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Cyprus

House discusses reining in Attorney-general’s powers

Attorney-general George Savvides

The House Institutions committee on Wednesday discussed the possibility of reining in the powers vested in the Attorney-general.

The discussion came after the publication of the European Commission’s report on the rule of law in Cyprus in 2023, with MPs and the justice ministry now keen to review the Attorney-general’s role.

Speaking at the committee, a representative of the legal service said Attorney-general George Savvides has “decided to promote an internal review process of his decisions and will announce a new process for reviewing his decisions to prosecute, not prosecute, or terminate a prosecution.”

The representative said this review process will be conducted “by a new team of legal officers within the legal service,” and that this allows Cyprus to “take a step towards the European Commission’s recommendations.”

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said the report “mentions the need for the Audit service’s unhindered access to information.”

Speaking on behalf of the justice ministry, senior legal affairs officer Phaedra Georgiou said the matter of the Attorney-general’s role is a “priority” for the government.

She said the ministry is “conducting a study and researching legal systems similar to Cyprus,” with the aim of finding solutions, but warned that the matter is a “very serious constitutional issue” and cannot be solved “overnight”.

The committee also discussed the issue of the quality of the administration of justice – a point which was also touched upon in the Commission’s report.

Those present agreed that there is a need for Cypriot justice to be digitised, and for “long delays in adjudication” to be reduced. They also called for improvements to court buildings across the island.’

Committee chairman and Disy MP Demetris Demetriou said, “we have heard once again that justice is delayed, and that electronic justice is not only not progressing but has collapsed.”

He went on to express his satisfaction that reforms regarding the Attorney-general’s power are being implemented.

He said “we have proposed a law which concerns a constitutional amendment and paves the way for the bill for this separation of powers to come to pass. I think it’s time, after 64 years, to have a serious look at this issue.”

Akel MP Irene Charalambidou said it is “unthinkable for the Attorney-general to be able to make decisions, to suspend criminal prosecutions, without giving reasons,” and added that the general public does not feel that justice is being served.

For this reason, she said, she also supports a reining in of the Attorney-general’s powers.

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