Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 07:38 GMT

2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Cyprus

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Date 11 March 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Cyprus, 11 March 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b9e5301c.html [accessed 16 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.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2010

Since 1974 the southern part of Cyprus has been under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus, while the northern part, administered by Turkish Cypriots, proclaimed itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC") in 1983. The United States does not recognize the "TRNC," nor does any country other than Turkey. A substantial number of Turkish troops remained on the island. A buffer zone, or "green line," patrolled by the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), separates the two parts.

REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

The Republic of Cyprus is a constitutional republic and multiparty presidential democracy. The area under control of the government has approximately 796,900 inhabitants. In 2006, 56 representatives were elected to the 80-seat Vouli Antiprosopon (House of Representatives) in free and fair elections, and in February 2008 President Demetris Christofias was elected in free and fair elections. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.

Problems were reported in some areas. There were reports of police abuse and degrading treatment of persons in custody and asylum seekers. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, and several incidents of violence against children were reported. There were instances of discrimination against members of minority ethnic and national groups. Trafficking of women to the island, particularly for sexual exploitation, continued to be a problem, and labor trafficking was also reported.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year.

In 2008 authorities completed an independent investigation of the 2005 police killing of a Syrian immigrant that the chief of police had reported was in self-defense. The attorney general initially ordered the prosecution of the police officers involved but later decided that the evidence was not strong enough to stand in a criminal trial. The district court awarded compensation to the victim's family in civil proceedings brought by them.

In June 2008 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a judgment that found that the government of Turkey violated the right to life as provided under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the cases of Isaak v. Turkey and Solomou and others v. Turkey. The court found that Isaak was killed in 1996 during a Greek Cypriot demonstration in the buffer zone by Turkish Cypriot counterdemonstrators, including "at least four uniformed soldiers belonging to the Turkish or Turkish Cypriot forces." The ECHR also found that in 1996 "two soldiers in Turkish uniform and a man in civilian clothes" shot and killed Solomou when he entered the buffer zone and tried to climb a flagpole with the Turkish flag on it. The court ordered Turkey to pay 215,000 euros (approximately $308,000) to Isaak's family plus 12,000 euros ($17,200) in court expenses and 125,000 euros ($179,000) to Solomou's family, plus 12,000 euros in court expenses.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The government participated in the autonomous, tripartite (UN, Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot) UN Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) as part of its efforts since 1996 to account for persons missing as a result of the intercommunal violence in 1963-64 and the conflict in 1974. As of December 30, the CMP had exhumed the remains of a total of 596 missing persons and returned the remains of 145 Greek Cypriots. Exhumations continued in different parts of the island. According to the CMP, 1,455 Greek Cypriots and 455 Turkish Cypriots remained missing.

On September 21, the ECHR Grand Chamber upheld the court's original decision in the case of Varnava and others v. Turkey, filed by the relatives of nine Greek Cypriots missing since the events of 1974. The ECHR had found Turkey in continuing violation of the convention's Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment), and Article 5 (right to liberty and security) on account of its failure to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts of the nine missing persons.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices; there were reports, however, that police abused detainees. There continued to be reports that police engaged in heavy-handed tactics and degrading treatment of suspects.

On March 10, police officers at Strovolos police station allegedly beat and used racist comments against 19-year-old Henry Taylor, a national of Zimbabwe who had lived in Cyprus for eight years, after accusing him of stealing a moped. Taylor contended he was a victim of mistaken identity, and he was later released without charge. The Independent Authority, an independent committee appointed by the Council of Ministers to investigate complaints of police bribery, corruption, unlawful financial gain, violation of human rights, abuse of power, preferential treatment, and conduct unbecoming of police officers, investigated the incident and submitted its report to the attorney general, who ordered the summary trial of the officers involved.

On March 19, the criminal court acquitted the remaining 10 police officers accused in the 2005 case involving plainclothes officers stopping two cars in Nicosia and handcuffing and beating the drivers, 27-year-old students Marcos Papageorghiou and Yiannos Nicolaou. Authorities had charged 11 officers with numerous offenses, including assault and torture; one officer was subsequently cleared of the charges. The court decision caused a public uproar, including demonstrations and statements from the attorney general, who appealed the decision. The hearing on the appeal before the Supreme Court started on November 23 and was ongoing at year's end.

In May the press reported on a young man who was arrested by police in Limassol in 2007 for allegedly making an indecent hand gesture to police. The man claimed that he was taken to the Limassol police station, handcuffed, and beaten by an officer while five to six other officers looked on. As a result of the beating, he allegedly suffered a concussion and other head and neck injuries and was hospitalized for five days. According to police, disciplinary charges were brought against an officer after an investigation by the Independent Authority; the officer's hearing on charges of misconduct and illegal exercise of authority had not been completed at year's end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons, detention centers, and other government institutions generally met international standards, although there have been reports of overcrowding.

During the year the ombudsman and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) received complaints that police subjected inmates to physical abuse and discriminatory treatment. The ombudsman reported that during the year her office received two complaints from prisoners concerning physical violence that were being investigated. Complaints submitted to the ombudsman in previous years could not be substantiated due to insufficient evidence. The ombudsman's investigation into complaints by Greek Cypriot prisoners that prison officials tolerated and, in some cases, supported violence among inmates was inconclusive due to lack of sufficient evidence.

The ombudsman reported discriminatory treatment of Turkish Cypriot inmates regarding their access to facilities at the Central Prison. A 2008 investigation by the ombudsman showed that prison authorities denied requests by Turkish Cypriot inmates for access to the Open Prison and Out of Prison Employment Center. The ombudsman recommended that the security reasons cited for the rejections be explicitly stated and fully justified on a case-by-case basis. The ombudsman received two more complaints during the year from Turkish Cypriots alleging discriminatory treatment in the Central Prison. Both complaints were under investigation at year's end. An NGO reported that foreign detainees and prisoners complained of physical violence in detention centers located in police stations and discrimination in the Central Prison.

In 2008 an NGO reported that foreign inmates were tasked with heavier work and had greater restrictions on visitation rights than local prisoners.

On March 15, a young Moldovan man arrested for drunk driving and a series of traffic violations was found dead in his cell at the Lycavitos Police Station in Nicosia. The state coroner found no evidence of a crime. The Independent Authority appointed two criminal investigators to the case. The investigation was ongoing at year's end.

During the year overcrowding remained the Nicosia Central Prison's greatest problem, despite renovation and expansion. Prison authorities acknowledged that many of the prison buildings, constructed prior to 1960, needed renovation. Construction work was underway to increase capacity and improve sanitary conditions. In September the ombudsman complained via the media that such overcrowding created problems for prisoners' health and welfare. The prison's capacity was 340, but at times it housed up to 750 inmates. Approximately 73 percent of the detainees were foreigners imprisoned for illegal entry, stay, and employment, as well as theft, burglary, false pretenses, and other offenses. The ombudsman reported that, due to overcrowding, convicted criminals were not separated from pretrial detainees, and both long- and short-term prisoners were kept together. In a report issued during the year concerning drug use in the Central Prison, the ombudsman recommended separate detention for drug users. In September the ombudsman also complained via the media that the prison lacked a health center, even though her office had requested the creation of one 10 years earlier; at year's end, the Central Prison still lacked a health center.

The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, and such visits, unrestricted and unannounced, occurred during the year. The ombudsman, the law commissioner, and the commissioner for the protection of personal data visited Central Prison on a regular basis. The parliamentary human rights committee also visited the prison and examined the living conditions of the detainees.

In May 2008 the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) conducted one of its periodic spot checks; representatives visited several sites, including the Central Prison, the psychiatric unit in Athalassa, and several police stations, and privately interviewed detainees and prisoners. The CPT's report on the visit had not been released by year's end.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The police enforce the law and combat criminal activity. The Greek Cypriot National Guard (GCNG), backed by a contingent of Greek military forces called Elliniki Dhinami Kyprou (Hellenic Force in Cyprus), protects national security. The GCNG reports to the Ministry of Defense, which reports to the president. The police report to the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. The president appoints the chief of police. The police force is composed of a headquarters with six functional departments, six geographic district divisions, including one inactive district for the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, and seven police units that provide specialized services. One case alleging serious police corruption was before the court.

The Independent Authority appoints independent investigators from a list submitted by the attorney general. In 2008 the committee received 110 complaints, a 14.6 percent increase compared with 2007. Of those, 16 were deemed outside the scope of the committee's responsibility, four were withdrawn, three were rejected because the plaintiffs failed to provide a written statement, eight were sent to the police chief for further investigation, and four were still under investigation at the end of 2008. The committee completed investigations of 42 complaints and carried out preliminary investigations of 33 cases. In eight of the 42 completed investigations, the committee recommended the criminal prosecution of specific officers. Of those eight, the attorney general ordered the criminal prosecution of three and decided against the prosecution of three, and his decision was pending on the remaining two.

During the year the Independent Authority ordered criminal investigations of 14 members of the police force.

In January two Paphos police officers were suspended on suspicion of extorting and blackmailing illegal immigrants. They were scheduled to be presented to court in January 2010.

In February a Sri Lankan man complained to Limassol police that three police officers blackmailed him and his two Sri Lankan roommates, who were residing illegally in the country, into paying 700 euros (approximately $1,000) each. The alleged victim identified three officers, who were arrested together with a 35-year-old mechanic. The trial of the four was scheduled for January 2010.

In June the killing of police officer Stavros Stavrou attracted media attention due to Stavrou's alleged involvement in illegal dealings. In the past, police had allegedly investigated Stavrou for involvement in cabarets, drugs, electronic gambling, and an arson attack, although they were reportedly unable to gather enough evidence to make a case against him. An administrative investigation into possible illegal dealings of the deceased officer did not reveal any incriminating evidence. His killing remained under police investigation at year's end.

In 2008 the attorney general ordered a criminal investigation of a member of the police for allegedly assaulting a civilian. The investigation concluded that there was no evidence of a criminal offense. Of the 14 cases against police officers pending before the courts at the end of 2007, four resulted in convictions, four were pending at the end of 2008, and one was dropped by the court; the attorney general suspended charges in two cases and dismissed the remaining three cases. Two of the pending cases were set for hearing at the end of 2009, and the other two were scheduled for hearing at the beginning of 2010.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

The law requires judicially issued arrest warrants, and authorities respected this requirement in practice. Persons may not be detained for more than one day without referral of the case to a court for extension of detention. Most periods of investigative detention did not exceed 10 days before formal charges were filed. The attorney general generally made efforts to minimize pretrial detention, especially in cases of serious crimes. Prior to May 2008, however, authorities indefinitely detained aliens arrested for illegal entry into the country without identity documents when they did not know where to deport them. Attorneys generally had access to detainees. Bail was permitted. The government claimed the right to deport foreign nationals for reasons of public interest, regardless of whether they had been charged with, or convicted of, a crime.

Following a series of demonstrations by eight long-term detainees (all of whom were immigrants who had been denied asylum and were awaiting deportation), their families, and a local asylum-rights NGO, the minister of interior announced in May 2008 that the government would no longer hold such persons long term in detention centers. Instead, if deportations could not be executed in a reasonable amount of time – generally six months – the government would release undocumented migrants and rejected asylum seekers and give them residence permits for a limited period of time, provided they had not been found guilty of a crime. An NGO reported, however, that the released detainees did not have access to health care or social benefits and were not entitled to permanent residency permits unless they had a job.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law and constitution provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected this provision in practice.

Most criminal and civil cases begin in district courts, from which appeals may be made to the Supreme Court. There are no special courts for security or political offenses. There are military tribunals that have jurisdiction over members of the GCNG.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The constitution provides for public trials, and defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Jury trials are not used. An attorney is provided for those who cannot afford one, and defendants have the right to question witnesses against them and present evidence or witnesses on their behalf. The law also provides that defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence related to their cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have a right of appeal. The government generally respected these rights in practice.

