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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Cyprus

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Cyprus, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa440.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

 

Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish military intervention of 1974, following a coup d'etat directed from Greece. Since 1974 the southern part of the country has been under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. The northern part is ruled by an autonomous Turkish Cypriot administration supported by the presence of Turkish troops. In 1983 that Administration proclaimed itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"), which is recognized only by Turkey. Both parts of the island are ruled in accordance with democratic principles affirmed through regularly held, free and fair elections. The Greek Cypriot political system is a presidential system while the Turkish Cypriots use a parliamentary form of government.

In general, the police forces of both sides accord respect to the rule of law. There is little crime in Cyprus, and consequently relatively few arrests occur.

Both Cypriot economies operate on the basis of free market principles, although in both communities there are significant state-run enterprises. In the Greek Cypriot economy, increases in tourism and exports are expected to lead to a growth rate of about 4.6 percent, more than double the 1993 rate. The Turkish Cypriot economy relies heavily upon subsidies from Turkey and is burdened by an overly large public sector. Inflation remains a significant problem, exceeding 100 percent in 1994, and the economy is expected to experience net negative growth for 1994.

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot authorities generally accord a high degree of respect to established human rights norms and practices. Nonetheless, in the Greek Cypriot community there were instances of police brutality, including beating and expulsion of Turkish Cypriots by Greek Cypriot police. Domestic violence is also receiving increased attention as a legal and social issue in both communities, rather than as a purely personal or cultural matter.

Significant problem areas include continuing restrictions imposed by Turkish Cypriot authorities on the right of Turkish Cypriots to travel to the southern part of the island and Turkish Cypriot noncompliance with the terms of the 1975 Vienna-III Agreement which set forth the rights of Greek Cypriots remaining in areas under Turkish Cypriot control.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including

Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of persons abducted, secretly arrested, or held in clandestine detention.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Both the Cyprus Constitution and the basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community specifically prohibit torture. Freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment is provided for in law in both communities. While these laws are widely respected in practice, there were credible reports during April that Greek Cypriot police rounded up 22 Turkish Cypriots on three separate occasions, beat them, and then "deported" them to the Turkish Cypriot-controlled area. It appeared that at least one group of deportees consisted of long-term residents in the Greek Cypriot-controlled area, while others may have been Turkish Cypriots who crossed the "Green Line" in search of work.

In July defense attorneys for two Greek Cypriot youths charged with armed robbery claimed that their clients had been beaten in police custody. There has been no independent verification that the police in fact committed the beatings.

In another instance, lawyers for a 31-year-old man, whom police mistakenly took into custody on suspicion of bank robbery and then allegedly tortured, filed an application, which is still awaiting action, against the Republic of Cyprus on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights. Two policemen accused in the case were acquitted in July 1993 after the courts ruled that the suspect had in fact been beaten in police custody but had been mistaken in his identification of the two officers responsible. According to some independent observers, the alibis the police officers produced appeared credible.

A 1993 bill introduced in the Cyprus Parliament addressing police brutality is still under consideration. The bill would provide for, among other things, detention of the accused in cells not under direct police control, medical examination of detainees immediately upon arrest, and severe penalties for law enforcement officials convicted of violating these provisions. In December a parliamentary subcommittee voted to broaden the jurisdiction of the official Ombudsman to look into allegations of police brutality.

While there were no public allegations or media reports of police brutality in the Turkish Cypriot community, credible reports indicate that there were some instances of police brutality.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Laws providing for freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention are respected by the police forces of both communities. Judicially issued arrest warrants are required. No one may be detained for more than 1 day without referral of the case to the courts for extension of the period of detention. Most periods of investigative detention do not exceed 8 to 10 days before formal charges are filed. Attorneys have free access to detainees, and bail is permitted.

Exile is specifically prohibited by the Greek Cypriot Constitution and by the basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Cyprus inherited many elements of its legal system from the British legal tradition, including the presumption of innocence, the right to due process, and the right of appeal. Throughout Cyprus, fair public trial is provided for in law and accorded in practice. The judiciary is independent of executive or military control. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, to be represented by counsel (at government expense for those who cannot afford one), to confront witnesses, and to present evidence in their own defense. There are no special courts to try security or political offenses.

On the Turkish Cypriot side, civilians deemed to have violated military zones are subject to trial in a military court. These courts consist of one military and two civilian judges and a civilian prosecutor. Defendants in military courts have all the due process rights available in civilian courts. There were no trials of civilians in military courts in 1994.

