CYPRUS 2021Allegations of pushbacks of refugees and migrants continued. A leading anti-racism association was threatened with dissolution. Police used excessive force against anti-corruption protesters.
BackgroundNo progress was made during talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in April in Geneva for the resumption of formal negotiations in relation to the settlement of the Cyprus problem (the continuing dispute over the administration of the island).
Refugees’ and migrants’ rightsThere were continued reports of pushbacks at sea of refugees and migrants to Lebanon, which since 2019 has regularly returned Syrians to Syria, where their safety was at risk. In August, reports emerged that the authorities intercepted two boats carrying 89 people and pushed the passengers back to Syria, except for two people with health needs who were separated from their families and transferred to Cyprus. Human rights bodies and others expressed concerns about the living conditions in reception facilities, including the restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In November, the president requested emergency support from the EU for the management of migration, including the temporary suspension of new asylum applications.
Freedom of associationThe leading anti-racism organization KISA continued to face dissolution proceedings as a result of a 2020 legislative change, which led to the organization’s removal from the registry of associations in December 2020 due to a minor delay in their complying with the new requirements. KISA appealed before the country’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the organization was operating with serious limitations.
Violence against women and girlsIn September, the Cyprus Supreme Court heard an appeal by a young British woman against a district court ruling which found her guilty of making false claims when she reported she was gang-raped in July 2019. Serious concerns existed about the reported shortcomings of the police investigation into the case and the fairness of her first instance trial.
Excessive use of forceIn February, police reportedly used unlawful force against peaceful protesters during an anti-corruption demonstration in Nicosia. An investigation was started by the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Complaints against the Police. Although the investigation was reportedly completed, the outcome was not known by the end of the year.
Freedom of assemblyThe Cypriot authorities kept in place an unlawful and disproportionate blanket ban on all demonstrations, introduced as part of Covid-19 related restrictions in March 2020.
Enforced disappearancesDuring the year, the remains of 1,023 missing people (732 Greek Cypriots and 291 Turkish Cypriots) were identified by the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus in its mission to establish the fate of individuals who were forcibly disappeared during the inter-communal fighting of 1963-1964 and the events of 1974.
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