During the year there were three ECHR judgments that found the country in violation of the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time, as provided by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. On January 13, the ECHR ruled in Charalambides v. Cyprus that six years of criminal proceedings for charges of forgery and fraud constituted an unreasonably excessive length of proceedings in violation of Article 6. The court similarly found in Michael Theodossiou Ltd. v. Cyprus that the country had violated Article 6 because the applicant company was a party to property expropriation proceedings initiated by the government that lasted more than 11 years. On July 16, the ECHR ruled in Christodoulou v. Cyprus that the country violated Article 6 because it took the government almost six years to adjudicate a commercial dispute with the applicants over the value of rental property.

In 2008 the ECHR found one violation by the country of Article 7 (no punishment without law), and it issued judgments that found three violations by the country of the right to a fair trial and two violations involving length of proceedings under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In January 2008 the ECHR ruled in Kafkaris v. Cyprus that the country violated the Article 7 rights of the applicant, who was given a life sentence for murdering a family of three. The court found that at the time the applicant committed the offense, the law was not formulated with sufficient precision so as to enable him to discern the scope of the penalty of life imprisonment and the manner of its execution.

In March 2008 the ECHR issued a final judgment in the case of Panovits v. Cyprus and found that the country violated the applicant's Article 6 right to a fair trial based on the lack of legal assistance provided to the applicant during police questioning, the use of his confession during trial, and the court's mishandling of a confrontation with the applicant's defense counsel during the trial. The applicant had been arrested in 2000 as a minor and confessed guilt during an interrogation by the Limassol police conducted outside the presence of his guardian or an attorney.

In July 2008 the ECHR ruled in Douglas v. Cyprus that the country violated the applicant's Article 6 right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time. The applicant's legal proceedings, related to a postdivorce dispute over property distribution, lasted more than eight years. Similarly, in December 2008, the ECHR ruled in Mylonas v. Cyprus that the country violated Article 6 because the applicant's legal proceedings, stemming from a family dispute over property, lasted more than 10 years.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, permitting claimants to bring lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of human rights violations, and citizens successfully availed themselves of it.

Property Restitution

On January 15, the ECHR ruled in Michael Theodossiou Ltd. v. Cyprus that the country violated the applicant's Article 1 property rights under the convention because it failed to compensate the applicant for its property in a timely manner over the course of expropriation proceedings that lasted for more than 11 years.

Turkish Cypriots have filed a total of 57 court cases, eight of them during the year, to reclaim property located in the government-controlled area, and the Supreme Court issued judgments in two cases concerning Turkish Cypriot properties that are under the guardianship of the Ministry of Interior. According to the law, these types of properties cannot be returned unless the owners resettle permanently in the government-controlled area. In one case the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the applicant and declared null and void a decision by the guardian to turn down the owner's request for restitution of his property. In the second case, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the guardian rejecting the owner's request for restitution.

On April 28 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favor of the plaintiff in the case of Apostolides v. Orams, in which the Greek Cypriot plaintiff sought to enforce a Cyprus court order regarding property located in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots by applying the court order against the defendants' assets in the United Kingdom. The ECJ ruled that the fact that the Cyprus court judgment concerns land situated in an area of the state over which the government does not exercise effective control does not mean that the judgment is unenforceable under EU law. The case was seen as setting a precedent for the enforcement in EU member states of Cyprus court judgments concerning property in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. On November 13, the British Court of Appeal concluded a two-day hearing on the case; the ruling was not announced by year's end.

On January 20 and 27, the ECHR issued judgments in favor of Greek Cypriot applicants in 12 property cases brought against Turkey. In all the cases, the court held that Turkey violated and continued to violate the applicants' property rights under Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. On September 22, the ECHR issued judgments in favor of the Greek Cypriot applicants in 18 additional property cases. Turkey was found responsible for 18 violations of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), nine violations of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), and two violations of Article 3 (prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment).

In April 2008 the ECHR endorsed a friendly settlement brokered by the Turkish Cypriot "property commission" in 2007 between Greek Cypriot Michael Tymvios and Turkey. The settlement would exchange Tymvios's property in the northern part of the island for Turkish Cypriot property in the government-controlled area and a payment of one million dollars. In August 2008, however, Tymvios complained that the government, citing the guardianship law, refused to transfer ownership of the Turkish Cypriot property in the government-controlled area to him despite the ECHR ruling. On November 26, Tymvios filed a lawsuit against the attorney general, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Education, and the Larnaca School Commission for refusing to turn over to him the Turkish Cypriot property awarded to him by the "commission."

On July 28, the ECHR endorsed a friendly settlement brokered by the Turkish Cypriot "property commission" between a Greek Cypriot, Evgenia Alexandrou, and the government of Turkey. Alexandrou filed a case against Turkey in 1990 seeking damages for loss of use of 63 plots of land in Kyrenia. In January the ECHR found Turkey in violation of Alexandrou's right to property but did not establish compensation. In 2008 Alexandrou applied separately to the "commission" for compensation of approximately 10 million euros ($14.3 million) for loss of use of her property. In April the Turkish government and Alexandrou informed the ECHR of the settlement, which called for withdrawal of the case from the ECHR, restitution of part of Alexandrou's property, and 1.5 million British pounds ($2.4 million) in compensation to Alexandrou.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.

In 2008 the ECHR issued judgments that found two violations by the country of the right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In October 2008 the ECHR found that the country violated Article 8 in Kyriakides v. Cyprus and Taliadorou and Stylianou v. Cyprus. Both cases involved police officers who had been dismissed and later reinstated following allegations of torturing suspects. The domestic court originally found that significant injury had been caused to the applicants' moral and psychological integrity and awarded damages for moral injury, but this award was reversed on appeal. The ECHR found that the appeals court did not provide adequate explanation for the reversal of the award for moral damages, in violation of Article 8.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.

Individuals could criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal, and the government did not attempt to impede criticism.

Independent newspapers and periodicals proliferated. Several private television and radio stations competed effectively with government-controlled stations; government-owned stations accounted for approximately 18-20 percent of the viewership for television news and 30 percent of the general radio audience. International broadcasts, including telecasts from Turkey and Greece, were available without interference throughout the island.

In 2006 the Council of Ministers rejected a 2005 decision by the board of the Cyprus News Agency to appoint Christoforos Christoforou as its new director. Some newspapers and opposition parties attributed the rejection to Christoforou's authorship of articles criticizing government policies regarding the UN efforts in 2004 to reunify the island. The Cyprus Journalists' Union called on the government to reverse its decision and approve the appointment. Christoforou appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor in June 2008. In July 2008 the Attorney General's Office appealed the Supreme Court decision. The appeal was pending before the court at year's end.

The government imposed significant restrictions on Turkish (as opposed to Turkish Cypriot) journalists crossing the green line to cover news events in the government-controlled area.

Internet Freedom

There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including e-mail. The Internet was easily accessible and widely available to the public. According to International Telecommunication Union statistics for 2008, more than 38 percent of the country's inhabitants were users of the Internet.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were generally no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events, but certain oversight efforts threatened academic independence and activities.

The government continued to exert political pressure on universities to refrain from any contact with universities in the Turkish Cypriot community because the government considered them illegal.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law and constitution provide for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

The law and constitution provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.

The law and constitution specify that the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which is not under the authority of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greece, has the exclusive right to regulate and administer its internal affairs and property in accordance with its holy canons and charter. The law also states that the Turkish Cypriot religious trust, the Vakif, the Muslim institution that regulates religious activity for Turkish Cypriots, has the exclusive right to regulate and administer its internal affairs and property in accordance with Vakif laws and principles. No legislative, executive, or other act may contravene or interfere with the Orthodox Church or the Vakif. The law and constitution also recognize as official religious groups the Armenian Orthodox, Maronite Christians, and Roman Catholics.

The government required other religious groups to register as nonprofit companies in order to maintain bank accounts or engage in other financial transactions.

The ombudsman reported receiving complaints during the year from Muslim inmates in the Central Prison that they were unable to practice their religion in prison. The complaints were being investigated at year's end.

In September an imam from the mosque in Nicosia complained through the media that the Muslim community had difficulty obtaining visas for clergy from unspecified countries. Another religious community reported delays in obtaining visas from the government for clergy from Southeast Asia.

In May two NGOs reported that some Buddhist groups encountered government obstacles in obtaining property to use as houses of worship for their respective congregations.

The limited number of active mosques available for the growing Muslim population was a problem. The single functioning mosque in Nicosia was particularly overcrowded.

Missionaries have the legal right to proselytize; in contrast to 2008, there were no reports during the year of the government monitoring missionary activity. It is illegal for a missionary to use "physical or moral compulsion" to make religious conversions. Police may investigate missionary activity based on a citizen's complaint. Police can also open an investigation if missionaries are suspected of involvement in illegal activities threatening the security of the government, constitutional or public order, or public health and morals. No detentions or arrests were reported under these laws during the year.

The government required children in public primary and secondary schools to take instruction in the Greek Orthodox religion. Parents of other religions may request that their children be excused from such instruction and from attending religious services. This exemption is not allowed for children whose parents are Greek Cypriot, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.

Conscience and Peace Tax International reported that the length of alternative service for conscientious objectors was punitive compared with military service.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

In February vandals attacked a Muslim cemetery in the Limassol suburb of Kato Polemidia, destroying headstones and causing other damage. Police investigated the incident and questioned several persons but reported they did not find any leads.

In February the ombudsman issued a report on the case of a group of youths who attacked foreign residents in Ypsonas village in Limassol in June 2008, causing serious bodily injuries to some and material damage to their properties. Police arrested 12 young men between the ages of 15 and 18. The trial was ongoing at year's end. In her report, the ombudsman noted that the racist motives of the attack were never investigated and that there has never been a conviction in the country based on the law against racism and discrimination.

In May 2008 the NGO Action for Equality, Support, and Antiracism in Cyprus (KISA) reported that it continued to receive complaints from recognized refugees of Muslim origin that they had difficulty securing employment because of their religion. KISA also reported that police often beat asylum seekers of Muslim origin and that such asylum seekers faced difficulties securing residence permits. The NGO alleged that the "general climate" was not amenable for asylum seekers from countries where Islam is prevalent and that citizens in general demonstrated "aggressive behavior" toward Muslim asylees. Some asylum seekers reportedly had difficulty securing employment, and one asylee alleged that he could not secure housing because of religious discrimination.

The ombudsman received one complaint during the year alleging physical violence due to "religious racism." An investigation was ongoing at year's end.

Turkish Cypriots continued to claim that unused mosques in the government-controlled area had been vandalized. The government routinely carried out maintenance and repair of mosques in the area under its administration.

There were approximately 2,000 persons in the Jewish community, which consists of a very small number of native Jewish Cypriots and a greater number of expatriate Israeli, British, and other European Jews.

The Jewish community in Larnaca reported an increase in anti-Semitic incidents following the start of Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip in late December 2008. The Chabad House in Larnaca reported instances of rock and egg throwing that continued throughout the year, as well as harassing telephone calls. There were also several instances of anti-Semitic graffiti, including at bus stops along one of the main roads in Nicosia.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of movement within government-controlled areas, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

The government did not restrict Greek Cypriots from traveling to the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, but it generally advised them against spending the night at Greek Cypriot properties, gambling in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, or buying or developing property there. The government in many cases prohibited Turkish nationals from crossing from the area administered by Turkish Cypriots to the government-controlled area in the south.

The government allowed EU citizens and citizens of other countries not subject to a visa requirement, who entered from ports of entry in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, to cross the green line into the government-controlled area; the government maintained, however, that all ports of entry in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots are illegal.

Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were required to show identification cards when crossing the green line. Members of each community were required to obtain insurance coverage in the community where they planned to drive their vehicles. Turkish Cypriots flew in and out of Larnaca and Paphos airports without obstruction. The government issued 4,308 passports to Turkish Cypriots during the year.

The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Although Greek Cypriots displaced as a result of the 1974 division of the island fall under the UN definition of IDPs, the government considered them refugees. At the end of the year, these individuals and their descendants numbered 200,847. Depending on their income, IDPs and their descendants are eligible for financial assistance from the government. They have been resettled, have access to humanitarian organizations, and are not subject to attack, targeting, or mandatory return under dangerous conditions.

Protection of Refugees

The country is a party to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Its laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

In contrast to previous years, NGOs and refugees reported that the Asylum Service was better staffed and processed applications more quickly. Of the 37,750 applicants who filed from 2002 to the end of 2009, 257 were granted full refugee status and 2,013 were granted subsidiary protection status. During the year the government did not deport any refugees, and authorities granted full refugee status to 49 persons. The law forbids the detention of minor asylum seekers.

In contrast to previous years, refugees and NGOs did not report any asylum cases being closed without consideration or receiving a government response. NGOs and asylum seekers alleged that the Nicosia District Welfare Office continued to be inconsistent in the delivery of benefits to eligible asylum seekers. The ombudsman examined many such complaints and reported that, in many cases, the allegations were well founded, and her office made suggestions for remedial action.

In practice, the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

In contrast to previous years, KISA reported that police rarely violated the law and the human rights of asylum seekers by carrying out illegal arrests, detentions, and deportations. The group claimed that in some cases authorities treated asylum seekers as illegal immigrants or economic migrants and jailed or deported them. Similarly, the ombudsman reported that she did not receive any complaints from asylum seekers that police physically or psychologically abused them.

The government granted individuals determined to be refugees permission to stay and gave them temporary work permits, but it did not grant permanent resettlement rights. Prior to October 2008 NGOs and asylum seekers filed complaints with the ombudsman alleging that the government permitted the exploitation of asylum seekers as cheap labor by restricting their employment to the agricultural sector. In October 2008 the law was amended to allow asylum seekers to be employed in fisheries, the production of animal feed, waste management, gas stations and car washes, freight handling in the wholesale trade, building and outdoor cleaning, distribution of advertising and informational materials, and food delivery.

Asylum seekers whose cases were awaiting adjudication were allowed to begin working only after residing six months in the country but were limited to the areas previously outlined; during the six-month period, asylum seekers had access to a subsistence allowance and could live in the reception center for refugees located in Kofinou, the sole reception center for asylum seekers. There were complaints regarding the remoteness, limited capacity, and lack of facilities at Kofinou; conditions reportedly improved, however, after the government entered a private-public partnership with a university in 2008 to operate the center.

Asylum seekers who refused an available job could be cut off from state benefits. To obtain welfare benefits, asylum seekers had to have a valid address, which was impossible for many who were homeless. KISA reported that asylum seekers who were eligible for benefits received their checks only sporadically, and that in June 2008 more than 100 affected asylum seekers conducted a protest in response. It also reported that the Labor Office refused to approve labor contracts for asylum seekers outside the farming and agriculture sector, despite the October 2008 increase in the available areas for employment.

According to NGOs, asylum seekers reported discrimination in the provision of state medical care.

In January a 28-year-old asylum seeker died after allegedly waiting two days for treatment at a private clinic in Nicosia, and later at the Nicosia general hospital, following an accident at the horse farm where he was working. According to press reports, the private clinic did not offer the man treatment during the first 24 hours he was there, despite his having suffered a head injury. Police opened a case against the employer for illegal employment and a second case relating to the death of the asylum seeker. Both cases were presented to court and were pending trial at year's end. The coroner's investigation had not been completed.

In August the UNHCR complained through the media that a Kurdish child was denied government funding to travel abroad for medical treatment because of his refugee status, in contravention of the country's refugee law which provides refugees access to the same medical treatment as Cypriots and other EU citizens. Although the Health Ministry agreed to cover the travel costs on humanitarian grounds, the child was never taken for treatment abroad.

The government provided funding to two local colleges to support educational services to help recognized refugees integrate into society and to a local NGO to help torture victims.

The government provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees to 1,320 persons during the year.

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

The law and constitution provide citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage. In national elections, only those Turkish Cypriots who resided permanently in the government-controlled area were permitted to vote and run for office. In the elections for the European Parliament, all Cypriot citizens have a right to vote and run for office, including Turkish Cypriots who live in the area administered by the Turkish Cypriots.

Elections and Political Participation

In 2006 free and fair elections were held for the 56 seats assigned to Greek Cypriots in the 80-seat House of Representatives.

On June 6, the country held elections to the European Parliament that were considered free and fair.

In 2006 Ali Erel and Mustafa Damdelen, two leading members of the group of 78 Turkish Cypriots not residing in the government-controlled area who had been denied the opportunity to run, sued the government for failure to fully reinstate the Turkish Cypriot community's rights to vote and run for office. In 2007 the Supreme Court dismissed their application, and they subsequently applied to the ECHR for redress.

Political parties operated without restriction and outside interference.

Women held seven of the 56 seats filled in the House of Representatives and one of 11 ministerial posts. They also held senior positions in the judicial branch.

There were no members of minorities in the House of Representatives, and the 24 seats assigned to Turkish Cypriots went unfilled. The small Armenian Orthodox, Maronite Christian, and Roman Catholic communities elected special nonvoting observer representatives from their respective communities to the House of Representatives.

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, which vary depending on the charges, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption.

While the government generally investigated and prosecuted cases of corruption, cases usually moved at a slow pace, and the evidence law, which prohibits wiretapping and electronic surveillance, made obtaining convictions challenging.

On October 15, the attorney general ordered an investigation into allegations that the minister of agriculture had attempted to influence the procedure to appoint personnel in one of the ministry's departments. The complaints were made by a senior agriculture ministry inspector.

On July 31, the attorney general brought criminal charges against four police officers and the director of the central prison in connection with the December 2008 escape of double murderer and rapist Antonis Procopiou Kitas from a Nicosia private hospital, where he had been staying for seven months while serving a life sentence. The minister of justice and public order resigned over the escape, and the government appointed independent criminal investigators to investigate the possible involvement of police and government officials. Separate investigations were also ordered into how Kitas acquired a new passport and why he was allowed to stay at the hospital for such an extended period of time. The four officers charged in July were suspended from their duties; a court hearing was set for October 19. On November 18, the attorney general dropped the charges against the police officers.

State and public officials are required by law to declare their assets, but asset declarations are not public documents. Officials who fail to submit declarations are subject to a fine. In June the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the law requiring public officials to declare their assets. The attorney general appealed the decision.

The constitution provides citizens the right of access to government information, yet there are no specific laws that ensure public access. Civil servants were not allowed to provide access to government documents without first obtaining permission from the relevant minister. During the year there were no reported cases of the government denying individuals access to government information.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. There is a government ombudsman, whose portfolio includes human rights, and a legislative committee on human rights.

A number of NGOs considered themselves to be human rights groups. Most were concerned exclusively with alleged violations of the rights of Greek Cypriots by Turkey. Other NGOs included groups promoting migrant support and awareness of domestic violence and those concerned with allegations of police brutality. Domestic NGOs were numerous but had limited impact on public opinion or specific legislation. Few international NGOs were active in the country.

The UN, through the CMP, continued its efforts to account for persons missing after the intercommunal violence in 1963-64 and the conflict of 1974.

During the year the ombudsman received complaints from citizens and foreigners living on the island who believed their rights had been violated by the government. During her independent investigations, the ombudsman generally enjoyed good cooperation with other government bodies. The ombudsman's annual reports focused on police misconduct, treatment of patients at state hospitals, treatment of asylum seekers and foreign workers, and gender equality in the workplace. The Office of the Ombudsman was well respected and considered effective. In November 2008 the ombudsman stated that the government had complied with 80 percent of her office's recommendations.

The legislative committee on human rights, which most local NGOs considered effective, is made up of 10 members of the House of Representatives, who serve five-year terms. The committee discussed wide-ranging human rights problems, including trafficking in persons, prison conditions, and the rights of foreign workers. The executive branch did not exercise control over the committee.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions.

Women

The law criminalizes rape and spousal rape with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Most convicted offenders received considerably less than the maximum sentence. Police indicated that 29 cases of sexual assault were reported during the year.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was reported, and there has been a sharp increase in recent years in the number of reported cases. The law establishes clear mechanisms to report and prosecute family violence and provides that the testimony of minors and experts, such as psychologists, may be used as evidence to prosecute abusers. The law provides for prison terms for the abuse of family members. Doctors, hospital workers, and education professionals are required to report all suspected cases of domestic violence to police. Many victims refused to testify in court, however, and by law spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other. Courts were obliged to drop cases of domestic violence where the spousal victim was the only witness and refused to testify.

During the year, 540 cases of domestic violence were reported to police. Police initiated criminal investigations of 290 of these. In 80 percent of the cases, the victims were female.

An NGO working with domestic abuse victims reported a slight increase in the number of telephone calls to its hotline from 2008 to 2009. The NGO reported that 1,148 callers, of whom 83 percent were women, 8.4 percent children, and 8.6 percent men, claimed to be victims of domestic violence. The NGO also operated a shelter in Nicosia that served 125 victims of domestic violence during the year.

In September the media reported that five NGOs accused the government of deliberately minimizing the number of domestic violence victims by failing to collect accurate data using EU definitions. By their estimates, 80,000 Greek Cypriot women were directly subjected to domestic violence, and an estimated 4,000 foreign housemaids suffered violence at the hands of their employers.

The law does not prohibit prostitution. It is illegal to live off the profits of prostitution, however, and police routinely arrested pimps under this section of the law. Procuring a woman for prostitution is a misdemeanor. Police reported the arrest and investigation of 22 individuals for suspected involvement in 11 cases of prostitution during the year; at year's end, authorities continued to investigate five of the cases, four cases were awaiting trial, and two cases had been otherwise resolved.

The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but there were reports that it was a widespread problem, with most incidents unreported to authorities. In September a Cyprus University of Technology (TEPAK) report showed that 6 percent of employees in the country had experienced sexual harassment in their workplace and that one in two persons believed that some victims deserved the harassment. During the year the Labor Office received 54 complaints regarding sexual harassment, 52 by foreign housekeepers. The Labor Office's initial investigation revealed that most of the cases were unfounded pretexts used to justify a change of employer before the expiration of a housekeeper's contract. Only one complaint was found to be valid and was scheduled for further investigation. In 2006 authorities investigated and prosecuted one of the country's ambassadors, Costas Papademas, for sexually harassing two female employees at the overseas mission he headed. In 2007 the court found him guilty and sentenced him to seven months' imprisonment. In May 2008, however, the Supreme Court acquitted Papademas, ruling that the main witnesses' testimony was unreliable. He served four months in prison during the interim. Although the case was widely reported in the press, reaction to his acquittal was muted.

Couples and individuals were generally able to freely decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There was easy access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, and women were diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, equally with men.

Women generally have the same legal status as men under family and property law and in the judicial system. The National Mechanism for Women's Rights under the Ministry of Justice and Public Order is tasked with the promotion, protection, and coordination of women's rights. Laws requiring equal pay for men and women performing the same work were enforced effectively at the white-collar level. Despite a strong legal framework, the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance's enforcement was ineffective at the blue-collar level. Research by one NGO suggested that remuneration for female blue-collar workers was 25 to 30 percent less than for their male counterparts.

During the year an NGO representing divorced mothers worked with police to encourage efforts to collect delinquent child support payments. The courts may garnish wages and assets and ultimately imprison persons to enforce child support payments.

Children

Citizenship is derived from one's parents (jus sanguinis), and there is universal birth registration at the time of birth.

