Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 13:07 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Cyprus

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Cyprus, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa490.html [accessed 30 September 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. The "TRNC" is a parliamentary structure; the "Prime Minister" and "Council of Ministers" are drawn primarily from the "Assembly". The Government of Cyprus is a presidential system.

The internal political system of the government-controlled area is a democracy and in general accords basic human rights to its population, both in law and in practice. The internal political structure in the Turkish Cypriot administration is also based on free elections. The Turkish Cypriot administration generally respects basic human rights but routinely restricts the freedom of Turkish Cypriots to travel to the Greek Cypriot-controlled areas or even into the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone which divides the two communities.

Both Cypriot economies are based on free enterprise. The Greek Cypriot economy has prospered in recent years, particularly in the tourism and manufacturing sectors, but entered into a slight recession in 1993 as tourism revenues fell. The much smaller economy in the Turkish Cypriot area, closely linked to that of Turkey and plagued by Turkey's high inflation rate, remained depressed in 1993, although a resurgence in the banking, education, and tourism sectors is evident.

Conflict between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities during the 1963-74 period, followed in 1974 by the abortive Greek Cypriot coup and subsequent Turkish intervention, resulted in the uprooting of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots from the northern and southern parts of the island, respectively. The resultant loss of lives, homes, and livelihoods has led to continuing charges of human rights violations by both sides. United Nations Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) monitors the welfare of the Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the north, as well as that of the Turkish Cypriots in the south.

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 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 document 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 generally respected in practice, allegations of police brutality in the Greek Cypriot community have become more common and have been given widespread publicity. In May the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture submitted a report to the Government concluding that "persons held in certain police establishments in Cyprus – particularly in Limassol town police station – run a serious risk of severe ill-treatment/torture."

In the most celebrated case, a Limassol man falsely arrested in 1992 for bank robbery claimed he had been beaten and subjected to electric shocks. The Government prosecuted two high-ranking police officers, but the presiding judicial panel dismissed the case in July for insufficient evidence, noting in its decision that the prisoner had clearly been mistreated but that the prosecution had failed to establish conclusively that the two officers charged were actually responsible.

In September 1993 police officers arrested a man in Larnaca on an unsubstantiated charge and severely beat him. Newspapers published photographs of the man's resulting 34 stitches and extensive bruises. Four officers involved were suspended pending an internal police investigation. The Government established a special commission to examine allegations of police brutality; no results had been announced by year's end. A bill addressing police brutality was scheduled for early debate in Parliament, according to its sponsors. If passed, the law would define as a felony the "torture, cruel or humiliating treatment of detainees," liable to imprisonment of up to 3 years or a $6,000 fine, or both. If a detainee suffers "serious bodily injuries", those convicted of the abuse could face a prison term of up to 5 years or a $10,000 fine, or both.

In the Turkish Cypriot community, allegations of police beatings are infrequent but not unknown: one Turkish Cypriot youth complained in April that he was beaten by police officers despite being the son of a policeman himself. The police replied that the youth had not identified himself as such. No investigation was conducted, and no charges were ever filed. Victims of such abuse rarely come forward.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Laws providing for freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention are respected by the Government of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot authorities. Arrest warrants, issued by judges, are required. No one may be held for more than 1 day for investigation of a crime 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 Cyprus Constitution and by the basic document 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. In both parts of 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.

Cases are generally tried before a judge or panel of judges, although a request for a jury trial is usually granted. 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 1993.

There are no political prisoners in Cyprus.

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

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

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

These rights are provided for by law and are freely practiced throughout the island. The press is free and represents the entire political spectrum. There is no press censorship. In the Greek Cypriot community, several private television and radio stations compete effectively with the government- controlled stations. Turkish Cypriot authorities retain monopoly control over both radio and television, but in late 1993 a special commission was established to consider the lifting of this monopoly. International broadcasts are available throughout the island, including telecasts from mainland Turkey and Greece. In addition, the proliferation of party and independent newspapers and periodicals in both communities enables ideas and arguments to circulate freely. Opposition papers frequently criticize the authorities.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is respected in Cyprus. In the south, the vast majority of the population is Greek Orthodox; in the north, Sunni Muslim. The Greek Orthodox Church in the south has the character of a state institution; all its activities and holdings are exempt from taxation. 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.

The approximately 300 Turkish Cypriots known to reside in the southern part of the island are allowed to practice their religion freely. In the north, non-Muslims include approximately 550 Greek Cypriots, 200 Christian Maronites, and some foreign residents – all of whom are free to practice their religions.

