2015 Human Rights Reports: Cyprus - the Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
April 13, 2016

This is the basic text view. SWITCH NOW to the new, more interactive format.

   

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 in 1983 declared the northern area the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”). The United States does not recognize the “TRNC,” nor does any country other than Turkey. Mustafa Akinci was elected “president” in 2015 in free and fair elections. 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.

The most significant problems reported during the year included: trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons; and absence of a system to handle asylum applications or protect the rights of asylum-seekers.

Other problems reported during the year included mistreatment of persons in detention and in prison; overcrowding in prisons and poor prison conditions; 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; restrictions on freedom of speech and expression and pressure and censorship against journalists that interfered with their objective reporting; and failure of authorities to introduce and enforce adequate labor health and safety standards.

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.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The “law” prohibits such practices, but there were reports during the year 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,” there were no allegations or complaints filed with it involving police misconduct towards detainees, including violence and torture.

The “Attorney General’s Office” reported that an investigation pending since 2014 was concluded and a “police officer” was given disciplinary punishment by the “police.” The office considered that the complaints regarding the other case were baseless. The “Attorney General’s Office” also reported that there had been no complaints regarding police abuse during the year and therefore no investigations were carried out.

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. Insufficient prison infrastructure, guards, and other staff were also problems.

Physical Conditions: The area’s prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia and built in 1982, has a stated capacity of 291. As of October it held 333 prisoners and pretrial detainees. Approximately 28 percent of the prison population consisted of persons awaiting trial. As of October, the prison system held 18 female prisoners and one juvenile. There were also concerns that authorities detained women and children without legal cause.

In March trade unions reported deficiencies in the prison, including working conditions and the status of guards and infrastructure. The prison did not separate adults and juveniles, and there were no detention or correction centers for children.

As of October there were no reports of deaths in the prison or detention centers during the year.

An NGO representative stated that facilities lacked health and other services and that inmates had limited access to washing water and hot water. 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.

Administration: Recordkeeping on inmates was inadequate. Community service was not available as an alternative to prison confinement for nonviolent offenders, although there were other alternatives, including warnings, conditional and unconditional release, bail, and psychological and social counseling. 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.

According to the “law,” all prisoners and detainees must undergo a medical examination before entering the Central Prison. The prison authorities reported that the same doctor visits the Central Prison twice a week and is on-call for emergencies.

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 Friday prayers.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities stated that prison monitoring was permitted. Media outlets and one foreign embassy visited the prison on multiple occasions. In one case, 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. The authorities reported that the prison administrators are pursuing a prisoner reentry project and are providing education based examinations to inmates. Also, in June, products made by inmates during vocational courses in prison were available for purchase at exhibitions outside of the prison. In addition, prison authorities have changed the food policy, and are now outsourcing prisoner meals instead of making them in the cafeteria.

Authorities reported that an x-ray machine was purchased for the prison. The authorities reported that a dentistry unit was established at the Central Prison to provide free dental services to inmates.

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 armed forces, per 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. The police force consists of eight functional 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 August the press reported that the police financial crime unit was having difficulties functioning due to lack of information technology and understanding of cybercrime “laws.”

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Judicially issued warrants are required for arrests. Authorities may not detain a person longer than 24 hours without referring 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 they often held individuals believed to have committed a violent offense for longer periods without charge. According to the “law,” police must bring a detained person before a “judge” within 24 hours of arrest. Police can then keep the detainee in custody for 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. In contradiction to the “law,” some “courts” did not permit suspects to have their lawyers present when giving testimony. 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.

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 October various NGO representatives and human rights lawyers 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” proceedings. 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

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic “courts.” Authorities generally respect “court” orders.

Property Restitution

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, 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 October claimants had filed a total of 6,232 applications with the commission, 703 of which were concluded through friendly settlements and 19 through formal hearings. The commission has paid more than 211 million British pounds ($320 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 armed forces occupied 18 houses in the Maronite village of Karpashia.

In August the press reported that the Karpashia village had not received water services from the Lapta “municipality” for two months, even though residents had paid their utility bills. Speaking to the press, the “village muhtar” stated there were 25 Maronite families living in Karpashia and called on authorities to fix the water problem. Authorities informed the Maronites that there were problems with the water pipeline serving the village.

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 usually able to criticize authorities publicly without reprisal, with some exceptions.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: There is no law that restricts use of non-”TRNC” flags or symbols. Some individuals who have flown Republic of Cyprus flags, however, have been heavily criticized and were put on trial on charges of “disturbing the peace” or “provocative actions.”

In May a Turkish Cypriot couple on trial for flying the Republic of Cyprus flag unfurled the flag outside of the “court” building and was physically attacked by members of the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves movement. According to press reports, police called for backup and created a barricade around the area. Later that month, approximately 100 Grey Wolf members who had convened in front of the “court” confronted the couple to protest their actions and attacked police vehicles. On June 17, the “court” ruled that the arguments against the couple alleging that they disturbed the community by unfurling a Republic of Cyprus flag in a public place and had destructive intentions against the “TRNC state” were insufficient and acquitted both. Prosecutors had charged the couple with inappropriate actions, degrading the “TRNC,” and defamation for flying Republic of Cyprus flags outside their home and shop in Famagusta in 2013.

