There were allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers.

In May the House of Representatives (parliament) amended Article 171 of the Penal Code. Because of its very restrictive definition of privacy, the amended article could still lead to imprisonment of up to five years for consensual sexual relations between male adults in private. The new provisions are also discriminatory. The age of consent for sexual activity between men is 18 while the age of consent for sexual activity between heterosexuals is 16; and the restrictive definition of privacy applies only to sexual activity between men. The wide scope of the newly adopted Article 174(a), which provides for a one-year prison sentence for "indecent behaviour or invitation or provocation or advertisement aimed at performing unnatural acts between males", could lead to the imprisonment of people solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and to freedom of assembly and association.

There were allegations of ill-treatment. In June, 113 people from Africa and the Middle East rescued from a fishing trawler drifting off the coast of Cyprus were remanded under police guard in an hotel in Limassol pending a decision on their asylum applications. In August, 30 asylum-seekers, most of them Africans, were trans-ferred from the hotel to the cells of the former Police Headquarters in Larnaca pending deportation. At least four of them alleged they were beaten by police officers while a police inspector was watching. As a result of the beatings the asylum-seekers sustained various injuries; they were initially denied access to hospital. One asylum-seeker alleged that as he opened the door of his hotel room, he was kicked in his genitals, and that five police officers then came into his room, beat and kicked him for up to 15 minutes. As a result of the beatings he sustained injuries to his eye, which required stitches, and jaw. He alleged that a week later he was brought before the police inspector who had accompanied the police officers responsible for his ill-treatment at the hotel, and threatened with further beating if he refused to sign a statement denying that the ill-treatment had occurred. Thirty of the 113 asylum-seekers were deported to their country of origin between July and October.

In October, when 48 of the 113 asylum-seekers were held in Larnaca detention centre pending deportation, officers from mmad (rapid intervention police force) units threw tear gas to force the asylum-seekers out of their cells into the yard and forced them to lie face down on the ground, in an effort to carry out the deportation order. Television footage showed police officers kicking and stamping on the asylum-seekers and hitting them with truncheons. About 10 of the asylum-seekers were reportedly transferred to hospital as a result of the beatings and respiratory difficulties caused by tear gas. An inquiry was subsequently set up.

In June Amnesty International called on the government to revise Article 171, paragraphs 1 and 3, of the Penal Code to equalize the age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual relations, and to revise Article 174(a).

In July Amnesty International urged the authorities to ensure that all asylum-seekers would be given access to a full and satisfactory asylum procedure and that they would not be returned to countries where they might face human rights violations. No answer was received by the end of the year.

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.