Cyprus - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in
REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

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Head of state and government: Tassos Papadopoulos
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Police officers were caught on camera brutally beating two unarmed and handcuffed men. Migrants and asylum-seekers protested at poor detention conditions and lack of welfare provision. Turkish Cypriot students and their teacher were attacked in school by members of a nationalist youth organization. The government failed to implement national action plans to combat domestic violence and the trafficking of women for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The murders of two women by their partners in October and December spurred public discussion about violence against women. The authorities failed to conduct an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the death of a 26-year-old recruit on national service.

Police ill-treatment

The new Independent Authority, established in April to investigate complaints against the police, assumed its duties by May. The Independent Authority lacked the necessary resources to thoroughly investigate all complaints received, including those about incidents that occurred before it became operational.

In April video footage was made public of police officers ill-treating Marcos Papageorgiou and

Yiannos Nicolaou, both aged 27, in the early hours of

20 December 2005. The two men were reportedly dragged from their cars and handcuffed by plain-clothes officers after they refused to comply with search orders and asked to examine officers' identity cards. A search found no evidence of drug dealing. The two men were allegedly punched and kicked intermittently for about an hour by around five officers from special immediate response and traffic units while another eight officers from the same units and the regular police mocked the suspects. Subsequently charged at a police station with resisting arrest and assaulting the police, Marcos Papageorgiou was then admitted to hospital for treatment for cranial and arm fractures, and Yiannos Nicolaou, who also had a fractured arm, was detained overnight without treatment. Their trial was pending. By the end of December, 11 officers were awaiting trial on a number of charges, including torture.

Detention of foreign nationals

On 4 May detainees held in wing 10 of the Central Prison in Nicosia, which is especially reserved for failed asylum-seekers, protested about the duration of their detention - sometimes for over a year - for residing or working without authorization in the country. Some were sentenced to prison terms by the courts, but most were held in administrative detention. Following the prison protest, groups of asylum-seekers held demonstrations in Nicosia between 8 and 19 May. They said they were denied the right to work and access to health and social benefits while their asylum applications were being processed. According to media reports, of an estimated 12,000 asylum-seekers in Cyprus in May, only 300 had a right to work and only 350 received government support.

Official information was not available about the numbers of failed asylum-seekers in prison and migrants detained in police stations around the country, or the lengths of such detentions. No steps were known to have been taken to ensure that the rights of asylum-seekers were protected while their claims were being examined.

Migrants were unlawfully detained in Limassol.

A Sri Lankan national was detained for two and a half months, even though her sentence for working without proper authorization, imposed by a court in March, had been six weeks' imprisonment.

A Filipina national was arrested in April for working without authorization in a location other than the one her employer had stated on the permit. She had filed a complaint for breach of contract because she had been forced to work at the second location.

Violence against women

The government planned to set up a shelter for victims of trafficking and domestic violence, but within Nicosia central prison. Yet it failed to fulfil funding pledges to allow a local non-governmental organization, Apanemi, to continue operating a shelter for victims of domestic violence, the organization reported in November. Apanemi also criticized the authorities for not providing effective protection for victims of domestic violence or adequate access to justice for foreigners who had been raped, and for failing to produce national action plans on domestic violence or the trafficking of women.

Public debate on violence against women followed the murders of two women by their partners in October and December. Two other women were also murdered by their partners between August and October. According to statistics on domestic violence reported in the press in November in the context of this debate, 18 per cent of murders from 1980 to 2005 resulted from domestic violence, and nearly all of the victims were women.

In May the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern at the lack of training for the judiciary on gender issues; the inadequacy of research and data on the extent and causes of violence against women; the persistence of trafficking and sexual exploitation of women; and discrimination against women migrants, especially regarding contracts, working conditions, and access to justice.

Racist violence

On 22 November about 20 students from different high schools in Nicosia, wearing hoods, caps and scarves over their faces, attacked a group of Turkish Cypriot students and their Turkish Cypriot teacher with wooden sticks during a class at the English School, a mixed secondary school. The attack was widely condemned, and by the next day the police had identified and questioned the perpetrators, all of whom were minors apart from an 18-year-old, who was charged. The youths claimed to represent the organization National Voice of Greek-Spirited Youths, which stated on 27 November that membership had been withdrawn from those that had been members. Police investigations were continuing at the end of 2006.

Dispute over army death

In October, an inquest opened into the death in September 2005 of Athanasios Nicolaou, a military service recruit aged 26. The police investigation had concluded that his death was suicide, a finding his family disputed. The family believed his death was related to bullying that he had experienced in his unit. The police investigation had not adhered to international standards of independence, thoroughness and impartiality, failing to examine crucial evidence properly. The inquest had not concluded by the end of 2006.

AI country reports/visits

Reports

Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 01/017/2006)

Cyprus: Police brutality must not go unpunished

(AI Index: EUR 17/001/2006)