Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Niels Muznieks will be on the island this week to review how the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers, are upheld and how the economic crisis has affected the rights of women and children in particular.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency had of his visit, which starts on Monday, the commissioner said it has been seven years since the last one.
“The visit to Cyprus takes place as part of my regular country visits to all members of the Council of Europe. So far, I have visited over 30 countries and as the last visit of a Commissioner to Cyprus followed by a report took place seven years ago I thought it was time to come”, he told CNA.
Muiznieks will be in Cyprus until Friday and he intends to meet ministers, national human rights bodies, and NGOs, as well as visit migrant reception facilities.
The Commissioner will also give a speech at University of Cyprus on the impact of the economic crisis on the enjoyment of human rights.
There is no doubt, he said, that austerity measures across Europe have undermined human rights.
“I have been dealing with this issue since the beginning of my mandate and already in 2013 I rang the alarm bell when I published a thematic report showing that many governments in Europe imposing austerity measures had forgotten about their human rights obligations, especially the social and economic rights of the most vulnerable, the need to ensure access to justice, and the right to equal treatment”, he said.
According to Muiznieks, public service media have also been affected by budget cuts and unfortunately, little has been done to address these issues.
“My visit to Cyprus will be the occasion to assess whether effective measures have been put in place there to cushion the human rights impact of the economic crisis and budget cuts”, he said.
Of the repeated calls by the CoE on Turkey to implement resolutions and Court decisions relating to refugees, missing persons, and in the respect of human rights in Cyprus i9n general, Muznieks said “there have been steps back and forth, but the situation is not ideal”.
“I am particularly interested in promoting joint work and progress in resolving the issue of missing persons, which should be a priority for all sides. One step that could help moving forward could be to support the encouraging initiatives carried out by experts and NGOs in this field,” he said.
Asked about the CoE`s observations on a number of other issues i.e. the situation at the prisons and police practices in Cyprus, the commissioner said these topics will not be the focus of his visit.
“However, I am aware of a number of problematic issues relating to prison conditions and police conduct in Cyprus. My role is not to judge member States but to help them identify the shortcomings and possible solutions to them”, he said.