2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Cyprus: The Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||25 June 2015|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Cyprus: The Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots, 25 June 2015, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/559bd57228.html [accessed 14 December 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
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.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The "law" prohibits such practices; however, there were reports that police abused detainees. The "law" does not refer to "torture," which falls under the section of the criminal code that deals with assault, violence, and battery.
According to the "Attorney General's Office," police instructed their staff regarding behavioral methods and approaches towards suspect investigation, as well as suspect rights. A few pending cases of police abuse from 2013 resulted in warnings to officers.
According to the "Attorney General's Office," during the year there were three new complaints regarding police mistreatment or battery; of those, two investigations were in progress and one was completed.
In July a murder suspect committed suicide while awaiting trial in custody at police headquarters. The suspect's family accused police of psychologically torturing the suspect. Prominent lawyers, human rights advocates, and bar associations raised concerns over police negligence and stated the case could involve serious human rights violations.
There were reports of police impunity. In May the press reported that a court dismissed a case brought by a foreign citizen residing in the north against the police for alleged torture and forced testimony. The man had been charged with burglary in 2011 but was acquitted due to a lack of evidence. Authorities promoted two of the accused police officers in September.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, and prison overcrowding was a particular problem.
Physical Conditions: Of the 249 prisoners and detainees held as of August 21, 41 percent were foreigners, two-thirds of whom were Turkish citizens. The prison system held nine female prisoners and one juvenile. Approximately 35 percent of the prison population consisted of persons awaiting trial.
The area's prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia and built in 1982, has a capacity of 291. The Journalists' Association disagreed with the stated capacity and reported the prison was overcrowded and that the number of inmates and detainees incarcerated there exceeded the prison's capacity. In March trade unions reported deficiencies in the prison, including working conditions and the status of guards and infrastructure. Authorities claimed they had addressed the problems. The prison did not separate adults and juveniles, and there were no detention or correction centers for children. There were concerns that women and children were detained for no legal cause. An NGO representative stated that facilities lacked health and other services and that inmates had limited access to washing water and hot water. Authorities stated the facility provided health services to inmates twice a week and these services were available for emergencies. Prisoners and detainees received health checks upon entry into the prison.
In September, 173 inmates from the prison held a two-day hunger strike to protest poor prison conditions. According to press reports, the inmates were protesting policy changes at the prison concerning the entry of goods into the prison, the parole board, and the "criminal procedure law." According to a union representative, the prison's infrastructure and capacity were not adequate to provide services to inmates.
Human rights advocates reported the prison had an inadequate level of health care and a lack of medical supplies; no full-time doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist; and an insufficient number of social workers. Human rights activists also reported major problems in security, including a lack of measures to reduce violence between inmates and detainees, and overcrowded cells.
There were no reports of deaths in the prison or detention centers. Prisoners had access to sufficient food and potable water.
In February the press reported that prison guards held a two-hour warning strike to protest the limited amount of security they were allowed to provide, after a visitor attacked a guard.
Administration: Recordkeeping on inmates was inadequate. Community service is not an alternative to prison confinement for nonviolent offenders. According to the "law," alternatives to prison sentences, which were used most often for nonviolent offenses, include warnings, conditional and unconditional release, and bail. In some cases of domestic violence or drug use, the "court" may also suggest psychological and social counseling. According to authorities, prisoners and detainees could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Authorities reported they did not receive any complaints.
Authorities stated that all prisoners could observe their religious practices and that an imam visited the prison once a week to conduct prayers. Authorities allowed prisoners with heavy and light penalties to receive visitors every 15 days. Detainees could receive visitors every 30 days for a maximum of 30 minutes except during holidays. Authorities permitted convicted inmates and detainees a maximum of 40 minutes of telephone calls three days a week.
The scope of the "ombudsman's" duties does not include advocating for reduced or alternative sentences or addressing the status of juvenile prisoners or improving detention or bail conditions.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities stated that prison monitoring was permitted, but no local or international NGO had applied to do so. Over the past few years, press and media representatives visited the prison. According to one journalist, authorities permitted prison visits only when organized by Turkish Cypriot authorities and thus were excessively monitored and controlled. Authorities invited journalists to participate in various workshops and language course completion ceremonies for inmates.