There are no political prisoners in Cyprus.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Both the Cyprus Constitution and the basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community include provisions protecting the individual against arbitrary interference by the authorities. A judicial warrant is required for a police official to enter a private residence.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press are provided for by law and are freely practiced throughout the island. The proliferation of party and independent newspapers and periodicals in both communities enables ideas and arguments to circulate freely, and opposition papers frequently criticize the authorities. Several private television and radio stations in the Greek Cypriot community compete effectively with the government- controlled stations. Turkish Cypriot authorities retain a monopoly over local radio and television, which tend not to criticize them. By June 1994, permission had been given for the operation of two university-run radio stations in Nicosia and Famagusta. However, the permission granted was temporary, and the radio stations remained under the control of the Turkish Cypriot radio and television authorities. International broadcasts are available without interference throughout the island, including telecasts from Turkey and Greece.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The freedom to associate, organize, and hold meetings is protected by law and respected in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is respected in Cyprus. Although missionaries have the legal right to proselytize in both communities, missionary activities are closely monitored by the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church and by both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot authorities. Both Turkish Cypriots residing in the southern part of the island and non-Muslims in the north are allowed to practice their religion freely. However, a major Greek Cypriot holy site located in the Turkish Cypriot-controlled area, the monastery at Apostolos Andreas, may only be visited under existing regulations twice a year, despite the Vienna-III Agreements of 1975 guaranteeing freedom of movement for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who elected to remain in areas controlled by the other community. In November the Turkish Cypriot authorities permitted an elderly priest and a companion resident in the government-controlled area to conduct services at Apostolos Andreas on the Saint's name day, fulfilling a longstanding desire of the priest to visit his ancestral home.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots enjoy general freedom of movement within their respective areas. However, Turkish Cypriot authorities regularly restrict or deny permission for travel by Turkish Cypriots into the Greek Cypriot area. Turkish Cypriots who apply for permission to visit the south are required to justify their applications with formal invitations to events arranged by individuals or organizations resident in the Greek Cypriot community. Many of these applications are denied, often without an official reason, although the basis for most denials is clearly political rather than the ostensible "national security" grounds sometimes cited. The treatment of applications appears to be related to the state of intercommunal relations or the status of negotiations on the Cyprus issue. In mid-1994, Turkish Cypriot authorities began to prohibit travel by Turkish Cypriots to the south after a period of relative openness following the inauguration of a new coalition "government" in January.

The applications of Greek Cypriot residents of enclaves in the north to visit the government-controlled area are usually granted, but the applicants must return within a designated period or risk losing their right to return, as well as their property. Turkish Cypriot authorities usually deny requests for Greek Cypriot children over the age of 16 (male) and 18 (female) residing in the government-controlled area to visit their parents in the Karpass. Requests by other relatives are also generally denied. However, in December the Turkish Cypriot authorities granted permits to all 30 children who had requested them regardless of age. In addition, they granted permits for the first time to nine grandchildren resident in the government-controlled area to visit their Greek Cypriot grandparents in the Karpass Peninsula. Without prior permission, the Turkish Cypriot authorities also generally bar Greeks, Greek Cypriots, and even third-country nationals with Greek or Armenian surnames from entering the territory under their control.

The Greek Cypriot authorities permit only day travel by tourists to the northern part of the island. The Greek Cypriot authorities have declared that it is illegal to enter Cyprus except at authorized entry points in the south, effectively barring entry into the Greek Cypriot area by foreigners who have entered Cyprus from the north. Similarly authorities bar entry to the north by those intending to depart by this route. Following the March assassination, allegedly by Turkish agents, of the Director of a Greek Cypriot association supporting Kurds in Turkey, the Greek Cypriot authorities placed significantly tighter controls on the movement of Turkish Cypriots to the Greek Cypriot-controlled areas. Institutions and individuals sponsoring visits of Turkish Cypriots to the Greek Cypriot- controlled areas must notify the Greek Cypriot police in advance and provide them with an exact itinerary.

The authorities respect the right to travel abroad and to emigrate. Turkish Cypriots have difficulty traveling to most countries because travel documents issued by the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" are recognized only by Turkey. Most Turkish Cypriots resort to utilizing Turkish travel documents instead.

The Government of Cyprus does not accept third-country refugees for resettlement in Cyprus on the grounds that it already has enough responsibilities in caring for those displaced after the 1974 Turkish intervention. All refugee and asylum claimants are referred to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which considers their applications. The Government has been cooperative in extending residency permission to those with pending applications and does not generally repatriate claimants to their home country. There has been no resettlement of displaced Cypriots.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Multiparty political systems exist in both communities. In the Greek Cypriot community, political parties compete for popular support actively and without restriction. Suffrage is universal, and elections are held by secret ballot. Elections for the office of President are held every 5 years and for members of the House of Representatives every 5 years or less. The small Maronite, Armenian, and Latin communities vote for nonvoting representatives from their respective communities, as well as for a candidate as a voting member in the House of Representatives. However, under the terms of the 1960 Constitution Turkish Cypriots may only vote for the position of the Vice President and for Turkish Cypriot Members of Parliament. As a result, Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area may not vote.

