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Cyprus

Koursoumba says she has the right to weigh in on all matters child-related

Children's rights commissioner Leda Koursoumba

Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba had said her office has the right to weigh in on matters relating to children’s rights.

Koursoumba had last week taken flak from some quarters after she suggested it might be inappropriate for pre-schoolers and primary school pupils to attend the Imprisoned Graves in Nicosia.

The Imprisoned Graves are a set of graves in a small cemetery located in the central prisons, the burial grounds of 13 Eoka fighters of the 1955-1959 liberation struggle (EOKA) against British rule.

The matter resurfaced because of the occasion of Independence Day (October 1), when officials lay wreaths at the tombs.

Koursoumba had suggested that the practice of having children visit the site as part of school outings, was unnecessary.

She opined that the sight of the gallows there caused mental distress to children of that age.

There were other, better, means by which schools can inculcate children with values such as patriotism, she had added.

Among others, the Eoka veterans’ association took umbrage at Koursoumba’s comments. The association accused her of overstepping her remit, and said she was promoting historical oblivion.

Also vexed were certain MPs of the nationalistic flavour, who said Koursoumba was seeking to deny children the opportunity to educate themselves about the past.

Disy MP Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis said he intended to table the matter for discussion at parliament.

But Koursoumba came back with a statement on Monday, saying she had the right and obligation to express views on matters pertaining either directly or indirectly to children’s rights.

These rights were conferred by the relevant legislation establishing the office of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, she added.

“The Commissioner does not legislate or shape government policy. In executing her duties, she does not express personal opinions, but rather institutional opinions…based on thorough scientific research and according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

A registered lawyer, Koursoumba officially assumed her duties as Commissioner for Children’s Rights in February 2008, being appointed to the position for a period of six years. She was reappointed to the same position in 2014.

It’s understood that the Commissioner for Children’s Rights is on the A15 pay scale, the top bracket of which earns €72,000 gross a year.

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