By Poly Pantelides
A probe into whether police used racial profiling and excessive force that resulted in an Ivorian man breaking his leg, raises bigger questions about society’s treatment of the migrants and refugees who live in Cyprus, the Ombudswoman has said.
Eliza Savvidou yesterday visited Sylvain Faloubiyissane from the Ivory Coast in Nicosia general hospital. His leg was broken on Wednesday afternoon when a police officer was trying to subdue him and handcuff him at the centre of the capital Nicosia.
Video footage released by migrant support group KISA shows the man falling on the ground as police tried to handcuff him. The incident has fuelled reaction from political parties and a debate in social media.
Such incidents “…highlight the very serious issue of the treatment of, and violence towards, migrants and refugees living in Cyprus raising serious and urgent questions relating to their human rights,” Savvidou said.
The ombudswoman said racist violence should not be tolerated and penalties should serve as examples to those who are responsible. The police may not act arbitrarily, she added.
The police and the justice ministry have said they are investigating the incident, as are the ombudswoman and the independent authority investigating complaints against police who have appointed a criminal investigator on the case.
KISA said a patrol with three police officers from the MMAD emergency squad randomly stopped three African men asking to see their papers. All three had documentation proving they were in Cyprus legally. Faloubiyissane accused police of stopping them just because they were black.
MMAD’s job is to respond to acts of violence and terrorism, offer support during national emergencies and natural disaster, according to the squad’s website.