The Turkish Cypriots elect a leader and a representative body every 5 years or less. The Turkish Cypriot voters went to the polls on December 12, 1993, in an early election that brought opposition party representatives back into power and resulted in a new coalition. Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north are barred by law from participating in Turkish Cypriot elections but may choose their own village officials. They are eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but must travel to the south to exercise that right.

In both communities, women hold cabinet-level and other senior positions. In the Turkish Cypriot sector, the Supreme Court swore in its first female judge.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

There are organizations in both parts of the island that consider themselves human rights groups, but they are generally concerned with alleged violations against the rights of their community's members by the other community. Groups with a broad human rights mandate include organizations promoting awareness of domestic violence and others concerned with alleged police brutality.

There are no restrictions preventing the formation of human rights groups, and representatives of international human rights organizations have access throughout the island.

The Government of Cyprus, which claims a number of Greek Cypriots missing during the conflict of 1974, is still in the process of submitting its outstanding cases to the United Nations Committee on Missing Persons, although the rate of presentation accelerated over the first 6 months of 1994. For their part, Turkish Cypriot authorities, who claim their own missing persons dating from the intercommunal violence beginning in l963, have submitted virtually all of their cases to the U.N. Committee.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,

Disability, Language, or Social StatusLegislation in both communities provides for protection against discrimination based on sex, national, racial, or ethnic status, religion, or disability.

Women

Throughout Cyprus, women generally have the same legal status as men. While legal provisions in both communities requiring equal pay for men and women performing the same job are effectively enforced, women disproportionately fill lower paying jobs.

There are reports of spouse abuse, and the problem is believed to be significant. Throughout the island, a growing awareness of domestic violence has led to attempts to pass laws to safeguard the rights of abused spouses. In the Greek Cypriot community, a law enacted in July makes it easier for abused spouses to make complaints to the police, broadens the categories of evidence admissible in hearings on domestic violence, and establishes a "family adviser," both to monitor court cases and to facilitate counseling for the offender. It is widely thought that many suspected cases of domestic violence do not reach the courts, largely because of family pressure and the wife's economic dependence on her husband. An organization formed to address the problem of domestic abuse reports an increasing number of daily calls over its hot line, although hard statistics are not available. Of the relatively small portion of cases that are tried in the courts, virtually none results in conviction: Only 1 conviction was obtained in the nearly 300 spouse abuse cases brought before the courts in 1994.

In the Greek Cypriot community, women face discrimination that denies them the ability to pass on citizenship to their children if they are married to foreign spouses. Under existing Cypriot law, only a Greek Cypriot father may transmit citizenship to his children automatically or obtain expeditious naturalization for his foreign spouse.

In the Turkish Cypriot community, efforts have focused on improving the status of women in divorce proceedings, particularly regarding the rights of women to obtain property acquired during the period of marriage. In general, divorce is difficult for either party to obtain unless it is uncontested.

The Greek Cypriot community continues to focus on trafficking in female prostitutes, and Parliament has held several hearings on the subject. While international trafficking in women, mostly from Eastern Europe or the Far East, has diminished because most of these women can now travel directly to their final destinations rather than through Cyprus, they continue to be brought as "cabaret artistes" into Cyprus. The "artistes" are sponsored by the cabaret owners or by agents. However, to date there have been few arrests since the women, fearing retaliation by their employers, generally do not bring charges. Forcing women into prostitution is against Republic of Cyprus law.

There have been repeated credible reports that women from the Far East, working in Cyprus as maids, have been forced to work under inhumane circumstances. For example, they have been deprived of their passports and of their right to take Sundays off, and in some instances they have not been paid. These women generally do not file complaints.

Children

Both communities are committed to protect children's rights and welfare within the context of total available resources.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Both the Government of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot administration have constitutional or legal bars against discrimination. Food, shelter, education, and health care are available to members of both communities regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background. Nevertheless, Greek Cypriots living in the north, predominantly in the Karpass area, are unable to move about freely and to change their housing at will. Some Turkish Cypriots living in the government- controlled area have claimed they are often harassed by the Greek Cypriots, including the police. According to some allegations, they are kept under surveillance and questioned closely about their movements.

People with Disabilities

Physically or otherwise disabled persons have no special protection against discrimination in private sector employment in Cyprus, and traditional attitudes are slow to change. In the Greek Cypriot community, disabled persons applying for a public sector position are entitled to preference if they are deemed able to perform the required duties and their qualifications equal those of other applicants. In the Turkish Cypriot community, regulations require businesses to employ 1 disabled person for every 25 positions they fill, although enforcement is unreliable. Disabled persons do not appear to be discriminated against in education and the provision of state services. In the Greek Cypriot community, legislation mandates that new public buildings and tourist facilities provide access for the disabled. The Turkish Cypriot community has not to date enacted legislation to provide for such access.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers in Cyprus, except for members of the police and military forces, have the legal right to form and join trade unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. In the Greek Cypriot community, police officers also have the right to join associations which have the right to bargain collectively, although not to strike. More than 82 percent of the Greek Cypriot work force belongs to independent trade unions. Approximately 50 to 60 percent of Turkish Cypriot private sector workers and all public sector workers belong to labor unions.