During 2008 the ombudsman's office received a complaint regarding discriminatory treatment of Romani children in public education. The ombudsman's investigation was still ongoing at year's end.

Child abuse was a problem. The Welfare Department reported an 8.8 percent increase in cases of child abuse during the year compared with 2008. The Welfare Department stated that some cases of abuse were linked to domestic violence, alcohol abuse, psychological illness, and cultural perceptions. Police reported that 32 cases of child abuse were prosecuted during the year. Of those, eight resulted in convictions, one in acquittal, 20 were pending trial at year's end, and three were withdrawn, suspended, or interrupted.

In 2008 there were two reports that girls were trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation; there were no reports of such trafficking in 2009.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 17, and sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 17 is a criminal offense. Sexual intercourse with a person between 13 and 17 is punishable with a maximum of three years' imprisonment. Sexual intercourse with a person under 13 is punishable with up to life in prison. Possession of child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment.

Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons; there were widespread reports, however, that persons were trafficked to, through, and within the country. During the year there was a sharp increase in the number of victims of labor trafficking. Police continued to identify victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The police antitrafficking unit remained understaffed, although in September a new member was added to its four-member staff.

On February 1, the government abolished the use of "artiste" category work permits for women from non-EU countries working in the cabaret industry. Previously, individuals from non-EU countries wishing to work in Cyprus as "artistes" could apply for work permits as creative artists (writers, composers, etc.) or performing artists (dancers, singers, actors, etc.) and provide evidence of their qualifications, experience, and international renown.

The country was primarily a destination for women trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Although the government generally acknowledged its trafficking problem, some authorities continued to tolerate the situation despite the 2005 adoption of a national action plan to combat trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation of children. The country was a destination for women trafficked from the Philippines, Moldova, Morocco, Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania. Within the previous three years, there was evidence that women coming from China on student visas engaged in prostitution and, in some cases, were victims of sexual exploitation. NGOs reported that female domestic workers from South and Southeast Asian countries were forced to work long hours, and there were allegations of labor trafficking, especially in the field of elder care. There were no reliable statistics on the number of victims trafficked for sexual purposes, but 18 women filed charges during the year. There were no reports of children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation during the year.

Traffickers fraudulently recruited victims and often rotated victims among different cabarets and cities. In some cases, women reportedly were arbitrarily denied all or part of their salaries, forced to surrender their passports, raped, beaten, threatened, involuntarily detained, or forced into providing sexual services for clients. Contacts in the cabaret industry alleged that the "artistes" often owed money upon their arrival and had a verbal understanding with the cabaret owners to pay back the cost of their travel and lodging. Some NGOs alleged that government officials with oversight and policing responsibility over the sex industry frequented cabarets and nightclubs.

It is a felony to engage in the exploitation and trafficking of persons, but the conviction rate for trafficking offenses remained low. As of year's end, seven persons had been convicted. A court may order persons convicted of trafficking to pay all or part of the expenses incurred for the provision of protection, temporary shelter, medical care, and psychiatric care for victims, as well as compensation to the victim, including repatriation expenses. The ministries of interior, labor and social insurance, justice, health, and education and the attorney general shared responsibility for combating trafficking as part of the Multidisciplinary Team against Trafficking (MDAT), with the Ministry of Interior as the lead government agency. The MDAT also included two NGOs.

In February the Council of Ministers appointed three independent criminal investigators to examine the events surrounding the 2001 death of 20-year-old Oxana Rancheva from Russia. Rancheva fell from a fifth-floor balcony when she tried to escape from the apartment of the brother of her cabaret-owner employer. The police attributed her death to an accident. The investigation was ongoing at year's end.

Through the end of the year, police arrested 68 individuals involved in cases related to prostitution and trafficking. Of those, 46 individuals involved in 15 cases were arrested specifically on trafficking charges. Of those cases, 11 concerned sexual exploitation, two cases concerned both sexual and labor exploitation, and two cases concerned labor exploitation. Police statistics indicated that 14 cases were prosecuted and pending trial, and one case was otherwise disposed of. Of the 42 trafficking cases pending investigation and trial at the end of 2008, one resulted in a four-year sentence, one case involving four individuals resulted in 15-month sentences for each of the persons accused, one resulted in a five-month sentence, and, in one case, the accused was fined 3,500 euros ($5,000). Of the remaining cases, 28 were pending trial, five resulted in acquittals, and two were otherwise disposed of. The prosecution of three cases had been suspended by year's end.

On November 5, police arrested a 38-year-old Cypriot man in connection with a suspected case of labor trafficking and exploitation of approximately 160 Romanian workers. Approximately 110 of the workers were reportedly living in squalid conditions in prefabricated structures owned by the suspect, who allegedly underpaid them, gave them insufficient money for food, and withheld their travel documents. The case was under investigation at year's end. The same man had been arrested and released on bail in December 2008 in connection with a Romanian trafficking ring that similarly brought victims to Cyprus to work for a fee, then seized their passports and identification documents in order to extort more money. According to press reports on that ring, police recovered 200 passports and 78 identity cards in a Nicosia apartment during the investigation, and several suspects were arrested in Romania.

Police participated in or assisted with 42 international trafficking investigations and requested assistance from Europol and Interpol in six trafficking investigations.

There were allegations of corruption and xenophobia related to trafficking in the police force, the Ministry of Interior, and the Attorney General's Office. In April 2008 four bishops from the Greek Orthodox Church alleged during parliamentary hearings that "certain government officials" were collaborating with traffickers. During the hearings, the newspaper Alithia reported that police submitted a confidential report to a parliamentary committee stating that individuals involved with trafficking in persons "have influence on government officials, which makes the arrest and prosecution of traffickers more difficult."

Under the law, persons identified as victims of trafficking are granted at minimum a one-month residency permit to give them time to recover and decide whether they wish to cooperate with the police in the investigation and to testify at trial. The law obligates the government to protect and support trafficking victims with financial assistance, shelter, medical and psychiatric care, and psychological support, as well as legal aid and access to government-funded training and educational programs. The government is obligated to facilitate the victims' repatriation under safe and dignified conditions. Through October 31, police identified 107 victims of trafficking, all of whom filed charges against their traffickers. The majority, 89, were victims of trafficking for labor exploitation, while 18 were victims of sexual exploitation. Government welfare services provided financial aid, counseling, and temporary shelter to 215 victims.

Despite the legal protections in place, NGOs reported that trafficking victims who had provided court testimony in antitrafficking cases were excluded from the government's witness protection program, leaving them vulnerable, weakening antitrafficking cases, and providing a disincentive for future witnesses to testify. In response, the government contended that witness protection was available if requested, but no requests for protection had been made. There were also allegations that the Attorney General's Office downgraded trafficking cases and systematically placed antitrafficking cases in lower courts rather than the assize courts, which are reserved for more serious crimes and penalties. NGOs alleged that the district courts were not as well equipped to deal with antitrafficking cases, leading to a lack of convictions on trafficking charges and more lenient sentences. The government reported that all pending trafficking cases were before the assize courts.

There were reports that cabaret owners and agents for dancers used attorneys to bribe potential witnesses and pressured women to withdraw complaints or not to follow through with testifying in court. Of the 18 women who requested police protection during the year, the government reported all were waiting to testify. On average victims waited approximately one year before the commencement of their trials, which NGOs alleged resulted in weaker cases because of inconsistent testimony and because victims often left the country.

NGOs that protect the rights of women and immigrant workers were available to assist trafficking victims and reported that they received one to two requests for assistance per month.

The NGO Stigma in Limassol operated a shelter for trafficking victims until the end of 2008, when it closed down due to financial difficulties. Stigma continued to actively locate victims and offered a wide range of services, including counseling, psychological, and financial support, and assistance to victims in finding alternate employment or in repatriation in cooperation with NGOs in victims' home countries.

See also the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or in the provision of other state services, and in practice the government generally enforced these provisions. The law mandates that public buildings and tourist facilities built after 1999 be accessible to all; government enforcement of the law was ineffective, however, and older buildings frequently lacked access for persons with disabilities. There were no appropriate institutions for adults suffering from mental disabilities who were in need of long-term care.

The amended People with Disabilities Law, which extended the ombudsman's authority to cover discrimination based on disabilities in both the private and public sectors, had not been fully implemented by year's end. Problems facing persons with disabilities included narrow or nonexistent sidewalks and lack of transport, parking spaces, accessible toilets, and elevators. The ombudsman examined a number of complaints concerning access to goods, services, and employment. Many of the complaints were found to be justified and the ombudsman made recommendations for the elimination of such discriminatory policies and practices.

There were no long-term care facilities specifically for persons with mental disabilities, but many such persons were housed at the Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital. In 2007 an association representing approximately 300 families with children with Down syndrome complained that the government did not respond to its repeated calls for the creation of a specialized center for the treatment of children with Down syndrome, particularly those in need of temporary hospitalization. Some were housed at the hospital, where they allegedly received inadequate care. The parents claimed that the children were left naked, locked in their wards for excessive amounts of time, and placed under the influence of sedative medication. On December 9, the same association complained that the government rejected its request in the spring for a subsidy to cover its operating expenses, and as a result it had to close down its office.

In February 2008 the president of the Cyprus Mental Health Commission, Christodoulos Messis, stated that, in order to reduce numbers, patients in the Athalassa psychiatric unit were being released into nursing homes for the elderly regardless of their age, with no plan for their rehabilitation within the community. He criticized the mental health services for not creating appropriate halfway houses and boarding schools to host psychiatric patients wishing to reintegrate into society and return to active employment.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance's Service for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled was responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. In addition the minister chaired the Pancyprian Council for Persons with Disabilities, which included representatives of government services, organizations representing persons with disabilities, and employer and employee organizations. The council monitored action for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and served as a forum for persons with disabilities to contribute to public policy.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were reported incidents of government and societal discrimination against members of minority national and ethnic groups, particularly Turkish Cypriots, Roma, Filipinos, Pontian Greeks, and Sri Lankans.

The 1975 Vienna III Agreement remains the legal source of authority regarding the treatment of Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area. The government generally effectively enforced the agreement, which provides for the voluntary transfer of populations, free and unhindered access by the UNFICYP to Turkish Cypriots living in the south, and facilities for education, medical care, and religious activities.

In January the ombudsman complained through the media that foreigners were being subjected to humiliating and discriminatory treatment by authorities at passport control at Larnaca Airport. The ombudsman reported that she was not aware of any changes to these practices by year's end.

The Maronite religious group complained to the ombudsman that the government failed to take effective measures to protect the use of the Maronite language. The ombudsman found the complaint to be justified and made recommendations to the government.

In October the European Network Against Racism Cyprus issued its 2008 "shadow report" on racism in Cyprus. The report noted a significant rise in racist violence and called for the government to adopt and implement an action plan covering all areas where discrimination and racism persist. It also called on the government to develop and enact a comprehensive migration policy that would include an integration policy for migrants.

In March a Cypriot citizen of Lebanese origin accused the Limassol Hospital of denying him treatment unless he spoke to doctors and staff in Greek.

During a police operation in the early morning hours of September 25, police took 150 individuals to police stations, reportedly to confirm their immigration status. Authorities arrested 36 for "illegal residence" and 12 for involvement in violence that took place earlier at Nicosia's only functioning mosque. The minister of interior was critical of the operation, noting that his ministry was responsible for implementation of immigration policy; the minister of justice defended the operation, stating that police were simply doing their job. Ombudsman Iliana Nicolaou, acting as head of the Authority against Racism and Discrimination, said such practices fed xenophobic attitudes and racist stereotypes and had nothing to do with the country's immigration policy. She expressed her deep concern over the police action and opened an investigation that was still in progress at year's end.

