held that Turkey had to reregister the property in question in the land register in the applicant’s name and to pay to the applicant 6,000 euros for non-pecuniary damage and 20,000 for costs and expenses,” the court said.

Turkey should reregister the orphanage on the Princes’ Islands off the coast of İstanbul to the patriarchate within three months, the court also said, according to news reports.

The orphanage, one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, was bought by the patriarchate in 1902 and its management was handed over to the Büyükada Greek Orphanage Foundation in 1903. The title deed of the orphanage has been under the control of the General Directorate for Foundations since 1997 and was registered as a property of the Büyükada Greek Orphanage Foundation by the directorate through a court order dated 2004. While the Turkish government argued that the property was sold at the time to the patriarchate by the Şehzade Sultan Mehmet Foundation for the building of an orphanage, and thus the property belonged to the Büyükada Greek Orphanage Foundation, the patriarchate insisted that the property had been registered as belonging to the patriarchate in Ottoman Empire archives and was also registered in the land office of the Turkish Republic in 1929 following the establishment of the republic in 1923.