Improvements: Authorities took some steps to improve conditions and morale in the prisons. In August authorities reported they opened a movie theater at the prison and organized literature nights for the inmates and detainees. In addition, the prison administration provided road safety courses and completion certificates to inmates and detainees. Authorities also announced the launch of a "reintegration into society" project, and the prison administration worked with the chambers of small shopkeepers and artisans to introduce vocational courses in 11 fields. Prison administrators, in cooperation with local universities, organized training in computers, language, effective communication, and solution-generating skills. Inmates could sell arts and crafts produced in prison at a fair on May 29.
In April prison administrators updated and revised the prison "legislation" to allow expansion and enlargement of the meeting area for families or guests of inmates and detainees. In addition, the administration created a reward system, allowing inmates and detainees to be rewarded with telephone conversations and more frequent television privileges for obeying prison commands.
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 enforcement of the "law." The "chief of police" reports to a "general," who is nominally under the supervision of the "Prime Ministry," holding the "security portfolio." Police and "Turkish Cypriot security forces" are ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish military, per Transitional article 10 of the "TRNC constitution," which "temporarily" cedes responsibility for public security and defense to Turkey. Security forces generally cooperated with civilian authorities and were effective in enforcing the "law." Allegations of unfair police promotions sparked discussion in "parliament" regarding the civilianization of the police. Police forces consist of eight functional divisions and five geographic divisions.
The "Attorney General's Office" continued to work with the police inspection division (or occasionally the criminal investigative division) to investigate allegations of police misconduct.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
Judicially issued warrants are required for arrests. No person may be detained longer than 24 hours without referral of the case to the "courts" for a longer period of detention. Authorities generally respected this right and usually informed detainees promptly of charges against them, although authorities often held individuals believed to have committed a violent offense for longer periods without charge. According to the "law," 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" must review the detention after the third day and every eight days thereafter. Bail existed and was routinely used. Authorities usually allowed detainees prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice. Authorities provided lawyers to the indigent only for cases involving violent offenses.
Police sometimes did not observe legal protections, particularly at the time of arrest. Some "courts" did not permit suspects to have their lawyers present when giving testimony, in contravention of the "law." Suspects who demanded the presence of a lawyer were sometimes physically intimidated or threatened with stiffer charges.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The "law" provides for an independent judiciary, and authorities generally respected judicial independence.
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. Civilian "courts" have jurisdiction in cases where civilians face charges of violating military restrictions, such as filming or photographing military zones.
The "law" provides for the right to a fair trial, and independent judicial authorities 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 in cases involving violent offenses. Defendants may 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 and generally respected "court" orders.
In August an NGO representative and human rights lawyer noted that defendants did not fully enjoy the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges brought against them. The representative added that there was a lack of sufficient interpretation for some languages as well as a lack of professional translation. For example, authorities recruited nonprofessional translators haphazardly, and they did not translate everything said during "court" hearings. Insufficient translation also delayed hearings and caused longer detention periods for suspects.
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.
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. Turkish Cypriots pursued claims against the Republic of Cyprus as well. Under ECHR rules, if adequate local remedies exist, an appellant does not have standing to bring a case before the ECHR until that appellant exhausts all local remedies.
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, a property commission was established to handle claims by Greek Cypriots. In 2006 the ECHR ruled that the commission had satisfied "in principle" the ECHR's requirement for an effective local remedy. In a 2010 ruling, the ECHR recognized the property commission as a domestic remedy. As of September 11, a total of 5,283 applications had been filed with the commission, 412 of which were concluded through friendly settlements and 10 through formal hearings. The commission has paid more than 113 million pounds sterling ($177 million) to the applicants in compensation.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The "law" prohibits such actions. There were reports that police subjected Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots to surveillance. Although authorities reported otherwise, a Maronite representative asserted that during the year, the Turkish military occupied 18 houses in the village of Karpashia.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The "law" provides for freedom of speech and press, and authorities generally respected this right. Individuals were generally able to criticize authorities publicly without reprisal, with some exceptions.
Press Freedoms: While authorities generally respected press freedom, journalists were at times obstructed in their reporting or practiced self-censorship for fear of losing their jobs in connection with investigating a story. One media representative complained that press and media representatives were prevented from getting close enough to conduct on-site reporting during incidents or follow-up reporting at "court" hearings. The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. Authorities generally allowed international media to operate freely. Bayrak Radyo Televizyon Kurumu was the only "government"-owned television and radio station. Journalists alleged press freedom was limited, noting political interests often used the media according to the bias of the media owners; journalists whose reporting was contrary to these views could face dismissal or loss of other rights.