In December 2008 the press reported that a large group of schoolchildren beat a 15-year-old Cypriot girl of African descent after a school volleyball game. The attackers shouted racist slogans and did not stop the beating until police arrived. The girl was treated for severe injuries at the hospital. The girl's father and KISA complained that police did not take the girl to the hospital but kept her in a room at the school until her father arrived. Police subsequently turned the father away three times when he attempted to file a complaint and made no arrests in connection with the attack. A number of senior government officials publicly criticized the attack. The teachers' union, OELMEK, denied that there was any racism in the schools, however. The ombudsman opened an investigation into the incident. In May the ombudsman publicly criticized some Ministry of Education officials for presenting the attack as an incident of school violence rather than of racism. The ombudsman's investigation found that the police neglected to act efficiently in this case and failed to file criminal charges against the offenders within the antidiscrimination law. The attorney general reviewed the case and decided that there were no grounds for criminal court proceedings.

Many foreign workers reported that they almost always faced delays in the renewal of work visas despite the fact that they followed proper and timely procedures. In many cases, this left them vulnerable to detention and deportation by immigration police.

Some Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area reportedly faced difficulties obtaining identification cards and other government documents, particularly if they were born after 1974. Turkish Cypriots made few formal complaints to the UNFICYP about their living conditions in the south. Complaints most often concerned the lack of affordable accommodation.

After complaining repeatedly about the lack of a Turkish-language school in Limassol, the Turkish Cypriot teachers' union filed suit, seeking a declaration from the Supreme Court that a 2005 decision by the Council of Ministers to operate a mixed elementary school in Limassol with a specialized program and staff to serve the needs of the Turkish-speaking students was null and void. The union argued that, under the 1960 constitution, the Council of Ministers had no competence in matters relating to the education of Turkish Cypriots. In March 2008 the Supreme Court rejected the union's appeal. The government stated that, according to surveys of Turkish Cypriots in the government-controlled area, none had requested a Turkish-language school.

The ombudsman received complaints that the government denied automatic citizenship for children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens. Instead of granting citizenship automatically, the Ministry of Interior routinely sought approval from the Council of Ministers before confirming the citizenship of such children. During the year the Council of Ministers approved 365 cases. The ombudsman's office had no authority to examine the complaints because the Council of Ministers' decision to apply different criteria for granting citizenship to children born to one Turkish parent was a political one. Children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens and living outside of Cyprus were automatically granted citizenship, however.

In June 2008 the Turkish Cypriot press reported that Turkish Cypriot Emirali Parlan and seven Turkish Cypriot colleagues working at a construction site in Paralimni alleged that Greek Cypriot police attacked and beat them. Parlan said that police officers pointed their revolvers at the workers, handcuffed them to each other, made them lie on the ground, beat them, and made them stay on the ground under the sun for half an hour. Parlan claimed that he showed his Republic of Cyprus identification to police but that they dropped it on the ground and later left laughing as if nothing had happened. The Independent Authority investigated the incident and found that the officers had committed no offense.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Despite legal protections, gays and lesbians faced significant societal discrimination, and few lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) persons were open about their sexual orientation. According to a report during the year by the Gay Liberation Movement of Cyprus (AKOK) and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans- and Intersex Association (ILGA), there was no significant LGBT movement in the country, and a general stigma against homosexuality was present in society. The organization reported that some local religious figures and politicians frequently stated in public that homosexual individuals were "immoral persons, bodily and mentally perverted." The groups also noted that there was no specific LGBT antidiscrimination law and that the lack of awareness-raising efforts and education about LGBT issues significantly contributed to the stigmatization of LGBT persons.

In January the ombudsman publicly claimed that authorities at passport control at Larnaca Airport asked some foreign nationals were asked about their sexual orientation.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

An NGO reported complaints of discrimination toward persons with HIV/AIDS and asserted that HIV-positive persons faced social exclusion and termination from employment. In June the media reported that a Congolese asylum seeker faced deportation while awaiting a third HIV test at Nicosia General Hospital, following an earlier positive test. According to press reports, the Immigration and Asylum Services claimed that the man had voluntarily withdrawn his asylum claim and asked to be sent back home. The man was eventually granted subsidiary protection status and remained in the country.

Incitement to Acts of Discrimination

The government continued to use textbooks at the primary and secondary school levels that included language biased against Turkish Cypriots and Turks or that refrained from mentioning the Turkish-Cypriot community altogether. This was a particularly serious concern with history textbooks. Anecdotal evidence indicated that teachers used handouts and held discussions that included inflammatory language in the classroom. A special government committee was established in 2008 to look at issues of education reform, including updating history textbooks.

In July National Guard training officers at two sites reportedly forced conscripts to chant anti-Turkish slogans. The defense minister stated that the National Guard chief ordered the immediate withdrawal of the training officers when he became aware of the problem, calling on new conscripts to disobey orders and report to superiors if they are ordered to shout slogans not been ordered by the head of the National Guard.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers, except members of the police and military forces, have the legal right to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization, and workers did so in practice. Police officers were only permitted to join associations that have the right to bargain collectively but not to go on strike. More than 70 percent of the workforce belonged to independent unions. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government generally protected this right in practice. All workers, including migrant and foreign workers, have the right to strike; authorities have the power to curtail strikes in "essential services," but this power was used rarely in practice. The law provides that members of the armed forces, police, and gendarmerie do not have the right to strike, but the right is recognized for all other providers of essential services. An agreement between the government and essential services personnel provides for dispute resolution and protects workers in the sector.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for collective bargaining, and workers exercised this right in practice; collective bargaining agreements were not legally enforceable, however. Collective bargaining agreements covered all workers, citizen and foreign, with the exception of housekeepers and cabaret workers; approximately 60 percent of workers were covered by such agreements.

Antiunion discrimination is illegal, but union leaders contended that private sector employers were able to discourage union activity because the enforcement of labor regulations was sporadic and penalties for antiunion practices were minimal.

There are no special laws for or exemptions from regular labor laws in the export processing zone at the port of Larnaca.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The government prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; there were reports that women and children were trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic labor, however, and NGOs reported isolated cases of asylum seekers trafficked for forced labor in agriculture (see section 6, Trafficking in Persons).

The Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance experienced a substantial increase in the number of complaints of labor exploitation. Foreign workers, primarily from Eastern Europe and East and South Asia, were reportedly forced to work up to 13 hours a day, seven days a week, for very low wages. NGOs and the ombudsman confirmed that employers often retained a portion of foreign workers' salaries as payment for accommodations.

Many domestic workers were reluctant to report contract violations by their employers out of fear of losing their jobs and consequently their work and residency permits. An NGO reported that there were cases of domestic workers whose travel documents were withheld by their employers. In one case, a housemaid who accused her employer of rape was not allowed to change employers until the completion of her employer's trial. In addition, police filed two criminal cases against her for working illegally.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children, defined as persons under 15, except in certain cases such as a combined work-training programs for children who have attained the age of 14 or employment in cultural, artistic, sports, or advertising activities, subject to certain rules limiting work hours. Nighttime work and engagement of children in street trading is prohibited. The law also permits the employment of adolescents, defined as persons between the ages of 15 and 18, provided it is not harmful, damaging, or dangerous, and also subject to rules limiting hours of employment. Employment of adolescents between midnight and 4:00 a.m. is not permitted. The minimum age for employment in an "industrial undertaking" is 16.

The government effectively enforced laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace. Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance inspectors are responsible for enforcing the child labor laws and did so effectively. There were isolated examples of children under 16 working for family businesses.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage was 791 euros (approximately $1,130) per month for shop assistants, nurses' assistants, clerks, hairdressers, and nursery assistants. The minimum wage rose to 840 euros ($1,200) per month after six months of employment. For asylum seekers working in the agricultural sector, however, the minimum monthly wage was either 425 euros ($608) with accommodation and food provided or 767 euros ($1,100) without accommodation and food. Neither amount provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The law provides that foreign and local workers receive equal treatment.

Workers in almost all other occupations, including unskilled labor, were covered under collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers within the same economic sector. The wages set in these agreements were significantly higher than the minimum wage. The wages set for unskilled workers not covered by the collective bargaining agreements, i.e., non-EU performers (previously called "artistes") and domestic workers, were typically lower than the legal minimum wage.

The Ministry of Interior's Migration Service set the starting salary for foreigners working as housekeepers at a minimum of 290 euros (approximately $415) per month, plus a minimum of 120 euros ($172) for lodging if the worker was not a live-in, and an additional 16 percent for social insurance, which employers were required to pay directly to the government. The ministry reported the current gross monthly wage of domestic workers to be 422 euros ($603). Medical insurance, visa fees, travel, and repatriation expenses are covered by the employers. Cabaret performers' contracts typically stipulated that workers receive at least 205 euros ($293) per week for 36 hours of work.

Foreign workers were allowed to claim pensions, and in some cases there were bilateral agreements that allowed workers to claim credit in their home countries. Unions and labor confederations were generally effective in enforcing negotiated wage rates (collectively bargained rates), which were generally much higher than the minimum wage. The Migration Service was responsible for enforcing the minimum wage for foreign workers but did not actively do so.

The legal maximum workweek was 48 hours, including overtime. Unions and employers within the same economic sector collectively determined the actual working hours. In the private sector, white-collar employees typically worked 39 hours a week and blue-collar employees worked 38 hours a week. In the public sector, the workweek was 38 hours in the winter and 35 hours in the summer. The law does not require premium pay for overtime or mandatory rest periods; this is usually stipulated in the contracts of workers and in the collective agreements in larger sectors. The same conditions applied to foreign workers. Labor ministry inspectors are responsible for effectively enforcing these laws; labor unions, however, reported problems in their enforcement in sectors not covered by collective agreements. They also reported that certain employers, mainly in the building industry, exploited illegal foreign workers by paying them wages that were much lower than those provided for in the collective agreements.

In May eight seamen from Burma claimed through the media that they worked for a Paphos shipping company 11 to 16 hours per day for eight consecutive months without a single day off. The seamen earned between 120 and 137 euros ($172 to $196) per month, which was significantly less than the terms agreed to in the contract they signed prior to leaving their home country. After leaving their employment, the merchant shipping department accused the men of being "escapees" and the immigration police arrested them, although they were later released. On June 10, following mediation by the merchant shipping department, the employer was obliged to pay their salaries in full as well as their repatriation expenses. The seamen had filed a case with the Supreme Court, which they withdrew following the resolution of the dispute.

There were reports of mistreatment of maids and other foreign domestic workers. Such reports usually involved allegations that maids, primarily from East or South Asia, were mistreated by their employers or fired without cause in violation of their contracts. Some domestic workers, particularly live-in maids, reported working excess hours for employer families at all times, night and day, without additional compensation or time off. Although the law protects domestic workers who file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance from being deported until their cases have been adjudicated, NGOs reported that many domestic workers did not complain to authorities about mistreatment due to fear of deportation.

Health and safety laws apply to places of work in all economic sectors and were enforced by government inspectors. Factory inspectors processed complaints and inspected businesses to ensure that occupational safety laws were observed. Their inspections were supported by close government cooperation with employer and employee organizations. However, the law does not apply to private households where persons are employed as domestic servants. Workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their continued employment, and authorities effectively enforced this right.

THE AREA ADMINISTERED BY TURKISH CYPRIOTS

Since 1974 the northern part of Cyprus, with a population of approximately 265,000 persons, has been run by a Turkish Cypriot administration that proclaimed itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC") in 1983. The United States does not recognize the "TRNC," nor does any country other than Turkey. Mehmet Ali Talat was elected "president" in 2005 in free and fair elections. Elections to the "Assembly of the Republic" in April were also free and fair and resulted in the formation of a single-party "government" of the UBP (National Unity Party). The 2006 municipal elections were generally free and fair. The "TRNC constitution" is the basis for the "laws" that govern the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Police and security forces were ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish military, per transitional article 10 of the "TRNC constitution," which cedes responsibility for public security and defense "temporarily" to Turkey.

