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Cyprus

Justice minister defends prison’s good name

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

There is no comparison between the previous state of the Central Prison and today’s much-improved conditions, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Tuesday, lashing out at criticism by main opposition Akel.

“Unfortunately, some do not like references to the past of the prison, the situation of shame and human degradation, so they deem it ‘looking to the past’ and prefer to hide,” Nicolaou said in a statement.

“They have selective memories, remembering only that we were strongly critical of the situation in the prison then – the conditions of humiliating treatment, the trampling of human rights through various forms of torture – which was an insult to the inmates’ dignity and shamed Cyprus in all international organisations evaluating our correctional facility.”

Nicolaou, who has repeatedly found himself in Akel’s crosshairs over his vocal criticism of the previous government’s record on handling issues at the prison, said the previous government had been “complicit in and apathetic to” all the “unacceptable and inhumane” goings-on at the prison.

“It is an undisputed fact that we were handed total chaos at the Central Prison, an embarrassment to our society and culture, and it has been duly recorded in all the annual reports of the Office of the Ombudsman until 2012, as well as the European Commission for the Prevention of Torture and the United Nations’ subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture,” the minister said.

Also on the record, he added, was our criticism both with regard to the situation at the Central Prison, as well as promotions in the police force, which were decided on non-meritocratic procedures, “which is why they were all cancelled by the Supreme Court”.

“With respect to the law, we will continue responsibly to implement the legislated promotion criteria, not deviating from them, in order to promote and foster meritocracy in the police force,” Nicolaou said.

“Therefore, let all those who criticise today’s government admit to all the things they failed to do themselves, and let them accept that there is no comparison between the previous state of the prison with today’s much-improved conditions.”

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