Violence and Harassment: The Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association reported that authorities denied access and prevented journalists from investigating suicides or allegations of police torture or battery within the military or police systems, because journalists cannot access or report on those under military control. Defendants in "court" cases allegedly threatened journalists, who also faced pressure for their reporting from companies that advertised in their publications.
Authorities did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that they monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Although technological developments improved the delivery methods for journalists, they reported continued difficulties in accessing public information. Turkish Cypriot authorities announced that the Twitter ban in Turkey in March and April would not affect the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, although some local companies experienced technical problems due to the internet connections from Turkey.
In August a polling company and a local newspaper carried out a survey on internet usage in the north. According to the results, 66 percent of the population in the area administered by the Turkish Cypriots has internet access.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
Authorities did not restrict academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The "law" provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and authorities generally respected these rights, although some organizations faced lengthy registration periods.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State's 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.
An intermediary NGO handled cooperation between the UNHCR and Turkish Cypriot authorities. Since no "law" exists regarding the handling of asylum applications, the UNHCR representative in Cyprus adjudicated asylum claims.
In-country Movement: Authorities required Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots 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.
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, prior to 1974, were both Republic of Cyprus citizens obtained passports relatively easily, compared with Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to only one Cypriot parent.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Turkish Cypriots considered persons displaced as a result of the division of the island to be refugees, although they fell under the United Nation's definition of IDPs. At the time of the division, this number was approximately 60,000 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
Access to Asylum: The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is incorporated into Turkish Cypriot domestic "law," as were all other "laws" that originated from the British colonial period and the pre-1963 Republic of Cyprus period and were later "ratified" by the Turkish Cypriot administration. There is no "law" or system in place for dealing with asylum seekers or the protection of refugees. Turkish Cypriot authorities evaluated individuals on a case-by-case basis and generally cooperated with the UNHCR local implementing NGO partner, the Refugee Rights Association (RRA). As of August 2, authorities facilitated the access of 41 asylum seekers to UNHCR representatives in the UN buffer zone, but there were no reliable estimates of the total number of asylum seekers who crossed into the government-controlled area, since irregular crossings went unrecorded.
There were reports that Turkish Cypriot authorities deported numerous asylum seekers during the year before a determination was made regarding their status and that not all received facilitated access to continue their claims with the UNHCR, leading to either imprisonment or systematic deportations. Some potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriots illegally were arrested, taken to "court," and deported after serving their sentences.
In February the press reported that police arrested 15 persons – the Turkish captain and 14 Syrians, including a pregnant woman and a one-month-old baby – in a sinking boat in the open waters off Karpas. The press reported that the captain had received $2,000 per person to bring them to the north. The 14 Syrian passengers were sent to Turkey.
In September the press reported that police arrested seven Syrians smuggled from Turkey into the north, four of whom were children between the ages of three and eight. Authorities detained the parents and a third adult, and the children were given to "Social Services" for care. The Turkish Cypriot authorities returned all seven to Turkey. The press claimed the smugglers had promised to take the Syrians to Greece but left them on the Kyrenia coast instead.
Refoulement: Authorities did not provide protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. During the year the RRA stated that despite its efforts, authorities at ports often denied entry to asylum seekers, and that those trying to enter the north illegally were usually detained and subsequently deported.
Human rights associations continued to work with authorities, including the UNHCR, to provide protection for asylum seekers from refoulement, at times without success. With the involvement of these associations and increased facilitation from Turkish Cypriot authorities, several asylum seekers traveled to Turkey or entered the government-controlled area, through the UN-patrolled area, and started the asylum process there.
Employment: A "regulation" provides that any employer of illegal workers may be fined 7,800 Turkish lira ($3,440) or face business closure for two months. During the year the "Labor Authority" stated that it identified workers without work permits. As of July 31, the "Labor Authority" monitored 828 workers and fined 140 employers with 257 illegal workers. Authorities fined these employers 2,032,000 Turkish lira ($895,000) for allowing illegal employment.
According to the immigration "law," employers need official permission from the "Department of Labor" to register foreign workers. Authorities prohibited entry or deported illegal immigrants without work permits. Authorities sometimes treated asylum seekers as illegal immigrants and either deported them or denied them entry.