There were problems in some areas. Police abuse of detainees and prison conditions were particular problems. There were restrictions on the rights of asylum seekers and no regulatory infrastructure to handle asylum applications or to protect the rights of asylum seekers. Trafficking in persons continued to be a problem.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports that authorities or their agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

Authorities participated in the autonomous, tripartite (UN, Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot) UN Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus as part of its continuing efforts to account for persons who remained missing after the intercommunal violence in 1963-64 and the conflict of 1974. In 2006 the CMP began its project to exhume, identify, and return remains. By December 2009 the CMP exhumed the remains of a total of 596 missing persons and returned the remains of 47 Turkish Cypriots to their families. Exhumations continued in different parts of the island. According to the CMP, 1,455 Greek Cypriots and 455 Turkish Cypriots remained missing.

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

The "law" prohibits such practices; there were reports that police abused detainees, however. The "law" does not refer to "torture," which falls under the section of the criminal code that deals with assault, violence, and battery.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions did not meet international standards. Inmates complained of overcrowding at the prison, but the authorities claimed that they addressed the problem. During the year inmates also raised complaints via the media of unsanitary living conditions, brutality, and prison authorities' negligence. In the prison, which had a former capacity of 291 inmates, the introduction of a bunk-bed system raised official bed capacity to 427; of the 299 prisoners held there at year's end, 57 percent were foreigners, mostly Turkish citizens. More than 40 percent of the prisoners were awaiting trial.

On October 14, inmates went on a hunger strike to protest poor living conditions, corruption, and mistreatment by custodial staff, as well as negligence by the authorities.

In October an opposition "member of parliament" visited the prison and told the press afterward that prison conditions were unsatisfactory.

In November a riot broke out in the prison. The media reported that inmates set a section of the prison on fire to protest the warden and "government's" failure to improve conditions. One inmate allegedly told his lawyer that the riot police who raided the prison set the mattresses on fire.

In November the head of the Prison Wardens Union alleged that visitors, lawyers, and civilian workers often entered the prison unchecked and supplied inmates with drugs and cell phones.

In September 2008 the media reported that a number of inmates were on a hunger strike to protest poor living conditions. In October 2008 a group of inmates set their beds on fire to protest what they considered to be severe punishment in the prison.

In September an anonymous 17-year-old former prisoner, who had been convicted of theft and was recently released from the Nicosia prison, told the media that custodial staff and inmates mistreated and physically intimidated inmates convicted of rape. The youth also claimed that police beat him when he was arrested and forced him to sign a false police-drafted testimony.

In response to a 2007 riot, prison authorities summoned the special riot police to restore order; the riot police, however, allegedly targeted not only rioters but the general prison population, beating scores of prisoners with truncheons. After obtaining permission from the "Ministry of Interior," the Turkish Cypriot Doctors Association examined prison inmates in May 2008; of a random sample of 60 prisoners, 54 had heavy bruising on their legs consistent with blows from truncheons. The "prime minister" subsequently announced that the police intervention would be investigated; however, at year's end, there had been no effective investigation of the events.

Juveniles were not held separately from adults.

During the year authorities permitted prison visits by local journalists. In 2007 a group from the Turkish Cypriot Doctors Association visited the prison to observe and investigate. A group from the Turkish Cypriot Bar Association and another from the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Association visited the prison in 2008. According to authorities, a number of foreign diplomats visited the prison during the year to inspect prison conditions and to evaluate the situation of some foreign prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The "law" prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and authorities generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Police are responsible for law enforcement. The chief of police reports to a Turkish Cypriot general, who is nominally under the supervision of the "Prime Ministry," holding the "security portfolio." The police and security forces are ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish military, however, per transitional article 10 of the "TRNC constitution," which "temporarily" cedes responsibility for public security and defense to Turkey. Security forces were generally cooperative with civilian authorities and effective in matters of law enforcement. The police are divided into eight functional divisions and five geographic divisions.

The "Office of the Attorney General" continued to work with the inspection division (or occasionally the criminal investigative division) to investigate allegations of police misconduct. In contrast to previous years, there were investigations of five officers concerning the abuse of detainees during the year. The investigations were pending at year's end.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

Judicially issued arrest warrants are required for arrests. No person may be detained for more than 24 hours without referral of the case to the courts for a longer period of detention. Authorities generally respected this right in practice. Detainees were usually promptly informed of charges against them, although individuals believed to have committed a violent offense were often held for longer periods of time without being charged. Judges could order that suspects be held for investigative detention for up to 10 days before formal charges are filed, or up to three months for those accused of serious crimes. According to "legislation," any detained person must be brought before a judge within 24 hours. The person can then be detained in police custody for a period of up to three months, but a judge reviews the detention every eight days. Bail was permitted and routinely used. Detainees were usually allowed prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice. The authorities provided lawyers to the destitute for violent offenses only. Particularly at the time of arrest, police sometimes did not observe legal protections. Some suspects were not permitted to have their lawyers present when giving testimony, in contravention of the "law." Suspects who demanded the presence of a lawyer were sometimes threatened with stiffer charges or physically intimidated.

In June the Chair of the Turkish Cypriot Bar Association told the media that police commonly mistreated suspects and used violence to coerce suspects to provide testimony.

In October the president of the Nicosia Regional Bar suggested that surveillance cameras be placed in police stations and detention centers in order to deter torture and coercion. The president also complained that arrested suspects were not granted access to their lawyers during questioning and that this was left to the discretion of the police. He insisted that the criminal code in use since the colonial period must be revised and updated to meet international standards.

In June the lawyer for three defendants in the Yucel Erol murder case arrested in May alleged that police repeatedly tortured his clients in order to obtain confessions. The lawyer maintained that the defendants, Mustafa Cavga, Hasan Nur, and Emin Ozbeyit, were subjected to severe beating and threats while in detention. The judge ordered the suspects to undergo a medical examination to substantiate the claim. The NGO Torture Prevention Platform lobbied the "attorney general" to investigate the claims but reported at year's end that no effective investigation was conducted. In December there were media reports that a former detainee claimed to have witnessed Hasan Nur being tortured. At year's end, the case was still underway.

In August 2008 three Iranians arrested in Famagusta for possession of opium complained in court that narcotics police tortured them to force a guilty plea. The lawyers for two of the three suspects complained that their clients were stripped naked and beaten in detention and pressured to sign a statement. The judge ordered the suspects to undergo a medical examination, which did not substantiate the defendants' claims, and the trials proceeded. In June the "Torture Prevention Platform," associated with the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, filed an official complaint with authorities related to the case. As of year's end, no results had been reported.

In September 2008 the lawyer representing Ferhat Beyoglu and Metin Taskin, both accused murder suspects, claimed in court that police were using torture to pressure his clients to plead guilty. The judge ordered a medical examination, which did not substantiate the defendants' claims, and the trials proceeded.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The "law" provides for an independent judiciary, and authorities generally respected judicial independence in practice.

Most criminal and civil cases begin in district courts, from which appeals are made to the "Supreme Court." There were no special courts for political offenses. In 2007 "legislation" was passed transferring jurisdiction from military to civilian courts for cases in which civilians are accused of violating military restrictions, such as filming or photographing military zones.

In January the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Turkey and in favor of an applicant, Yasir Amer, who claimed that he had not been provided with a translator and, therefore, had been denied the right to a fair trial as provided under the European Convention on Human Rights. Amer had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a businessman in the northern part of Cyprus. The ECHR ruled that there had been a violation of the convention on account of the excessive length of the criminal proceedings; the court awarded Amer 5,000 euros ($7,150) in nonpecuniary damages and 2,000 euros ($2,860) for costs and expenses.

Trial Procedures

The "law" provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The "TRNC constitution" provides for public trials, the defendant's right to be present at those trials, and the defendant's right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Authorities provide lawyers to indigent defendants only when charged with violent offenses. Defendants are allowed to question witnesses against them and present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. The "law" also requires that defendants and their attorneys have access to evidence held by the "government" related to their cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have a right to appeal. Authorities generally respected these rights in practice.

In September 2008 the head of the Nicosia Bar, Baris Mamali, complained via the media that protections of detainees' rights were not sufficiently implemented, contravening articles 16-18 of the "TRNC constitution." Mamali confirmed that legally granted rights, such as the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer, were not uniformly respected. Mamali also stated that arbitrary and unjust arrests took place at times.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There was generally an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters, permitting claimants to bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. There were generally no problems enforcing domestic court orders.

Property Restitution

During the year Greek Cypriots continued to pursue property suits in the ECHR against the Turkish government for the loss since 1974 of property located in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Under ECHR rules, an appellant does not have standing to bring a case before the ECHR until that appellant exhausts all local remedies, unless no adequate local remedy exists. In response to the ECHR's 2005 ruling in the Xenides-Arestis case that Turkey's "subordinate local authorities" in Cyprus had not provided an adequate local remedy, Turkish Cypriot authorities established a "property commission" to handle claims by Greek Cypriots; later in 2006, the ECHR ruled that the commission had satisfied "in principle" the ECHR's requirement for an effective local remedy. The "property commission" had reportedly received 437 applications by the end of 2009. By the end of December, 132 cases had been completed; four applicants received restitution of their properties outright (plus compensation), one received restitution pending a future settlement of the Cyprus problem, one accepted partial restitution, and 76 accepted compensation in lieu of restitution. Two property exchange (plus compensation) decisions were also issued. Two applications were rejected and 46 revoked. At year's end the commission had paid over 38 million British pounds (approximately $62 million) in compensation.

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

The "law" prohibits such actions; there were reports, however, that police subjected Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots to surveillance. Although the authorities reported otherwise, a Maronite representative asserted that 13 houses in the village of Karpasia were occupied by the Turkish military during the year.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The "law" provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the authorities generally respected these rights in practice, but journalists were at times obstructed in their reporting, fined, and threatened with more serious charges.

Individuals were generally able to publicly criticize the authorities without reprisal. In November 2008, however, two youths were arrested for forming a group on Facebook that involved "gross personal insults" against "TRNC president" Mehmet Ali Talat. The youths were detained for three days and released pending trial. A trial was scheduled for January 2010, when the youth will face defamation charges.

The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. International media were generally allowed to operate freely. Bayrak Radyo Televizyon Kurumu is the only "government"-owned television and radio station.

In August a well-known Nicosia independent bookstore, Isik Kitabevi, was damaged by an apparent arson attack. "President" Talat, "prime minister" Dervis Eroglu, several "members of parliament," and NGOs criticized the attack. The bookstore moved shortly after the attack to a new location and continued to operate. At year's end, no perpetrator had been identified, and the investigation had not yielded any results.

In March, in the run-up to the April 19 general elections, the "Ministry of Finance," then controlled by the ruling Republican Turkish Party (CTP), demanded that the highest-circulation newspaper, Kibris, immediately pay its tax debt of 11 million Turkish lira ($7,310,000) to the "government." According to the Kibris editor in chief, Resat Akar, the "government" also demanded that he resign or take a leave of absence until after the elections. After negotiations with the "ministry," the management of Kibris agreed to pay the debt in several installments. Eventually, Akar did leave his position during the elections; it is unclear whether this was in response to the "government's" alleged demands.

Internet Freedom

The authorities did not restrict access to the Internet, and there were no reports that they monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail. The Internet was easily accessible and widely available to the public.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The authorities did not restrict academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The "law" provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the authorities generally respected this right in practice.

On November 23, riot police used pepper spray to disperse a group of trade unionists protesting against the "government" and arrested 16 of the demonstrators. The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation issued a statement condemning the "government" and the police for using brutality to suppress the demonstration, for wrongful arrests, and for subsequent abuse of some of those arrested. A trial was scheduled for February 2010.

c. Freedom of Religion

The "law" provides for freedom of religion, and the authorities generally respected this right in practice.

