Cyprus Mail
Legal View

Discrimination against foreign prisoners in Cyprus

open prison
The Open Prison in Nicosia
Third country nationals and European citizens are not eligible for any of the gradual reintegration programmes

By Alexandros Clerides

It is a well-known practice that both the directorate of Central Prisons and the Parole Board that deal with the issue of reintegration of prisoners, in a large number of cases, if not all, reject requests from third country nationals and European citizens to be accepted in the open prison, or for conditional release or for inclusion in the electronic monitoring programme.

The basic justification given in most if not all cases is that these individuals who have already been convicted of a criminal offence, (since they are in Central Prisons), are now classified as ‘a danger to society’ and therefore by releasing them will be deprived of any right they had to be in the Republic and will be deported.

Therefore, the authorities consider that based on this logic, they cannot receive any positive treatment regarding the programmes that exist for gradual reintegration.

The CPT (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture) disagreed. In a report dated 26/04/18 which was prepared after their then visit to the Central Prisons and they issued the following recommendation:

“… the Cypriot authorities should ensure that foreign nationals have the right to progress to open prison and the right for consideration for early release, to afford them equal rights and treatment as afforded to Cypriot prisoners. In this respect, the principle of non-discrimination should be respected, in line with international norms prohibiting discrimination.”

On the basis of the above and after relevant complaints made to the office of the Ombudswoman for Administration and Protection of Human Rights, the ombudswoman’s office prepared a response in early 2023 in which it fully adopts the above recommendation of the CPT and states that such unequal treatment is not permissible when it arises solely because the person is a foreigner or a European citizen and constitutes illegal and impermissible discrimination.

More specifically and especially for European citizens, the following excerpt from the report is relevant.

“For prisoners who are citizens of the European Union, who are also subjected to less favuorable treatment than Cypriot prisoners, as regards their privilege of joining the Open Prisons, the relevant legal framework states that, the fact of their previous conviction, is not in itself a factor that automatically limits their right to free movement in the Republic”

 

Alexandros Clerides is a criminal lawyer at Phoebus Ch Clerides & Associates Ltd

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