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Despite court fire, safety measures are still lacking

Police investigating the fire at Nicosia court in February

 

Three months after a fire at the Nicosia court caused extensive damage and destroyed evidence in an ongoing trial, no moves have been made to improve security and safety, MPs said on Wednesday during a meeting of the House legal affairs committee.

Although committee members said they had received answers to their questions relating to the fire on February 26 which broke out in the first floor of the building in the early hours, they want more information and previous reports on court security issues. Police ruled out foul play in the case of the fire.

Committee chairman Giorgos Georgiou said MPs had been given answers they had requested from the ministry of justice, the police, the fire department, the electromechanical service and the courts but they wanted updated information within two weeks.

This would help the committee put together a more complete picture for their own report where they could pinpoint what needs to be immediately prioritised and acted on especially as regards security, Georgiou said.

Akel MP, Aristos Damianou, said his party was not satisfied with the responses they received on Wednesday from the authorities.

“Some of the answers did not touch the substance. Some other answers point to possible acts, omissions and responsibilities on the part of others, and some of the other answers are were not very useful,” he said.

“That’s why we have requested all reports on security of the courts since 2014 for these issues, because the picture we have here is a picture of failure and possibly negligence.”

He added that the committee members were “exercising parliamentary scrutiny to become better”.

Also on Wednesday, the committee wrapped up discussion on a bill for the creation of an Administrative Court of International Protection, which Georgiou said would go to the plenum in 15 days.

The court is designed to handle appeal cases from third-country nationals who have not been granted international protection status. According to an EU directive such cases must be tried within six months, whereas in Cyprus there is between a two to three-year waiting period at the administrative courts where failed applicants currently file their appeals. These cases would be passed on to the new court for speedy processing. This, according to the justice ministry also acts as a deterrent to those thinking of taking advantage of this ‘weakness’ in the system to prolong their stay in Cyprus, which also costs hundreds of thousands of euros in benefits.

There are currently around 700 such cases pending.

 

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