Greek Cypriots and Maronites were prohibited from visiting religious sites located in military zones. Greek Cypriots and Maronites were required to apply for permission to conduct church services anywhere other than the seven churches designated by the authorities. Some religious groups complained that authorities often took several months to respond to requests for permission and faced restrictions, such as limits on the number of visitors. There were anecdotal reports of permission being denied in some instances.

In September formal religious information and morality lessons, based on Sunni Islam, became compulsory in the secondary school system.

The several-thousand member Alevi community in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots stated they would like Cem assembly houses to be recognized as official places of worship. Representatives from the Alevi community complained that "state" funding was spent exclusively on building mosques.

Missionaries have the legal right to proselytize, but authorities closely monitored such activities.

Conscience and Peace Tax International noted that authorities enforced conscription into military service with no provision for conscientious objection. One local NGO stated that this continued to be a significant problem.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

Greek Cypriots living in the government-controlled area continued to assert that vandals damaged vacant Greek Orthodox churches and removed religious icons in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots in previous years; there were no reported investigations of these incidents. Greek Cypriot claims in 2008 included alleged Turkish Cypriot misuse of a Greek Orthodox church in the village of Trimithi as a ceramics showcase. Turkish Cypriot authorities denied the claim that using the church in this manner constituted misuse. The church remained locked and unused.

In March the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, one of the bicommunal committees appointed by the two Cypriot leaders to support their efforts to reach a Cyprus settlement, finalized planning and agreed on a budget for a pilot project to restore the Arnavut mosque in Limassol and the church of Archangelos Michael in Lefkoniko village. The project was awaiting financing at year's end. In October Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot members of the committee worked jointly to clean a mosque in the government-controlled area and a church in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. The Jewish community was very small and composed primarily of nonresident businesspersons. A synagogue that opened in 2008 in Kyrenia held services regularly.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The "law" provides for freedom of movement within the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and authorities generally respected these rights in practice.

Cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Turkish Cypriot authorities was handled through an intermediary NGO, due at least in part to complications arising from the unrecognized status of the "TRNC." No law exists regarding the handling of asylum applications; therefore, the UNHCR representative in Cyprus conducted such procedures.

Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were required to show identification cards when crossing the green line. Greek Cypriots and foreigners crossing into the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were also required to fill out a "visa" form.

In September, confusion surrounding procedures to allow worshipers to pass through the normally unused Limnitis/Yesilirmak crossing to attend a mass at St. Mamas Church in the Turkish Cypriot-administered area prevented some Greek Cypriot worshipers from attending. Nevertheless, the mass took place, and hundreds of Greek Cypriots who had entered through other crossing points participated.

In 2006 the immigration "law" was amended, and authorities reported that all illegal immigrant workers were registered. According to the new "law," all employers who wish to import foreign workers need official permission from the "Department of Labor" to register them. As a result of the new "law," the number of illegal workers, and thus illegal immigrants, in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots decreased dramatically. Authorities deported illegal immigrants found without work permits. All illegal immigrants without work permits were prohibited from entering the "TRNC" at the ports of entry. Asylum seekers were generally treated as illegal immigrants and were either deported or denied entry.

Authorities no longer maintained general restrictions on visitors to the 358 Greek Cypriots and 121 Maronites living in enclaves in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, although there were reports that specific refugees from the enclaved villages were barred from returning to them.

Turkish Cypriots had difficulty traveling to most countries because only Turkey recognizes travel documents issued by the "TRNC." Some Turkish Cypriots used Turkish travel documents, but many obtained travel documents issued by the Republic of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to parents who were both Republic of Cyprus citizens before 1974 obtained passports relatively easily, compared with Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to only one Cypriot parent. Children of Turkish Cypriot mothers and Turkish fathers were usually denied citizenship by Republic of Cyprus authorities. Children of Turkish Cypriot fathers and Turkish mothers reportedly also faced some obstacles. According to a September 2008 interview with the Kibris newspaper, a Republic of Cyprus official stated that non-Cypriot spouses of Turkish Cypriots would not be eligible for passports if their marriage ceremony took place in the "TRNC" and that any children resulting from such marriages would also be ineligible to receive Republic of Cyprus passports.

The "law" prohibits forced exile, and the authorities did not employ it.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Although they would fall under the UN definition of IDPs, Turkish Cypriots considered persons displaced as a result of the division of the island to be refugees. These persons and their descendants numbered approximately 90,000 to 100,000 in the north. They were resettled, had access to humanitarian organizations, and were not subject to attack, targeting, or return under dangerous conditions.

Protection of Refugees

The "TRNC" is not a party to the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, but the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is incorporated into Turkish Cypriot domestic "law," as were all other laws adopted during pre-1963 British colonial rule and later "ratified" by the Turkish Cypriot administration. Authorities admitted that they had no "law" or system in place for dealing with asylum seekers or the protection of refugees and stated that asylum applications were systematically rejected. Potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriots illegally were almost always arrested, taken to court, and deported after serving their sentence.

In practice authorities did not provide protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. Individuals who requested asylum were supposed to be directed to the UNHCR or its local implementing partner, the Refugee Rights Association (RRA). However, authorities often refused to grant asylum seekers access to the RRA, refused their entry, treated them as illegal immigrants, and denied them the opportunity to apply for asylum through the UNHCR.

The UNHCR's implementing partner, the RRA, was affiliated with the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Only the UNHCR representative can consider applicability of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; the RRA's mission was to monitor and identify individuals who want to apply for asylum, to refer them to the UNHCR, to advocate to the Turkish Cypriot administration not to deport such individuals but instead to provide protection for the prospective applicants, and to facilitate accommodation and employment for these individuals. During the year four persons were able to apply for asylum. All asylum applicants were already residing in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. According to the RRA, at year's end, a total of 10 asylum seekers and refugees were residing and working (for below-minimum wages and sometimes in exchange for food) in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. They could not travel abroad because they would be unable to return due to their lack of status, which rendered them illegal according to Turkish Cypriot immigration rules. The UNHCR did not provide financial assistance to the asylum seekers except in exceptional cases. There were no reliable estimates of the number of asylum seekers crossing into the government-controlled areas, since irregular crossings go unrecorded.

In February Kivanc Aktug, the head of the NGO Human Relief Mission, the former implementing partner of the UNHCR in the area administered by the Turkish Cypriots, was arrested by Turkish Cypriot "police" for smuggling asylum seekers into the government-controlled area. According to media reports, Aktug was working as part of a ring of human smugglers. Following the arrest, the UNHCR Representative's Office publicly stated that it had stopped working with the NGO as its implementing partner at the end of 2008. Aktug was detained for three days and released on bail pending trial. An investigation of the case was ongoing at year's end.

In September a Palestinian couple successfully applied to the UNHCR for asylum with the help of RRA. They reside in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

In November a Palestinian residing in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots applied to the UNHCR for asylum.

The RRA stated that, despite its efforts, authorities at ports often denied entry to asylum seekers, and those trying to enter the "TRNC" illegally were usually detained and subsequently deported. The RRA complained that authorities usually denied asylum seekers access to the RRA's lawyers and vice versa.

During the year several Iraqis and Palestinians were denied entry and deported back to Turkey or Syria.

On July 30, two Palestinian Iraqis, ages 17 and 19, entered the "TRNC" with "visas" and applied to the UNHCR for asylum with the help of the RRA but were deported on September 5.

In July two Cameroonians were resettled to Sweden. In November three refugees were resettled to Finland.

In September the chair of the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation complained through the media about systematic deportation of asylum seekers and refugees despite laws against such treatment in the Turkish Cypriot "legislation" and accused authorities of negligence and using the unrecognized status of the "TRNC" as an excuse for not abiding by international rules and practices.

In 2007, 17 Iraqis and Palestinians were arrested for trying to illegally enter the "TRNC" in a fishing boat and were handed over to the UNHCR.

There continued to be fewer media reports of Syrians and persons of other nationalities utilizing ferry links between Syria and the "TRNC" to reach the island with the intent of later crossing illegally into the government-controlled area.

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

The "law" provides Turkish Cypriots the right to change their "government" peacefully, and they exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body every five years or less. The 2009 "parliamentary" elections, which were free and fair, resulted in the formation of a single-party "government" of the National Unity Party (UBP).

Greek Cypriots and Maronite residents were prohibited from participating in Turkish Cypriot "national" elections; they were eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but had to travel to the government-controlled area to exercise that right. In 2006 Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots directly elected municipal officials for the first time; previously, the Republic of Cyprus appointed these representatives. The Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize these officials.

Authorities did not restrict the political opposition, and membership or nonmembership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages or disadvantages; there were widespread allegations, however, of societal cronyism and nepotism.

There were four women in the 50-seat "parliament." There were no minorities represented in the "parliament."

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

The "law" provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, authorities did not implement the "law" effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption, cronyism, and lack of transparency were generally perceived to be serious problems in the legislative and executive branches.

The "government" stated several times since April that once it formed a regulatory board for corruption matters, it would investigate corruption allegations regarding the Evkaf Foundation, the Electricity Authority, the "ministries" of finance and health, and the cooperative central bank. In August the "government" drafted and passed "legislation" to create a "regulatory commission" to investigate corruption allegations; in October, the law was referred to the "Constitutional Court" by "President" Talat and found "unconstitutional." Some lawyers criticized the "government" through the media for stalling necessary investigations and waiting for the board to be established instead of tasking the "Attorney General's Office" to investigate corruption allegations.

In November 2008, after a lengthy trial, a public servant was sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding the state electricity authority from 1998 to 2000. During the year six additional public servants from the Electricity Authority were convicted and sentenced to various prison terms in the same case. Several of them appealed, and in September the appeals court overturned the conviction of Senel Ortan, who had been sentenced to six years in prison.

In August 2008 the media reported that 116 corruption and abuse cases documented by the Court of the Exchequer since 1986 were still awaiting review by the "parliament."

In 2007 recurrent and serious allegations of corruption led to the dismissal of the "minister of economy and tourism," who represented the junior coalition partner. The "minister" was replaced by a "member of parliament" from the same party. Many accounts claimed that the "minister" was soliciting bribes from individuals and companies that applied for licenses, land allocation, and other services. The details and scope of the corruption were unknown. No investigation was carried out regarding the allegations by year's end.

Opposition parties continued to claim that the "government" primarily hired supporters of the ruling party for public sector jobs during the year.

The "constitution" provides for the right of free access to "government" information, and the "Right of Access to Information law" provides for public access. In practice, however, civil servants were not allowed to provide access to "government" documents without first obtaining permission from their directors or "minister." There were some complaints by NGO representatives about being denied access to "government" information during the year. "Member of parliament" Mehmet Cakici unsuccessfully attempted to follow the steps prescribed by the "law" to gain access to information and statistics regarding alleged mismanagement of the public employees' retirement fund. He finally took the case to the "attorney general's office," where it was pending at year's end.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic human rights groups operated, although one NGO asserted that it faced restrictions when investigating human rights cases. Minority Rights Group International was also active in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, conducting research and capacity-building and advocacy campaigns under an EU grant. Authorities' cooperation with NGOs was inconsistent.

In contrast to previous years, local human rights groups broadened their focus beyond alleged violations of Turkish Cypriot rights by Greek Cypriots, and many were concerned with improving human rights conditions in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. NGOs included groups promoting awareness of domestic violence; women's rights; rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants; trafficking in persons; torture; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons' rights. These groups were numerous but had little impact on specific "legislation." A few international NGOs were active in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, but many were hesitant to operate there due to political sensitivities related to working in an unrecognized area.

The UN, through the CMP, continued its efforts to account for persons who remained missing after the intercommunal violence beginning in 1963-64 and the conflict of 1974.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The "law" prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. Authorities generally enforced these prohibitions.

