Human trafficking, police abuse and violence against women remained the most significant problems in the Republic, according to the US state department’s human rights report for 2016, which also noted that the government had investigated and prosecuted corruption and officials who broke the law.
Other problems highlighted in the report were prison overcrowding, lack of separation of pretrial detainees from convicts, prolonged detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in prison-like conditions and deportation of rejected asylum seekers before they could appeal.
Other areas of concern highlighted in the report focused on 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, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
During the year, the ombudswoman, who also acts as the country’s national preventive mechanism against torture, received several complaints of mistreatment, discriminatory, and degrading behaviour, including complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, from inmates in the Central Prison and in detention centres.
In June, the ombudsman issued a report drawing attention to statements of certain police officials who had publicly praised their colleagues for subjecting detainees to violence.
For example, after the conviction last year of two police officers for beating a detainee in Polis police station, the station chief described their actions as bravery and the detainee as a “drug addict and psychopath who sends police officers to prison”.
The independent authority investigating complaints against the police functioned appropriately, the report said, and its investigations resulted in the criminal prosecution of 12 police officers in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics were available.
The report also mentions the killing last June of a police officer and his wife and the serious injury of a second officer in a mafia-style shooting while dining at an Ayia Napa restaurant with a local businessman rumoured to be a major crime lord, who was also killed in the attack.
The incident led to the attorney-general appointing criminal prosecutors to investigate possible police corruption in relation to the case. From January to September, the attorney-general ordered criminal investigations against 11 police officers.
The US report noted some improvement in prison and detention centre conditions, including detention centres for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants pending deportation, but warned they still did not sufficiently meet international standards.
Overcrowding continued to be a problem for Central Prison, the only prison in the Republic, but to a lesser extent than in previous years, the report said. The prison’s official capacity was increased to 528 from 469 inmates; the maximum number of inmates held in 2016 was 653.
Prison authorities held juvenile pretrial detainees in cells separate from convicted juveniles, but the two groups shared the same grounds in their daily activities.
In the north, the most significant problems reported in 2016 included domestic violence against women, limited access to some places of worship, and trafficking in persons.
Other reported problems in the north included overcrowding in prisons and poor prison conditions, lack of separation of incarcerated adults and juveniles and societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
The report also highlighted the 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; corruption and cronyism in the executive and legislative branches; restrictions on freedom of speech and expression and failure of authorities to introduce and enforce adequate labour health and safety standards.
Authorities in the north had taken steps to investigate police officials following press allegations of abuses and corrupt practices, the report said.
There was evidence, however, that officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.