Cyprus Mail

Mistreatment of people in custody and asylum seekers most significant human right violations, US report says

Menoyia detention centre

Trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and labour, police abuse and degrading treatment of people in custody, and asylum seekers, in addition to violence against women, continued to be the most significant problems in the Republic in 2015, according to a US State Department report on human rights practices.

Other issues, the report for 2015 said, included prison overcrowding, prolonged detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in prison-like conditions,  deportation of rejected asylum seekers before they had an opportunity to appeal their asylum decision, government corruption, incidents of violence against children, instances of discrimination and violence against members of minority ethnic and national groups, and societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

During the past year, the government investigated and prosecuted corruption, and officials who committed violations.

The report includes the incident when a man was beaten by police officers in a cell in Polis in February 2014. The two officers are currently on trial.

It also quotes a 2013 report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which noted receiving a number of allegations that police mistreated persons in custody, mostly foreign nationals, during transport or interviews at a police station.

“Alleged mistreatment consisted primarily of slaps and punches and mainly involved members of the Immigration and Aliens Police and the Crime Investigation Department.”

During the year the ombudsman, who also acts as the country’s national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, received several complaints of maltreatment, discriminatory and degrading behaviour, including complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, from inmates in the Central Prison.

“Four investigations completed so far did not reveal any evidence substantiating the claims. Seven complaints submitted by female inmates that three female warders treated them inappropriately are still under investigation.”

Furthermore, it is noted that prison and detention centre conditions, including detention centres for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants pending deportation, did not meet international standards, and prison overcrowding was a problem.
The report also said that there were reports of violence against Turkish Cypriots as well as some incidents of verbal abuse or discrimination against non-Greek Cypriots and that on November 16, protesting students threw rocks at several cars with Turkish Cypriot licence plates in Nicosia and injured two of the occupants.

The Cyprus 2015 Human Rights Report comprises two parts, one on the Republic of Cyprus, which refers to the government-controlled areas of the island, and one on the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, the areas of the island occupied by Turkey since 1974.

As regards the occupied areas, the report said that the most significant problems reported during the year included trafficking in persons, societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons and absence of a system to handle asylum applications or protect the rights of asylum-seekers.
Other problems reported during the year included mistreatment of persons in detention and in prison, overcrowding in prisons and poor prison conditions, lack of separation of incarcerated adults and juveniles, limited access to some places of worship, vandalism and removal of religious icons from vacant places of worship, including some sites that were damaged, close to collapse, or had been converted to other uses.
Moreover, corruption and cronyism in the executive and legislative branches, domestic violence against women, restrictions on freedom of speech and expression and pressure and censorship against journalists that interfered with their objective reporting, and failure of authorities to introduce and enforce adequate labour health and safety standards.

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