Women

The "law" provides no minimum sentence for individuals convicted of rape, including spousal rape; the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. The authorities and police effectively handled and prosecuted rape cases, including cases of spousal rape. There were no NGOs whose specific mission was to support rape victims.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was a problem. The "law" prohibits domestic violence under a general assault/violence/battery clause in the criminal code. Even though allegations of domestic violence were usually considered a family matter and settled out of court, 29 domestic violence cases were tried during the year; of these, 27 were in progress at year's end. The two cases that were completed resulted in fines but no prison sentences. An additional four cases were under preliminary investigation. Authorities considered a case credible only if there was at least one witness in addition to the victim.

In May a Turkish national was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment for abducting and raping a 19-year-old university student in Famagusta. Justice Gulden Ciftcioglu called the "law" "insufficient" for describing rape as a crime against morality and stated that it is also a crime against personal freedom.

In December an academic expert complained that domestic violence was not defined specifically in the "law" and that certain requirements for the protection of women's rights – such as rights to education, rehabilitation services, and special units in police and health departments – were not met.

The "law" does not specifically prohibit prostitution; encouraging or forcing a person to engage in prostitution is illegal, however, and procurement of a prostitute is a misdemeanor. The "law" regulating the hiring of women at nightclubs and cabarets provides penalties for women and employers who "partially or completely earn a living from prostitution."

The "law" does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, but victims could pursue such cases under other sections of the "law." Sexual harassment was not discussed widely, and any such incidents largely went unreported.

Couples and individuals were able to freely decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and had access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, and obstetric and postpartum care.

Women generally have the same legal status as men under property "law," family "law," and in the "judicial system." "Laws" requiring equal pay for men and women performing the same work were generally enforced at the white-collar level; however, women working in the agricultural and textile sectors were routinely paid less than their male counterparts. There were several NGOs, but no specific "government" agency, that worked to protect women's rights.

Children

"Citizenship" is derived from one's parents (jus sanguinis), and there is universal birth registration at the time of birth.

Turkish Cypriot authorities continued to screen all textbooks sent to the Rizokarpasso Gymnasium, a Greek Cypriot school, but did not send textbooks deemed as derogatory back to the government-controlled area.

One NGO and the media reported that child labor was a growing problem. According to reports, exploited children were mostly from mainland Turkey.

There were some media reports of child abuse, most commonly in the form of sexual battery or rape. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seek legal remedies for such problems, which observers believe were underreported.

The criminal code penalizes sex with underage girls. The maximum penalty for sex with a girl under the age of 13 is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for sex with girls older than 13 but younger than 16 is three years' imprisonment. There are no "laws" regarding child pornography.

Trafficking in Persons

The "law" does not prohibit trafficking in persons, and there were widespread reports that women were trafficked to and within the area administered by Turkish Cypriots for the purpose of sexual exploitation. There were also reports of men and women trafficked for labor exploitation. The green line reportedly served as a porous crossing point for traffickers to move victims into the south.

Authorities issued special entertainer "visas" to women, primarily from Eastern Europe, permitting their entry into the area administered by Turkish Cypriots to work in nightclubs and cabarets. There were credible reports that many of these women engaged in prostitution and that some women were coerced. The authorities were uneven in acknowledging the existence of trafficking; when they did, however, they often confused it with human smuggling or illegal immigration. According to researchers, women working in nightclubs and cabarets often were sold by agencies that had advertised for models, babysitters, or elder caregivers. They also reported that large casinos had offered women as "gifts" to their richest customers.

One NGO reported a growing problem with labor trafficking in the agricultural and domestic help sectors and claimed that authorities were not responsive. The NGO claimed that entire families, almost all from Turkey, were forced to work in agriculture, while males, including children, were employed in the manufacturing sector. The "Ministry of Labor" was generally unsuccessful in identifying victims and providing numbers, so the scope of the problem remains largely unknown. After conducting approximately 80 personal interviews with foreign workers, one NGO stated that several were trafficking victims, who had their passports confiscated by employers, had been threatened with firing or violence, and were subjected to debt bondage. The workers lived and worked in unsafe conditions, with some agricultural workers sleeping in the fields and construction workers sleeping in building sites.

A growing number of women from Turkmenistan and the Philippines were being brought in as domestic workers and for child care by travel and recruitment agencies, including via the Internet; there were some claims of trafficking regarding these women.

By year's end, authorities had concluded several prostitution-related cases that were pending from the previous year, resulting in fines and prison sentences that typically ranged between one and three months. There were no new prostitution cases as of year's end, but authorities reported that several investigations were underway.

Authorities did not examine the extent of the trafficking problem and offered limited assistance to victims. The 157 hotline, which was only briefly operational, was discontinued.

The police reported that they had assisted international trafficking investigations through Turkish authorities.

There were two NGOs available to provide assistance to trafficking victims.

See also the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

Persons with Disabilities

The "law" prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or in the provision of other "state" services, and in practice the authorities effectively enforced these provisions. The "government" employed 617 persons with disabilities and provided financial aid to another 3,472 of the approximately 3,900 known persons with disabilities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. The "law" does not mandate access to public buildings and other facilities for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The "law" prohibits discrimination, and the 1975 Vienna III Agreement remains the legal source of authority regarding the treatment of Greek Cypriots and Maronites; authorities' noncompliance with some of the agreement's provisions made life difficult for the 358 Greek Cypriot and 121 Maronite residents, however.

Under the Vienna III Agreement, the UNFICYP visited the enclaved Greek Cypriots weekly and the Maronites twice a month; any additional visits had to be preapproved by the authorities. Although the Vienna III Agreement provides for medical care by a doctor from the Greek Cypriot community, the authorities only permitted such care by registered Turkish Cypriot doctors; enclaved persons also traveled to the government-controlled area for medical care.

Greek Cypriots and Maronites were able to take possession of some of their properties but were unable to leave any of their properties to heirs residing in the government-controlled area. A Maronite representative asserted that Maronites were not allowed to bequeath property to their heirs who do not reside in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots and possess "TRNC" identification cards. The authorities allowed the enclaved residents to make improvements to their homes and to apply for permission to build new structures on their properties. Maronites living in the government-controlled area could use their properties only if those properties were not under the control of the Turkish military or allocated to Turkish Cypriots.

A majority of foreign workers in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were Turkish. One NGO reported that Turkish workers were often targeted by police investigations during the year. The same NGO also reported that many Turkish workers lived in derelict buildings in Nicosia, with up to 20 persons sleeping in one room. Those working in the agricultural and construction sectors were reportedly forced to sleep on the ground, and those working at restaurants were seen sleeping after hours on chairs in the establishments where they worked.

During the year, many Turkish women were employed as cleaners without being registered for social insurance. A growing number of families employed women from Turkmenistan and the Philippines as domestic workers and for child care.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Male homosexual activity is criminalized in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots under a general sodomy statute that excludes female homosexual activity. The maximum penalty is 14 years' imprisonment. Homosexuality remained highly proscribed socially and rarely discussed. Very few LGBT persons were publicly open about their sexual orientation.

In 2008 members of the LGBT community, including some NGOs, started a group, called the "Initiative Against Homophobia," aimed at legal reform and reducing homophobia. There were no reported impediments to its operation or free association, and it was officially accepted and registered as an association in March. An informal LGBT group, called "The Short Bus Movement," organized cultural activities, such as film screenings. During the year neither police nor "government" representatives condoned or perpetrated violence against the LGBT community.

While there were no recorded cases of official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, access to education, or health care, some members of the LGBT community explained that an overwhelming majority of LGBT persons hide their sexual orientation to avoid such problems. They also complained that there is no specific antidiscrimination law for LGBT persons.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were no reports of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers except members of the police and military forces have the legal right to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization, and workers did so in practice. Fewer than 1 percent of private sector workers (total 63,300), more than 70 percent of semipublic sector workers, and nearly half of public sector workers belonged to labor unions. The "law" allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the authorities generally protected this right in practice.

Although the "law" provides for the right to strike, employers have an unrestricted right to hire replacement workers in the event of a strike, which limited the effectiveness of this right in practice. The "law" does not ensure due process for essential service workers and states that judges and members of the police and armed forces do not have the right to strike. Authorities have the power to curtail strikes in "essential services." Although this power was rarely used in practice, in 2007 the "government" invoked its right to postpone a strike for 60 days at the "state" university, citing the crucial need of students to continue their education without interruption.

During the summer the "government" did not invoke its right to postpone strikes conducted by the customs officers union and by the teachers union. It threatened to postpone a strike by "parliamentary" workers but did not act upon the threat.

In September the "government" postponed a strike by a public servants labor union (Kamu-Sen).

In October the "government" postponed a strike at Ercan Airport, where workers had announced a one-day general strike to protest against new "legislation" lowering salaries for new public sector hires.

Some companies pressured workers to join unions led or approved by the company. Officials of independent unions claimed that the authorities created rival public sector unions to weaken the independent unions.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The "law" provides for collective bargaining, and workers exercised this right in practice. Collective bargaining agreements were not legally enforceable, however. According to the "State Planning Department," the total number of union members was over 25,000. The 28,000 public and semipublic employees who made up approximately 30 percent of the work force benefited from collective bargaining agreements.

The "law" does not prohibit antiunion discrimination, and union leaders claimed that private sector employers were able to discourage union activity because the enforcement of labor regulations was sporadic and penalties such as reassignment to an undesirable location or denial of promotion for antiunion practices were nominal.

There are no special "laws" for or exemptions from regular labor "laws" in the export processing zone at the port of Famagusta.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The authorities prohibited forced or compulsory labor, including by children, but there were reports that such practices occurred. Women were trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Trafficking in Persons). Migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages and nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threat of deportation. One NGO asserted that there were cases of forced labor in the agricultural and domestic service sectors. At year' end, the NGO was assisting five women from the Philippines, who had worked 17-hour days at a restaurant in Kyrenia without leave.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The "laws" generally provide protection for children from exploitation in the workplace. In contrast to previous years, NGOs alleged that authorities did not always effectively enforce these "laws" and that children, mainly from Turkey, were being used for labor, primarily in the agricultural sector along with their families and in manufacturing.

According to accounts by the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, child labor in the urban informal economy was a problem, albeit to a lesser extent than in the agriculture and in manufacturing sectors.

The minimum age for employment in an "industrial undertaking" is 16, and children may be employed in apprentice positions at 15. Labor inspectors generally enforced the "law" effectively. It was common in family-run shops for children to work after school, and children as young as 11 worked in orchards during school holidays.

The "Ministry of Labor" is responsible for enforcing child labor "laws" and policies, and they were generally enforced in practice. The "ministry" held monthly inspections and kept statistics of its findings. During the year inspectors identified approximately 200 workers without work permits. The authorities fined employers, companies, and employees for failures to comply with the "law" but were generally perceived to be insufficient in their enforcement of rules and requirements.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In September the minimum wage was raised to 1,237 lira ($800), which did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Migrant workers often were offered substandard accommodation as part of their compensation or were made to pay for accommodation. The "Ministry of Labor and Social Security" is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage; however, it was widely reported that illegal foreign workers were generally paid below the minimum wage.

The legal maximum workweek was 38 hours in the winter and 36 hours in the summer. Labor inspectors generally enforced these "laws," except in the case of migrant workers, who worked irregular hours and at times were reportedly required by their employers to work up to 14 hours per day, seven days a week. The "law" requires overtime pay, but it was not uniformly enforced.

Authorities sporadically enforced occupational safety and health regulations. Although factory inspectors processed complaints and inspected businesses to ensure that occupational safety "laws" were observed, workers who filed complaints did not receive satisfactory legal protection and could face dismissal. Workers did not have the legal right to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without risking their continued employment.

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