By Evie Andreou
Cyprus is to receive the UN subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) sometime in the first half of 2016, Human Rights Commissioner Eliza Savvidou said on Tuesday.
The SPT, founded in 2007, aims to establish a system of regular visits to places where people are deprived of their liberty in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
So far the SPT has visited several countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa and has issued country reports based on its findings.
It also aims to provide assistance and advice to states on the establishment of national preventive mechanisms.
Savvidou said the SPT has not announced the exact date of their arrival on the island as it prefers to perform visits on short notice “for obvious reasons”.
She added that members of her office have been visiting places where people are detained or restricted, including prisons, homes of the elderly, the handicapped or people with special needs since 2009 when it assumed the task of the national authority for the prevention of torture and ill treatment in Cyprus.
After each visit a report is prepared and the competent authority is informed of the findings.
“We give instructions if conditions are not up to standard and lead to the discomfort of people kept or live in that place,” she said.
Usually, she said, there is good cooperation between services concerning improvements indicated by her office.
During the first half of the year, she said the situation in prisons has improved spectacularly and it is due to the new acting prison director [Anna Aristotelous], “who is doing an excellent job”.
Except from the prison, members of her office are also visiting places hosting elderly people and handicapped people to investigate whether they are admitted voluntarily and if relevant legislation is followed.