Republic of Cyprus
Head of state and government Demetris Christofias
Irregular migrants were detained for prolonged periods with no alternative measures being considered. There were allegations of police ill-treatment of peaceful activists.
Negotiations between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders regarding the reunification of the island did not progress.
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
Irregular migrants, rejected asylum-seekers and certain categories of asylum-seekers were detained for prolonged periods. Detention appeared routine with no alternative measures being considered.
Irregular migrants and asylum-seekers continued to be held in poor conditions in unsuitable facilities, such as short-stay police cells and two wings of Nicosia Central Prison. The opening of the purpose-built immigration detention facility in Menogia, with a capacity of 276 people, was pushed back to 2013.
Several individuals held for immigration purposes continued to be detained although their deportation could not be enforced. In several cases, Syrian nationals were held in immigration detention for several months, despite the authorities’ policy to suspend any returns to Syria during the internal armed conflict in the country. As a result, their detention appeared arbitrary, unnecessary and unlawful.
- In November, the Cyprus Supreme Court ordered the release of Majid Eazadi, a rejected asylum-seeker from Iran detained for 14 months under immigration powers, as there was no realistic prospect for his deportation. Majid Eazadi had been repeatedly detained for the purpose of deportation for almost three years between 2008 and 2011. The Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsperson) had written a number of times to the Ministry of Interior raising concerns over the lawfulness of his detention.
In some cases, Supreme Court judgements ordering the release of individuals as their prolonged detention was unlawful, were not respected in practice. Upon their release, those individuals were immediately re-detained on the same grounds as before.
The authorities reportedly refused to examine subsequent asylum applications from Syrian nationals who wished to have their claims re-examined in view of the dramatic change in the situation in Syria.
Police and security forces
On 7 April, Cypriot police, including the anti-terrorist unit, raided a building in the buffer zone that was occupied by a multi-communal peace movement and arrested 28 activists, including minors. Many allegations were made regarding police ill-treatment of several activists during the raid. A lawyer who was present reported that the raid was unlawful since no arrest warrant was provided. The authorities denied having used excessive force.
Human rights defenders
In July, the executive director of KISA, a migrant and refugee NGO, was acquitted of criminal charges of “rioting and participating in an illegal assembly”. The charges related to events at the anti-racism Rainbow Festival in Larnaca in 2010, where participants were reportedly attacked by members of an anti-migrant demonstration and clashes ensued. Two Turkish Cypriot musicians, reportedly attacked and seriously injured allegedly by anti-migrant protesters, sued the authorities at the end of the year for their failure to arrest and prosecute those responsible for the attack.
During the course of the year, the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus had exhumed the remains of 43 people, bringing the total number of exhumations since 2006 to 857. By the end of the year the remains of 336 missing individuals (269 Greek Cypriots and 67 Turkish Cypriots) had been identified and restored to their families. However, no perpetrator was identified or prosecuted in either Cyprus or Turkey by the end of the year.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Cyprus in June and October.
- Punishment without a crime: Detention of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers in Cyprus (EUR 17/001/2012)