By Evie Andreou
THE cabinet yesterday approved a bill on the prevention and combating of child sexual abuse, exploitation and child pornography.
The bill, which is intended to replace older legislation, aims at the harmonisation of the relevant Cypriot legislation on the status of victims in criminal proceedings.
Also, Children’s Rights Commissioner Leda Koursoumba, announced her intent to be present in court during custody cases, and child abduction cases.
Koursoumba said the law provides that the Commissioner can be appointed as a child’s representative in the Family Court to represent the wishes of the child in custody cases and prepare a report for the court. She can be appointed at the request of one parent, or both parents, or by welfare, or by the court itself.
“It is the child’s right to be heard and their decision to be taken into consideration depending on their age and maturity,” Koursoumba said.
She said she was working closely with a social services psychologist. Sometimes, she said, a child’s real wishes are not expressed.
Koursoumba said that when she is appointed to uncover a child’s wishes in custody cases, she explains to the child that both parents love them but that they are at odds with each other and are sometimes unable to see what is in the child’s best interests.
In regards to the skills of judges that handle such cases, Koursoumba said that even though her cooperation with the courts so far has been very good, she expressed the need for judges to be specially trained to make children feel at ease.
In the case of child abduction, Koursoumba said that the Children’s Rights Commissioner’s Office can only act on behalf of children within Cyprus and that once a child is taken out of the country the issue is dealt with by the foreign ministry.
If children are taken to countries which have ratified the Hague Convention the cases are dealt by the ministry of justice.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980) is a multilateral treaty which provides a procedure for the prompt return of abducted and retained children across international boundaries.