A new government elected in February pledged a series of policy changes aimed at strengthening respect for human rights. Migrants’ rights and anti-trafficking policies were two areas highlighted for improvement. The UN Committee on Missing Persons continued its work to exhume and identify victims of the inter-ethnic conflict who have been missing since 1963. Concerns remained in two cases regarding the authorities’ failure to carry out effective, thorough and impartial investigations.
The first President of Cyprus from the Communist Party took office following elections in February. Demetris Christofias was elected on a pledge to solve the Cyprus conflict within his five-year term and to improve social conditions. Negotiations at leadership level between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides began in September. Human rights issues were expected to be among the focal points discussed.
"40 teenagers attacked a 14-year-old Cypriot girl whose family had repatriated from Sudan..."
The UN-backed Committee on Missing Persons continued its work of overseeing the exhumation, identification and return of remains of missing persons. The remains of 93 individuals were exhumed during the year, and the remains of 39 were identified and returned to their families. Since 2004 these brought the total number of exhumations to 466, and the total number of identified and returned remains to 110.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
In September, the government announced plans to revise its immigration policy, putting more emphasis on the integration of migrants. The proposed new policy also included establishing a maximum length for detention pending deportation.
Detainees held in Nicosia Central Prison for periods exceeding 18 months while awaiting deportation were released throughout the year.
On 18 December, 40 teenagers attacked a 14-year-old Cypriot girl whose family had repatriated from Sudan, after her team won a volleyball match. The youths reportedly punched and kicked her repeatedly while shouting racist abuse, and she was hospitalized with serious injuries as a result. The attack was strongly criticized by politicians and the Minister of Education, while local NGOs reported failures in the police investigation of the incident.
Violence against women and girls
In November, the government abolished its practice of granting artists’ visas to foreign nationals employed in dancing and musical entertainment. The policy had been criticized over several years by a number of local and international organizations, as well as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as a measure facilitating trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Police and security forces
- In May, an inquest into the 2006 death of Athanasios Nicolaou, a soldier with the National Guard, returned a verdict of suicide. The family lodged an application for re-examination of the case, which was heard by the Supreme Court in October. On 31 December the Court ruled that the case should be re-opened. Amnesty International had expressed concerns in 2007 that the authorities had failed to investigate the death in a thorough, impartial and effective manner.
- The trial opened in October of 10 police officers accused of using excessive force against two handcuffed students in December 2005. Six of the officers had faced charges of torture and grievous bodily harm, of which they were cleared – but they continued to face charges of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment among a total of 34 charges. Another officer was accused of neglect of duty and the other three officers of acquiescence.