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2013 Human Rights Reports: Cyprus - the Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
February 27, 2014

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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.

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYShare    

Since 1974 the northern area of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots who declared it the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in 1983. The United States does not recognize the “TRNC,” nor does any country other than Turkey. Dervis Eroglu was elected “president” in 2010 in free and fair elections. Elections to the “Assembly of the Republic” during the year were also free and fair and resulted in the formation of a coalition “government” of the Republican Turkish Party and Democrat Party National Forces. The “TRNC constitution” is the basis for the “laws” that govern the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities; police and “Turkish Cypriot 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. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Security forces reportedly committed some human rights abuses.

The most significant problems reported during the year included police abuse of detainees, trafficking in persons including minors for sexual exploitation, and restrictions on the rights of asylum seekers. There was no regulatory infrastructure to handle applications for asylum seekers or to protect their rights.

Other problems reported during the year included mistreatment of persons in custody and in prison; overcrowding in prisons; lack of separation of incarcerated adults and juveniles; limited access to some places of worship; vandalism and removal of religious icons from vacant places of worship, including some sites that were damaged, close to collapse, or had been converted to other uses; corruption and cronyism in the executive and legislative branches; domestic violence against women; and criminalization of same-sex sexual activity.

Authorities took steps to investigate police officials following press allegations of abuses and corrupt practices. There was evidence, however, that officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:Share    

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 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.

In 2011 a “parliamentary committee” established to investigate allegations of police torture reported that torture has been carried out at police stations. Police and the “Attorney General’s Office” investigated the complaints and torture allegations and filed a case in “court” based on their findings. The “committee” studied an additional 12 petitions from persons who claimed to have been beaten and consulted with police and the “Attorney General’s Office” on the cases. The “Attorney General’s Office” investigated the claims and filed cases against three police officers at the “Heavy Penal Court.” According to the “Attorney General’s Office,” police have instructed their staff regarding behavioral methods and approaches towards suspect investigation, as well as suspect rights. According to the “Attorney General's Office,” there were no investigations of police abuses during the year.

In August the press claimed that a Turkish Cypriot was subjected to violence during police interrogation following his arrest for growing drugs at his house. Police allegedly detained the man for three days and tortured, insulted, and beat him with a truncheon. The victim claimed that he also signed a testimony that he did not read. In response to the abuse, he reportedly opened a court case against the officers involved.

There were reports of police impunity. In September the press reported that the parents of a U.S. citizen residing in the north criticized the promotion of two police officers, whom the parents alleged had tortured their son during interrogation in 2011.

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 307 prisoners and detainees held as of September 30, 41 percent were foreigners, two-thirds of whom were Turkish citizens. Prison sentences are classified as either “light” or “heavy” punishment. Of those sentenced, 41 percent were sentenced to a heavy penalty and 23 percent to a light penalty. Fifteen female prisoners and two juveniles were incarcerated. Approximately 35.5 percent of the prison population consisted of persons awaiting trial.

The area’s central prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia and built in 1982, has a capacity of 291. In September the local press reported that the prison was unable to care for the increasing number of prisoners and that prison security was lacking. Authorities claimed that they had addressed the problem of overcrowding, in part through a bunk bed system that increased the number of beds to 452. The prison did not separate adults and juveniles; there were no detention or correction centers for children. One nongovernmental (NGO) representative stated that, during prison visits to help detainees, he repeatedly expressed concerns regarding poor prison conditions, particularly the detention of women and children who had no legal cause to be detained.

NGO representatives stated that facilities sorely lacked health and other services, and inmates had limited access to washing water and hot water. Authorities stated that health services were provided to inmates twice a week and were available for emergencies; prisoners and detainees received health checks upon entry into the prison.

The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation’s May 2012 report, Detainee Rights in the Northern Part of Cyprus, emphasized the inadequate level of healthcare available for detainees in the central prison, noting there was a lack of medical supplies; lack of medical and support staff; no full-time doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist; and an insufficient number of social workers. The report also highlighted the lack of effective treatment for drug users or addicts. It also noted security problems, including insufficient measures to reduce violence between inmates and detainees, overcrowded cells, and bars on doors and windows that prisoners easily removed during violent encounters. The report cited incidences of gang violence, violence, or torture inflicted by guards on inmates, and easy access to weapons and drugs.

Through early December there were no reports of deaths in the prison or detention centers. Prisoners had access to potable water.