Access to Basic Services: According to the RRA, at the end of June, there were 66 asylum seekers and refugees residing and working (for below-minimum wages and sometimes in exchange for food) or attending school 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 provided financial assistance to asylum seekers only in exceptional cases. The "Ministry of Health" agreed to extend its policy of providing free health services to asylum seekers and refugees.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The "law" provides Turkish Cypriots the ability to change their "government" through free and fair elections, which they exercised through elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body every five years or less. In July 2013 Turkish Cypriots held early "parliamentary" elections. None of the political parties received enough votes in the elections to form a single-party "government." The Republican Turkish Party and the Democrat Party-National Forces reached agreement to establish a coalition "government." In 2010 Turkish Cypriots elected Dervis Eroglu "president" in free and fair elections.
Political Parties and Political Participation: Turkish Cypriot authorities did not permit Greek Cypriots and Maronite residents to participate in Turkish Cypriot elections. The two groups were eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but had to travel to the government-controlled area to exercise that right. Greek Cypriot and Maronite enclave communities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots directly elected municipal officials. Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize these officials.
While membership or nonmembership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages or disadvantages, there were widespread allegations of societal cronyism and nepotism.
Participation of Women and Minorities: There were no women or minorities in the "cabinet." After "parliamentary" elections in September 2013, there were four women in the 50-seat "parliament," including the "president of parliament." There was no minority representation in the "parliament."
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The "law" provides criminal penalties for official corruption. Authorities did not implement the "law" effectively, and "officials" sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Observers generally perceived corruption, cronyism, and lack of transparency to be serious problems in the legislative and executive branches.
Corruption: In June the local press alleged corrupt practices involving the use of a private tourism agency for official travel abroad by the "presidency." The "presidency" issued a statement saying that the claims were false, and authorities did not open an investigation into the allegation. In October a "criminal registrar" officer who worked in Morphou and Lefke "district courts" was arrested and accused with embezzling more than one million Turkish lira ($441,000) over eight years. An investigation was in progress at years' end.
Financial Disclosure: According to the "Declaration of Wealth Law," all "government employees" must declare their wealth and assets.
Public Access to Information: The "constitution" provides free access to "government" information, and the "law" provides for public access. "Civil servants" were not allowed to provide access to "government" documents without first obtaining permission from their superiors or "minister." NGO representatives complained that there were delays, out-of-date information, and problems concerning access.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A limited number of domestic human rights groups operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Authorities' cooperation with NGOs improved beginning in 2013.
Many local human rights groups were concerned with human rights conditions in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. NGOs promoted awareness of domestic violence; women's rights; rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants; trafficking in persons; torture; and LGBT persons' rights. These groups had little impact on specific "legislation" to improve the protection of human rights.
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. On January 27, the "parliament" passed reforms that decriminalize homosexuality, outlaw gender or sexual identity discrimination, eliminate the death penalty, and increase penalties for child abuse and abuse of the disabled.
The amendments to the "criminal code" outlaw discrimination based on one's sex, sexual preference, or sexual identity; increase penalties for sexual abuse of children, including child prostitution; increase penalties for abuse of the mentally disabled; increase penalties for violation of sexual inviolability; declare sexual inviolability is a human right; include men in this protection (which previously applied only to women); increase penalties for rape; and increase penalties (to life imprisonment) for sexual activity with minors or persons with mental disabilities – in a new category similar to statutory rape. The amendment decriminalizing homosexuality created controversy, with religious and conservative groups criticizing liberal human rights advocates. Human rights activists reported there remained a lack of awareness-raising campaigns that would reduce discrimination. The "legislation" went into effect on February 12.
Protection of Refugees
Rape and Domestic Violence: The "law" does not provide a minimum sentence for individuals convicted of rape, including spousal rape; the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Authorities and police effectively handled and prosecuted rape cases. There were no NGOs whose specific mission was to support rape victims. One NGO representative reported there was societal pressure against reporting incidents of spousal rape.
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." While allegations of domestic violence were usually considered a family matter and settled out of "court," a few cases of domestic violence were prosecuted that resulted in fines and bail but no prison sentences.
According to police reports, between January 2013 and April 2014, a total of 264 women were exposed to violence. The report stated that 97 percent of these women applied to "social services" through the police for further assistance.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C. There were no reports of the practice.
Sexual Harassment: The amendments to the "criminal code" that went into effect on February 12 prohibit sexual harassment. Incidents of sexual harassment went largely unreported, according to NGOs.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health. They have the ability, information, and means to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children. They had access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, and obstetric and postpartum care.
Discrimination: Women generally have the same legal status as men under property "law," family "law," and in the "judicial system." The "government" generally enforced "laws" requiring equal pay for men and women performing the same work at the white-collar level. Women working in the agricultural and textile sectors routinely received less pay than their male counterparts. Several NGOs worked to protect women's rights, but no specific "government" agency had this responsibility (see section 7.d.).
