AT LAST, after 46 years of existence, the Republic of Cyprus has finally given legal standing to its security service known as KYP (central information service). A law establishing its existence and governing its operation that had been the subject of countless discussions in the House was unanimously approved by deputies on Thursday.
For the previous 46 years, it existed as a branch of the police force, which provided its personnel, and was under the direct authority of the President of the Republic who appointed the head of the service. There were no rules and regulations for its operation, it had no budget, it could not hire specialised staff – personnel were on secondment from the police and army – and could not even participate in international conferences because it had no legal standing as a service.
This may have suited some presidents of the past who would use KYP to spy on their political rivals and keep tags on citizens for electoral and other purposes. In fact, many politicians in past years accused the service of keeping records on citizens, with information about their political affiliations, their contacts, etc. This may have happened 30 years ago but even then, the service had neither the manpower nor the equipment to do this in any methodical way. The reality is that for decades KYP was considered as something of a joke, used by the president of the day for purposes other than its mandate of state security.
Things have changed. The threat of terrorism, which has given rise to the need for co-operation and the exchange of information with other security services, makes it an imperative for KYP to be turned into a professional service, with proper structures and procedures governed by rules and regulations. Having its own budget, it would be able to employ people with the type of expertise required by any modern security service.
Even the appointment by the president of the director and his second-in-command would be governed by criteria contained in the law. There would be a three-member committee evaluating the legality of operations, with respect to protection of human rights, and safeguards have been put in place for the processing of personal data. Much of the preparatory work for KYP’s legal framework was done by the previous director, Andreas Pentaras, who was forced to step down last July over the purchase of electronic communications surveillance equipment.
With Thursday’s passing of the law, KYP enters a new era. We hope now that everything has been put on a sound basis standards of state security will also be upgraded.