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 inhumane 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 penalties to receive visitors every 10 days while prisoners with light punishment could receive visitors every 15 days. Detainees could receive visitors every 30 days. Visits were limited to 30 minutes except during holidays. Authorities permitted convicted inmates a maximum of 40 minutes of telephone calls three days a week; detainees had access to telephones two days a week for up to 40 minutes each day.

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 is permitted, but no local or international NGO had applied to do so. Throughout the year press and media representatives visited the prison. According to one journalist, prison visits were permitted only when organized by Turkish Cypriot authorities and thus were overly monitored and controlled.

Improvements: Authorities took some steps to improve conditions and morale in the prisons. In May press reported that the then “minister of interior” signed an agreement to build a new prison; construction had not yet started at year's end. In July the interim “minister of interior” visited the prison together with the prison “director” to speak with inmates and review conditions of the cells, kitchens, rooms, offices, health unit, and workshops. During a lunch with press representatives, the “director” stated that the prison was open for visits, including by the media, provided that the “ministry” approved. The “minister” stated that there was a lack of teachers at the various workshops in the prison but noted improvements to inmates’ bathrooms and toilets, continued maintenance and repairs of windows and walls, installation of visitor toilets, installation of new televisions in certain sections, and the opening of a new butcher section.

In August authorities permitted a prison visit by a group of local journalists and hosted an iftar dinner for the group at the prison, where they were able to meet with inmates and prison employees.

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 are divided into 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.

In March the press announced that the Kyrenia police arrested a large gang, which included several police officers, for insurance fraud. Authorities took the officers and other members of the gang involved to “court” and confiscated their travel documents to prevent them from leaving the area.

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 being charged. 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 was permitted and routinely used. Detainees were usually allowed prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice. Authorities only provided lawyers to the indigent for cases involving violent offenses.

Police sometimes did not observe legal protections, particularly at the time of arrest. 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.

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.

Trial Procedures

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 2012 one 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 lack of sufficient interpretation for some languages as well as lack of professional translation. For example, authorities recruited translators randomly, and they did not translate everything said during “court” hearings.

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 European Court of Human Rights (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 as long as 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, 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 over 113 million pounds sterling (approximately $181 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:Share    

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. 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 that press freedom was limited, noting that 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 allegations of police torture 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. According to the association, the “constitution” protects the press and media; the criminal “code,” however, is antiquated and can be abused against journalists.

Internet Freedom

Authorities did not restrict access to the internet, and there were no reports that they monitored e-mail or internet chat rooms without appropriate legal authority. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the internet, including by e-mail. Although technological developments have improved the delivery methods for journalists, they reported continued difficulties in accessing public information. There are no accurate statistics available regarding the percentage of the Turkish Cypriot population that used the internet.

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 freedom 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 at www.state.gov/j/drl/irf/rpt//.

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 Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Turkish Cypriot authorities. Since no “law” exists regarding the handling of asylum applications, the UNHCR representative in Cyprus adjudicated asylum claims.

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.

A “regulation” provides that, as of April 2012, any employer of illegal workers may be fined 7,075 Turkish lira (approximately $3,500) or face business closure for two months. During the year the “Labor Authority” stated that it identified workers without work permits. As of September 30, the “Labor Authority” monitored 746 workers and fined 118 employers with 178 illegal workers.

According to the immigration “law,” all employers desiring to import foreign workers need official permission from the “Department of Labor” to register them. Authorities deported illegal immigrants without work permits. Illegal immigrants without work permits were prohibited from entering the “TRNC” at ports of entry. With few exceptions authorities generally treated asylum seekers as illegal immigrants and either deported or denied them entry. Since no “law” or mechanism for protects the right of asylum seekers, no identification or protection is available. 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, several asylum seekers entered the government-controlled area, through the UN-patrolled area, and started the asylum process there or traveled to Turkey, where they then applied for asylum.

Only Turkey recognizes travel documents issued by the “TRNC.” Journalists noted that they could not travel to other countries because of this restriction. 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 to Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to only one Cypriot parent.

In June the interim “cabinet” announced that it cancelled the April 2012 decision to require “civil servants” traveling on official funds to use their “TRNC” or Turkish passports to go abroad for seminars, meetings, sports activities, or scholarships as well as to use only the Ercan (Tymbou) airport for departure and reentry.

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 UN’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. Authorities admitted that they had no “law” or system in place for dealing with asylum seekers or the protection of refugees and stated that they systematically rejected asylum applications. 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. As of December 2, however, authorities facilitated the access of 17 asylum seekers to UNHCR representatives in the UN buffer zone.