Birth Registration: Children derive "citizenship" from their parents, and there was universal registration at birth.
Child Abuse: 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 seeking legal remedies for such problems, which observers believed were underreported.
Forced and Early Marriage: The minimum age of marriage for girls and boys is 18. A "court" may allow marriages for minors who are between the ages of 16 and 18 if they receive parental consent. The rate of marriage in 2012 (the most recent data available) for girls under the age of 18 was 1.2 percent.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C. There were no reports of the practice.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The "criminal code" penalizes sexual relations with underage children. The maximum penalty for sex with a minor under the age of 16 is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for sex with minors older than 16 but younger than 18 is three years' imprisonment. There are no "laws" regarding child pornography. The age of consent is 16.
The small Jewish community consisted primarily of nonresident businesspersons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report.
Persons with Disabilities
The "law" prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or in the provision of other "state" services, and authorities effectively enforced these provisions. The "government" employed 573 persons with disabilities and provided financial aid to the remaining 4,062 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, and the disabled community complained of lack of infrastructure in public spaces, including lack of sidewalks, blocked sidewalks, and the inability to use public transportation.
The "law" prohibits discrimination, and the 1975 Vienna III Agreement remains the legal source of authority regarding the treatment of the 338 Greek Cypriot and 104 Maronite residents in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.
Under the Vienna III Agreement, the UNFICYP visited Greek Cypriot residents of the enclave weekly and Maronites twice a month; additional visits require preapproval by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Although the Vienna III Agreement provides for medical care by a doctor from the Greek Cypriot community, authorities permitted such care only by registered Turkish Cypriot doctors. Individuals living in enclaves 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 their properties to heirs residing in the government-controlled area. A Maronite representative asserted that Maronites were not allowed to bequeath property to heirs who do not reside in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots and possess "TRNC" identification cards. Authorities allowed the enclaved residents to make improvements to their homes and apply for permission to build new structures on their properties. Maronites living in the government-controlled area could use their properties in the north only if those properties were not under the control of the Turkish military or allocated to Turkish Cypriots.
A small Kurdish minority lived in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, a group that emigrated from Turkey in the 1980s. There were reports of social and work discrimination against the Kurds as well as allegations that police closely monitored Kurdish activities, specifically the annual Nowruz Festival.
Authorities noted that the majority of foreign workers were from Turkey and worked in the service (hotel, restaurant, catering) and construction sectors. According to the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation's 2013 report, The Human Rights of Migrant Workers in North Cyprus, other foreign workers and students generally came from Bulgaria, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Philippines, China, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and several African countries. The report noted that employers paid foreign workers below the minimum wage and required excessive hours of work (see section 7).
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
On January 27, the Turkish Cypriot "legislature" decriminalized same-sex sexual activity. The "law" also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Homosexuality remained highly proscribed socially and was rarely discussed, despite the decriminalization of homosexual activity and the amendments to the "criminal code." Few LGBT persons were publicly open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
While there were no cases recorded of official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, members of the LGBT community noted that an overwhelming majority of LGBT persons hid their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid such problems.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The "law" provide for the rights of workers, except members of police and "Turkish Cypriot security forces," to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. The "law" allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for the right to strike with the requirement that a union notify authorities in writing if the duration of strike is longer than 24 hours. The "law" does not provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activities nor permit "judges," members of the police force, and "Turkish Cypriot security forces" to strike. The "council of ministers" has the power to curtail a strike twice a year for up to 60 days if it affects the general heath, security, or public order or if it prevents the provision of essential services. There is no list of what constitutes essential services. The "law" provides for collective bargaining but does not prohibit antiunion discrimination.
According to union representatives, the "government" did not effectively enforce applicable "laws." Despite having the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining, there was almost no unionization among the estimated 70,000-80,000 workers in the private sector. According to a union representative, if private sector workers affected business operations while seeking their rights, the employer would likely replace the employees. The labor authorities and the "state" did not provide adequate resources, inspections, or improvements and did not implement labor "laws." There was one labor inspector, and a written complaint from a union was required to begin an investigation. If necessary the "registrar's office" filed a complaint with the "attorney general's office." The penalties for violations were sufficient and were listed in the "Right to Collective Bargaining, Strike, and Referendum Law." Any employer that violates articles of the "law" can be fined from two to eight times the monthly minimum wage of 1,415 Turkish lira ($623).