A 1992 law allows alternative service for those Greek Cypriots who conscientiously object to military service on religious grounds: they may select either 34 months of unarmed military service or 42 months of civil defense force or social service, compared to 26 months of military service. However, this service still falls under the auspices of the military, so it does not constitute alternative civilian service. There are approximately 10 conscientious objectors in prison in the Republic, all of whom are Jehovah's Witnesses serving sentences of up to 32 months. Turkish Cypriot conscientious objectors have no alternative to military service and face imprisonment if they refuse to serve. Amnesty International in 1993 noted the first case of imprisonment of a conscientious objector in the north, who was sentenced to 3 years. He was also charged with insulting the security forces in northern Cyprus for statements he made in a press conference explaining his reasons for refusing military service and his willingness to serve an equivalent term in alternative civilian service.

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 strictly regulate travel by Turkish Cypriots into the government-controlled 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 south. Applicants are sometimes not given a reply until the last minute, and many are refused. Those who are denied permission are rarely given an official reason, but the basis for most denials is clearly political. Turkish Cypriot authorities sometimes cite developments in the U.N.-led negotiations, which they view as unfavorable, as reason enough to discourage bicommunal contacts. One well-known Turkish Cypriot dissident, Dr. Ahmet Cavit, has been consistently denied permission to travel into the south, despite multiple applications, because of his outspoken criticism of the ruling regime. "TRNC" civil servants periodically face a blanket prohibition against traveling from the "TRNC" into the south, or even into the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone.

The applications of Greek Cypriot residents of enclaves in the north to visit the south 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 applications by Greek Cypriots to visit relatives in the north. They also generally bar Greeks, Greek Cypriots, and even third-country nationals with Greek or Armenian surnames from entering the north.

The Government of Cyprus has barred travel to the north by foreigners intending to depart the island from the Turkish Cypriot area. At the same time, it bars entry into the Greek Cypriot area by foreigners who have entered Cyprus from the north.

The right to travel abroad and to emigrate is observed, although persons facing military service or legal action in either part of Cyprus may not travel without specific permission. Turkish Cypriots have difficulty traveling to most countries because travel documents issued by the "TRNC"

authorities are not generally recognized.

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 (UNHCR), who is expected to process their applications and ensure their departure from Cyprus. The Government has been cooperative in extending residency permission to those under consideration by the UNHCR and does not generally repatriate claimants to their home country. There has not been any resettlement of internal refugees, despite U.N. resolutions calling for such resettlement.

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

Both the Government of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot administration have lively multiparty political systems. 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 of the Republic of Cyprus are held every 5 years and for the House of Representatives every 5 years or less.

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 in an early election that brought opposition party representatives back into the "assembly" and resulted in a new coalition "government." The opposition parties had been boycotting the "assembly" since 1990 due to allegations that the previous election law was unfair and that Turkey had intervened in the campaign. Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north – the latter having chosen before independence in 1960 to be regarded as members of the Greek Cypriot community – are barred by law from participating in Turkish Cypriot elections but choose their own village officials. They are eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but must travel to the south to exercise that right.

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, with the exception of one new Greek Cypriot group, all appear to be primarily concerned with alleged violations of the rights of members of their community by the other community. The new group was established in response to increased allegations of 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. Although it requests assistance from other governments in resolving missing persons cases dating back to the 1974 Turkish military intervention, the Government of Cyprus would not submit outstanding cases to the United Nations Committee on Missing Persons which meets in Cyprus. In November the Cyprus government agreed to begin submitting all of its remaining cases to the U.N. Committee on Missing Persons and to review the criteria for closing out these files.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Women

Throughout Cyprus, women generally have the same legal status as men, although women's groups in the Turkish Cypriot community contend that the law regulating divorce discriminates against women. While legal provisions requiring equal pay for men and women performing the same job are effectively enforced, many women's rights advocates complain that women disproportionately fill lower paying jobs. Apparently most private employers successfully implemented a 1989 law requiring equality of pay between men and women working in the private sector by the October 1992 deadline.

The Center Against Family Violence, a private Greek Cypriot organization, reports a steady number of domestic abuse cases, primarily violence against women by their husbands. Women can and do pursue these cases in the courts: some 530 cases were prosecuted in 1992, according to the Center, which indicates the cases are treated seriously. Officials at the Center believe greater openness is shown by many women on this subject, which previously was considered taboo. The law commissioner has drafted new legislation providing harsher penalties for offenders, who would also be obliged to undergo psychiatric treatment. This legislation was approved in October by the Council of Ministers, which authorized the Minister of Justice to submit the bill to the House. There is no similar center in the Turkish Cypriot community. The Turkish Cypriot authorities have not made pronouncements or taken specific actions on this issue.