Individuals who requested asylum were supposed to be directed to the UNHCR or its local implementing partner, the Refugee Rights Association (RRA). Authorities often refused, however, to grant asylum seekers access to the RRA, refused their entry, treated them as undocumented immigrants, and denied them the opportunity to apply for asylum through the UNHCR. The RRA was affiliated with the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Only the UNHCR representative could consider applicability of the 1951 Refugee Convention; the RRA’s mission was to monitor and identify individuals who wanted to apply for asylum, refer them to the UNHCR, and advocate to Turkish Cypriot authorities not to deport such individuals but instead to provide protection for the prospective applicants and to facilitate their accommodation and employment.

There were reports that authorities deported numerous asylum seekers during the year before a determination had been made regarding their status and that only some received facilitated access to continue their claims with the UNHCR, leading to either imprisonment or systematic deportations.

In February a Syrian man turned himself in to the police after he was deceived by human smugglers and taken from Turkey to Cyprus instead of to Bulgaria. The man claimed that he paid $1,000 to be taken to Bulgaria. He was held in jail for seven days prior to his trial.

In March the press stated that the UN had handed over five Syrians, who had illegally crossed to the south, to police in the north. The press reported that police arrested a father but entrusted the mother and children to the care of the RRA.

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 “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.

Access to Basic Services: According to the RRA, at the end of 2012, there were 13 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 did not provide financial assistance to 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 went unrecorded. There were at least two reports by various NGOs in the Republic of Cyprus of minors from Mali and Somalia crossing and receiving access to services for asylum seekers and temporary benefits.

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

The “law” provides Turkish Cypriots the right to change their “government” peacefully, and they exercised this right through periodic, free, and fair 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 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: Greek Cypriots and Maronite residents were prohibited from participating in Turkish Cypriot elections; they 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 three women in “ministerial” posts, including a female “prime minister” from July to August, but as of September, the new “cabinet” did not include any women. After “parliamentary” elections in September, there were four women in the 50-seat “parliament,” including the “president of parliament.” No minorities were represented in the “parliament.”

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare    

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: Opposition parties continued to claim that the “government” primarily hired supporters of the ruling party for public-sector jobs during the year. Throughout the year newspapers alleged that the ruling party hired workers to staff various public offices and planned to hire additional persons.

Throughout the year various trade and teacher unions as well as opposition political parties held protest demonstrations, claiming that, between 2009 and the beginning of 2013, the “government” unfairly granted “TRNC citizenship” to 5,100 persons.

Whistleblower Protection: There are no laws that provide protection to public or private employees for making disclosures of evidence of illegality.

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 authorities sometimes denied them access to “government” information during the year. Other NGO representatives claimed that authorities denied access to “land registry” records, specifically for cases that involved pre-1974 Greek Cypriot owners who wanted to apply to the Immovable Property Commission.

According to an NGO human rights representative, associations often can only access “government” information on a discretionary basis. In 2012 the representative alleged that, at times, authorities and police either withheld information or deliberately misled organizations to conceal violations.

In February, April, and May, Nicosia Turkish Municipality workers went on indefinite strike and organized demonstrations because they had not received their monthly salaries on time and not receiving social benefits. The “Audit Office” carried out investigations at the municipality in May, noting a growing debt from 2011 due to corruption and unauthorized jobs. According to the press, the report was submitted to the “Attorney General’s Office,” which responded there was no need to take action.

In August police arrested two “Labor Department” workers for taking a bribe from a restaurant owner. Police had been following the workers for a month after receiving complaints that they extorted money from several businesses that employed workers without work in exchange for not issuing the businesses a citation. Press reports indicated that the two workers had collected over 100,000 Turkish lira ($50,000) in bribes; an investigation into the case was ongoing.

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

A limited number of domestic human rights groups operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Authorities’ cooperation with NGOs was inconsistent.

Many local human rights groups were concerned with improving 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (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 PersonsShare    

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

Women

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, 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.” 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. Authorities considered a case more credible if there was at least one witness in addition to the victim.

In March the “deputy chief of police” stated that, over the preceding three years, 26 percent of the complaints made to police involved violence against women. Since 2010 police received 545 complaints involving women, of which 419 concerned violence against women. She noted that many other women did not complain and tolerated violence.

In July the press published interviews with representatives of various women rights organizations who claimed that the level of domestic violence in the north was very high. The AKOVA Women’s Association noted that domestic violence included not only physical violence, but also psychological, sexual, and economic violence.