Workers formed and joined independent unions. Some companies pressured workers to join unions that the company led or approved. Officials of independent unions claimed that authorities created rival public sector unions to weaken the independent unions.
Workers exercised the right to bargain collectively. Public and semipublic employees benefited from collective bargaining agreements. Semipublic employees worked for companies run jointly by public and private enterprises where, for example, the "government" handled administration while the company's budget came from private sources.
Private sector employers were able to discourage union activity because the enforcement of labor "regulations" in the private sector was sporadic.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
"Laws" prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The "government" did not effectively enforce the "law." Information regarding the adequacy of inspections and resources was not available. Forced labor was reportedly punishable by up to one year in prison, a term that was not commensurate with other serious crimes and not adequate to deter violations. There were reports of forced labor during the year.
Conditions of forced labor existed for men and women employed in industrial, construction, agriculture, restaurant, and retail sectors. Migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages and nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threats of deportation.
Also see the Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum age for employment is 15, the last year for which education is compulsory. Employers may hire children between the ages of 15 and 18 in apprentice positions under a special status. Children over the age of 15 can work, although they are restricted to not more than six hours a day and 30 hours a week. The "law" prohibits children between 15 and 18 from working during mealtimes, at night, in heavy physical labor, and under dangerous conditions. The "law" also states that every six months the employer must prove, with medical certification, that the physical work done by a child is suitable for children. Written parental consent is also required, and children retain the right to the wage of a full-time employee, although the children can work a maximum of six hours. The "law" generally provides protection for children from exploitation in the workplace.
The "Ministry of Labor and Social Security" is responsible for enforcing child labor "laws" and policies. Resources and inspections were not adequate to deter violations. Penalties for violations consist of fines and "court" procedures. An employer is fined 7,800 Turkish lira ($3,440) per incident of child labor involving a foreigner.
NGOs alleged authorities did not always effectively enforce the "laws," and employers used children, mainly from Turkey, for labor, primarily in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors and at industrial areas working in the automotive and construction sectors with their families. NGOs reported children worked in dangerous conditions, such as on construction sites, and were subjected to heavy physical work despite "laws" to the contrary.
According to one NGO, child labor in the urban informal economy was also a problem, albeit to a lesser extent than in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
The sight of children selling paper towels or other small items on the street became more commonplace, particularly in neighborhoods in Nicosia with large immigrant populations. It was common in family-run shops for children to work after school and for young children to work on their family farms.
d. Discrimination with respect to Employment or Occupation
"Laws" generally prohibit discrimination with respect to employment or occupation regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and social status. The "government" did not effectively enforce these "laws." Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, and gender (see section 6).
Foreign migrant workers faced societal discrimination, with respect to ethnicity, race, and religious belief.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
In January "the government" increased the minimum wage from 1,415 Turkish lira ($623) per month to 1,560 Turkish lira ($687). A public sector union reported to the press that the "hunger level" was 1,290 Turkish lira ($568) per month and poverty level was 5,856 Turkish lira ($2,580) per month for a four-member family. Limited information was available on conditions of work. Accommodations for migrant workers, either as part of their compensation or for those made to pay, were substandard.
The standard workweek for the private and public sectors is 40 hours. There is premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Premium pay for overtime is also required, but frequently was not paid, in the private sector. The "law" prohibits compulsory overtime and provides for paid annual holidays.
Occupational safety and health standards are not current. Enforcement and labor inspections, including of working conditions, were reportedly almost nonexistent, and authorities did not effectively enforce standards in all sectors. The "Ministry of Labor and Social Security" is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage. Employers paid undocumented migrant workers below the minimum wage, and enforcement of occupational safety and health regulations was sporadic. While labor authorities conducted regular inspections, there was little improvement in working conditions, particularly for hazardous sectors and vulnerable groups. The practice was to deport those workers claiming violations. Authorities did not apply penalties to violators, and resources and inspections were not adequate to protect worker rights. The "government" has not established social protections for workers in the informal economy.
As of June there were 143 workplace accidents, two of which were fatal. Authorities were reportedly investigating the fatal accidents. On September 15, following the death of a Syrian worker at a construction site, several newspapers reported an increase in work-related deaths. According to a local newspaper, from 2006 through August, there were 2,236 work accidents, 55 of which resulted in deaths and 555 of which were in the construction industry.
Workers were not able to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Authorities did not protect workers in these situations.