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Cyprus

Secret service overhaul due by year end

A bill placing the secret service on a solid legal footing for the first time since it was established in 1970 should head to the plenum by the end of the year, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The last time the House ethics committee discussed the bill, MPs had indicated it might be voted on within the month of October.

The committee has finished combing through all the bill’s clauses, but is now working on amendments.
Chairman Andreas Kyprianou (DISY) said later that given the extraordinary circumstances – he was alluding to the recent terror attacks in France – it is all the more necessary to pass the bill as soon as possible.

AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said a series of proposals have been made to “improve” the bill.
One of the issues outstanding, he said, concerned the management of the archives of the Cyprus Intelligence Service (KYP).

As the bill stands, and depending on their type and classification, KYP archives would be declassified in 30 to 50 years.

This was unacceptable, Damianou said, adding that a five-year period for declassification is now being proposed instead.

The bill foresees the establishment of a special panel appointed by the president who will examine the legality of KYP’s actions and any allegations of misconduct. The panel will also evaluate documents that are declassified from time to time.

Until now, KYP was staffed mainly with police officers, operating like a branch of the Cyprus police, with some military staff also on board. Each time a new government came into power, the secret service would see sweeping changes to its personnel with positions filled by other police and army officials considered more familiar with the incoming government.

The new legislation will allow for civilian personnel to be employed in the service and purports to provide for greater oversight. It’s understood that under the current system, apart from being accountable to the president and police chief, the intelligence service has little to no established oversight on its activities.

KYP is to become a fully independent service, not a public service, answering directly to the president.

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