According to a “Social Services Department” report, authorities recorded 161 victims of domestic violence between January 2012 and May. The “department” operated a violence hotline, which was answered by one “Social Services Department” employee who volunteered to take this additional role for a year.

Sexual Harassment: The “law” does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although victims could pursue remedies for harassment under other sections of the “law.” Sexual harassment was not widely discussed, and incidents of it went largely unreported.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals were able to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and 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.

Children

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 girls who are between the ages of 16 and 18 if they receive parental consent. The rate of marriage in 2012 for girls under the age of 18 was 1.2 percent; data for the year was not available by November.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “criminal code” penalizes sexual relations 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. The age of consent is 16 for girls. The “criminal code” does not specify an age of consent for boys.

Anti-Semitism

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 at www.state.gov/j/tip/.

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 569 persons with disabilities and provided financial aid to the remaining 3,925 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 the 330 Greek Cypriot and 110 Maronite residents in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

Under the Vienna III Agreement, UNFICYP visited Greek Cypriot residents of the enclave weekly and Maronites twice a month; additional visits require preapproval by authorities. Although the Vienna III Agreement provides for medical care by a doctor from the Greek Cypriot community, authorities only permitted such care 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 to 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 have been reports of social and work discrimination against the Kurds, including the refusal in 2011 of applications for birth certificates for children with Kurdish names. In addition close monitoring of Kurdish activities by police, including of the annual Nowruz Festival, has been alleged.

A majority of foreign workers in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were Turkish. Authorities noted that the majority of foreign workers worked in the service and construction sectors. According to the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation’s 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.

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

Same-sex sexual activity is criminalized in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots under a general sodomy “statute.” The maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment. No specific “law” prohibits discrimination against LGBT persons.

Homosexuality remained highly proscribed socially and was rarely discussed. Few LGBT persons were publicly open about their sexual orientation.

In July the Turkish Cypriot Teachers Trade Union Initiative against Homophobia and the Queer Cyprus association organized a two-day seminar, “LGBT Awareness in the Framework of Gender Equality.” Local lawyers, psychologists, and activists attended the seminar.

During the year there were no reports of either police or “government” representatives engaging in or condoning violence against the LGBT community. 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 to avoid such problems.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

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

Section 7. Worker RightsShare    

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The “law” and related “regulations” and “statutory instruments” 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.

The “government” did not effectively enforce applicable “laws.” Information was not available on the adequacy of resources and inspections. The penalties for violations were not available, and their sufficiency was unknown.

Workers formed and joined independent unions. Authorities generally protected the right of unions to conduct their activities. 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” was sporadic, and penalties for antiunion practices were nominal.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

“Laws” prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The “government” did not effectively enforce the “law.” 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. Information regarding the adequacy of inspections and resources was not available. There were reports of forced labor during the year.

Men and women employed in industrial, construction, agriculture, restaurant, and retail sectors were subjected to conditions of forced labor. Migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages and nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threats of deportation. The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation asserted that there were cases of forced labor in the agricultural and domestic service sectors.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/.

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, and children may be employed in apprentice positions between the ages of 15 and 18 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. Children between the ages of 15 and 18 are prohibited from working during mealtimes, at night, and under dangerous conditions and are prohibited from engaging in heavy physical labor. 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. Penalties for violations consisted of fines and “court” procedures. An employer is fined 7,075 Turkish lira ($3,500) per incident of child labor involving a foreigner. Due to a gap in the “law,” employers are taken to “court” for forced child labor of a “TRNC” citizen.

In February the “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” announced the launch of a hotline for victims of violence, including women and children. Social service experts said the “department” lacks infrastructure and capacity to provide such services. Authorities noted two to three cases of child labor reported through November.

NGOs alleged that authorities did not always effectively enforce these “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. The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation reported that children worked in dangerous conditions, such as on construction sites, and were subjected to heavy physical work despite “laws” to the contrary.

According to the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, child labor in the urban informal economy was also a problem, albeit to a lesser extent than in the agriculture and in 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. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage was increased from 1,300 Turkish lira ($650) per month to 1,415 Turkish lira ($707). The “Health Ministry” report on hunger and poverty levels indicated in April that the “hunger level” was 1,278 Turkish lira ($639) per month and poverty level was 5,803 Turkish lira ($2,900) 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.

Standard working hours for the private and public sector were 40 hours a week. There was premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Premium pay for overtime was also required, but frequently 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 has been 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 September 30, there were 177 workplace accidents, in which seven were fatal, all of which were reportedly being investigated.

 



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