In the Turkish Cypriot community, union officials have alleged that various firms have been successful in establishing "company" organizations and then applying pressure on workers to join these unions. Officials of independent labor unions have also accused the Turkish Cypriot authorities of creating rival public sector unions to weaken the independent unions. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has not yet acted upon these complaints. There are no complaints outstanding against the Government of Cyprus.

In both communities, trade unions freely and regularly take stands on public policy issues affecting workers and maintain their independence from the Government. Two of the major trade unions, one in each community, are closely affiliated with political parties. Both of the remaining major unions are independent.

All workers have the right to strike, and several strikes, usually of short duration, took place in 1994. In the northern part of the island, however, a court ruling from 1978 gives employers an unrestricted right to hire replacement workers in the event of a strike, effectively limiting the effectiveness of the right to strike. Authorities of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have the power to curtail strikes in what they deem to be "essential services," although this right is rarely used.

Unions in both parts of Cyprus are able to affiliate with international trade union organizations.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

By law, trade unions and confederations are free to organize and bargain collectively throughout Cyprus. This is observed in practice in the Greek Cypriot community, and most wages and benefits are set by freely negotiated collective agreements. However, Greek Cypriot collective bargaining agreements are not enforceable under the law. In the rare instances when such agreements are believed to have been infringed, the Ministry of Labor is called in to investigate the claim. If the Ministry is unable to resolve the dispute, the union may call a strike to support its demands. In practice, however, such alleged violations are extremely rare, and there were no reported instances in 1994.

In the Turkish Cypriot community, where inflation exceeded 100 percent over the year, wage levels are reviewed twice a year for the private sector and six times a year for public sector workers and a corresponding cost-of-living raise is established. A special commission composed of five representatives each from organized labor, employers, and the authorities conducts the review. Union leaders contend that private sector employers are able to discourage union activity because enforcement of labor and occupational safety regulations is sporadic and penalties for antiunion practices are minimal. As in the Greek Cypriot community, parties to a dispute may request mediation by the authorities. Small export processing zones exist in Larnaca Port and Famagusta, but the laws governing working conditions and actual practice are uniform throughout the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and no instances of it were reported.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

In both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, the minimum age for employment of children in an "industrial undertaking" is 16. Turkish Cypriots may be employed in apprentice positions at age 15. However, in family-run shops it is common to see younger children working. Government labor inspectors effectively enforce the law in both communities.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legislated minimum wage in the Greek Cypriot community, which is reviewed every year, is currently about $380 per month for beginning unskilled workers. This amount is insufficient to provide an adequate living for a worker and family. All other occupations are covered under collective bargaining agreements between trade unions and employers within the same economic sector, and the minimum wages set in these agreements are significantly higher than the legislated minimum wage.

The legislated minimum wage in the Turkish Cypriot area, while subject to frequent review because of high levels of inflation, is approximately $90 per month at exchange rates as of mid-1994. This amount is not adequate to support a worker and family, although most workers earn more than the minimum wage.

A significant percentage of the labor force consists of illegal workers, mostly from Turkey. According to some estimates, illegal workers constitute as much as 25 percent of the total work force in the area under Turkish Cypriot control. There are frequent allegations that such workers are subject to mistreatment, including nonpayment of wages and threats of deportation.

In the Greek Cypriot community, the standard workweek is an average of 39 1/2 hours in the private sector. In the public sector, it is 37 1/2 hours during the winter and 35 hours in the summer. In 1992, however, Greek Cypriot unions won concessions that will reduce the workweek by one-half hour per year until 1997 when a 38-hour workweek will be in place for most sectors of the economy. In the Turkish Cypriot community, the standard workweek is 38 hours in winter and 36 hours in summer. Government labor inspectors effectively enforce these laws.

Greek Cypriot labor union leaders have complained that occupational and safety standards lack important safeguards. Factories are typically licensed by municipalities rather than by the Government, resulting in an uneven application of environmental and work safeguards. Under a proposed law, Cypriot occupational and safety standards will be brought up to ILO- and European Union-mandated standards, including protection of workers who refuse to work because of unsafe conditions. While the law was not enacted in 1994, virtually all key participants in the decision supported the bill.

Occupational safety and health regulations are administered at best sporadically in the Turkish Cypriot area. In both areas, a factory inspector processes complaints and inspects business in order to ensure that occupational safety laws are observed. Turkish Cypriot workers who file complaints do not receive satisfactory legal protection and may face dismissal.

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