By Alexandros Clerides
In Cyprus the president of the Republic has the power to suspend or discount any sentence imposed by a court after the consent of the attorney general and assistant attorney general based on Article 53 of the constitution of the Republic. More specifically, Article 53.4.
In practice, the president of the Republic exercises this power in Cyprus in two different ways. One is ceremonial and the second is case specific.
The formal application of the power conferred on him by that article applies generally to entire groups and categories of prisoners and has a horizontal application to categories of prisoners selected by the president. Usually, the result of this application is that these groups of prisoners will have their sentences reduced by one quarter. Such ritual application occurs every year on holidays (New Year’s Day, Easter, etc.) as well as on the anniversary of the Republic or the election of the president. Usually the president himself exempts from this categories of prisoners those who are serving sentences for murder and sexual offences.
The second way of applying the presidential pardon as mentioned above, concerns the specific application of the pardon on a case-by-case basis, which is decided by the president with the consent of the attorney general and assistant attorney general after a specific request of a prisoner which is examined in its substance.
In both cases, as can be seen from the relevant decisions of the Supreme Court, this power of the president is not judicially controlled, nor are the results resulting from it. Therefore, as found in a relevant decision of (1997) 2 AAD 267, 17/07/97, “The President of the Republic, exercising the power granted to him by Article 53.4, has no obligation to take into account the treatment received by other offenders, who are in the same position. The very nature of his authority involves the element of gratuitous regulation.”
Regardless of the above reference, the most recent jurisprudence of the European Court and the Supreme Court of Cyprus in general regarding the application of Article 28 of the constitution (equality before the law, administration and justice), does not seem to agree with this application of the pardon and more specifically the general exclusion of specific categories without considering each case separately.
The exclusion of entire groups from the benefit of presidential pardon based only on the type of criminal offence they were convicted of without considering the circumstances and details of each case completely violates the principle of equality.
A more extensive legal analysis has been made in a legal text entitled “Implementation of Presidential Pardon – Equality Among Prisoners”, Alexandros Cleridis, lawyer, daily, 19/11/20 which has been published and has been repeatedly requested and sent to the relevant officials as well as the justice ministry who you often ask about the above matter.
Alexandros Clerides is a criminal lawyer with Phoebus Ch. Cleridis & Associates Ltd