Western European journalists, including a Belgian author and a British Broadcasting Corporation reporter, have labeled Cyprus a center for trafficking in female prostitutes, primarily from Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and Thailand. According to the accusations, which are credible, the women are lured to Cyprus by cabaret owners who promise them well-paying nightclub "artiste" jobs and then force them into prostitution either in Cyprus or in a third country. A loose coalition of women's groups has been investigating the issue, alongside a parliamentary inquiry. The Government established a fund to provide for the welfare of women trying to escape such servitude. Considerably fewer foreign "artistes" work in the Turkish Cypriot community, but similar allegations are heard privately that some of the women are mistreated and even forced to prostitute themselves.

Children

Instances of child abuse are extremely rare in both communities. Within the context of total resources available to each community, spending on children's welfare is adequate.

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 and the tiny Maronite, Armenian, and Latin minorities, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background. Nevertheless, Greek Cypriots living in the north, predominantly in the Karpass area, continue to complain that they are unable to move about freely and are unable to change their housing at will. Some Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area have claimed they are often harassed by the community, including by the police. According to some allegations, they are kept under surveillance and questioned closely about their movements.

People with Disabilities

Physically or otherwise disabled individuals have no special protection against discrimination in private sector employment in Cyprus, and traditional attitudes are slow to change. In the government-controlled area, disabled persons applying for a public sector position are entitled to preference if they are deemed able to carry out the position requirements and if 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. Still, enforcement appears unreliable. Disabled persons do not appear to be discriminated against in education and the provision of state services. The Cyprus Government enacted legislation effective June 1 mandating that new public buildings provide access for the disabled; in August new regulations were implemented stipulating that any new hotel or tourist resort provide access points and necessary facilities for disabled persons. The Turkish Cypriot community so far has not enacted legislation or otherwise mandated provision of accessibility for the disabled.

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. More than 90 percent of Greek Cypriot workers and 40 to 50 percent of Turkish Cypriot workers belong to independent trade unions. Union officials in the north, however, allege that the ruling party has tried to weaken public sector unions by supporting the establishment of rival unions; the union officials have taken their complaints to the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO has not given an official reply to these complaints, which are difficult to substantiate. In both communities, trade unions freely and regularly take stands on public policy issues affecting workers and maintain their independence from the Government, although most are closely aligned with political parties.

Cypriot workers have the right to strike. Several strikes occurred in 1993. Strikes usually are of short duration. Both the Government of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot authorities have the power to curtail strikes in what they deem to be "essential services."

Unions in both parts of Cyprus freely take part in international meetings. Most unions are affiliated either with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions or with the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions. Labor unions, more than most other organizations in Cyprus, attempt to maintain contact and cooperation across the dividing line, but this remains limited, mostly by Turkish Cypriot authorities.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

By law, trade unions and confederations are free to organize and to bargain collectively in both parts of Cyprus. This is observed in practice in the south, and most wages and benefits are set by freely negotiated collective agreements. In the north, wage levels in many sectors are largely pegged to the annual change in the minimum wage, set by a special commission composed of five representatives each from organized labor, employers, and the authorities. Union leaders contend that private sector employers are able to discourage union activity because enforcement is weak and penalties for antiunion practices are minimal. In both the north and the south, parties to a dispute may request mediation by the authorities.

Small export processing zones exist in Larnaca port in the south and Famagusta in the north, 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

The Government of Cyprus has set the minimum age for employment of children in an "industrial undertaking" at age 16. In the north, the age is 15. Government labor inspectors effectively enforce the law in both sectors.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legislated minimum wage in the south is renewed every year and covers clerks, salespersons, nursery assistants, practical nurses, and hairdressers. It is not sufficient 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 more broadly applicable and renewed annually after tripartite negotiations, would not be adequate to support a worker and family. Most workers earn more than the minimum wage.

The Government of Cyprus has set 40 hours as the standard workweek except for shop workers and drivers, whose legal workweek is 42 hours. 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 north, the standard workweek is 38 hours in the winter and 36 in the summer. Government labor inspectors effectively enforce these laws.

Although standards in both sectors are not equivalent to those in Western industrialized countries, occupational safety and health regulations are administered effectively. In both sectors, a factory inspector receives and processes complaints and inspects businesses in order to ensure that occupational safety laws are observed. Workers who file complaints are protected by law and the court system in the Greek Cypriot sector but not in the Turkish Cypriot sector. In both sectors, however, workers risk losing their jobs if they unilaterally remove themselves from a position which they believe endangers their health.

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