Press and Media Freedoms: While authorities generally respected press freedom, they at times obstructed journalists in their reporting. Journalists 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 to follow up reporting at “court” hearings. Journalists also alleged that owners of media outlets influenced press coverage and discouraged journalists from reporting contrary to the owners’ views.

Violence and Harassment: Defendants in “court” cases allegedly threatened journalists, who also faced pressure for their reporting from companies that advertised in their publications.

In March, three masked persons attacked a journalist departing a fitness club. No results have been announced from a police investigation of the incident. The journalist received head injuries that required five stitches. The press speculated that the attack was linked to editorials he wrote about drug use in the north.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists cannot access or report on persons under control of the armed forces. The Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association reported that authorities used these grounds to deny access and prevent journalists from investigating subjects such as suicides or allegations of police torture or battery within the military or police systems.

Internet Freedom

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.

In March the press reported that there were 62,000 internet subscribers in the north. An estimated 90 percent of internet subscribers used high speed or wireless connections while 10 percent used dial-up.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Authorities did not restrict academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The “law” provides for the freedoms of assembly, and authorities usually respected this right.

In May the press reported that police brought charges against 12 teachers who had demonstrated at “parliament” the month before. Police filed the charges after a “member of parliament” from the National Unity Party complained that the demonstrators were trespassing on “parliament.”

In March the Nicosia Workers’ Union demonstrated in front of the “Auditor’s Office” and protested that the “Auditor’s Office” had delayed publishing a report allegedly showing that the former administration of Nicosia Turkish Municipality was involved in corruption and pushed the municipality to the edge of bankruptcy.

Freedom of Association

The “law” provides for the freedom of association, and authorities generally respected this right, 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/religiousfreedomreport/.

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 UNHCR and Turkish Cypriot authorities. Because no “law” exists regarding the handling of asylum applications, the UNHCR representative in the Republic of Cyprus adjudicated asylum claims.

In-country Movement: Authorities required Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to show identification cards when crossing the “Green Line.” A previous requirement that Greek Cypriots and foreigners crossing into the area administered by Turkish Cypriots fill out a “visa” form was lifted in May.

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 island’s 1974 division 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. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are engaged in ongoing UN-facilitated negotiations including discussions to resolve the issues of their lost property.

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 66 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 because irregular crossings were 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 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.

The RRA reported that as of October there were 72 refugees in the “TRNC,” including 33 children. The RRA added that the refugees were from Syria, the Palestinian Territories, the Central African Republic, and Egypt.

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 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: According to 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. In January the press reported that, in the year prior to October 2014, authorities provided 43,323 non-”TRNC” citizens work permits in the north but did not report how many of these were asylum seekers.

A “regulation” provides that any employer of illegal workers may be fined 8,650 Turkish lira ($3,170) or face closure of their business for two months. During the year the “Labor Authority” stated that it had identified workers without work permits. As of September 30, the “Labor Authority” had checked 841 workers to verify their status and fined 134 employers of 226 illegal workers a total of 1.9 million Turkish lira ($696,000).

Access to Basic Services: According to the RRA, at the end of June, there were 79 asylum seekers residing and working (often for below-minimum wages or 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. UNHCR provided financial assistance to asylum seekers only in exceptional cases.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political ProcessShare    

The “law” provides Turkish Cypriots the ability to change their “government” through free and fair periodic elections held on the basis of universal suffrage, and Turkish Cypriots exercised that ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body every five years or less. On April 26, Turkish Cypriots elected Mustafa Akinci “president” in free and fair elections. In 2013 Turkish Cypriots held early “parliamentary” elections that observers also considered free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: While membership or nonmembership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages or disadvantages, there were widespread allegations of political cronyism and nepotism.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There were no laws or cultural practices preventing women from participating in political life. 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. There was no minority representation in the 50-seat “parliament” or in the “cabinet.”

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: In April the press reported that a municipal worker responsible for the cemetery in Nicosia sold the same spots in the cemetery to multiple persons, illegally pocketing 100,000 Turkish lira ($36,600). The municipality opened an investigation into the case.

Financial Disclosure: The “law” provides that all “government” employees must declare their wealth and assets, including those who are elected; “Council of Ministers” appointees; all “judges” and “prosecutors;” the “ombudsman”; “Audit Office chair;” and “Audit Office members.” All employees who fall under the definition must declare any immovable property, money, equity shares, stocks, any jewelry worth five times their monthly salary, receivables and debts, and all other movable property and salary, of their selves, their spouse, and all children under their custody, every five years. The disclosure is made internally and is not public information. Once declarations are overdue, the employee receives a written warning to disclose wealth within 30 days. If unsuccessful, a complaint is filed with the “Attorney General’s Office.” The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of up to 5,000 Turkish lira ($1,830) or three months imprisonment, or both. If confidentiality is violated, employees may receive up to 10,000 Turkish lira ($3,660) or 12 months’ imprisonment, or both.

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. One NGO complained about the procedure of accessing information and claimed that some access was denied or deliberately delayed.

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 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 rights of LGBTI persons. 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, sex, religion, political; opinion, national; origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV-status, or presence of other communicable diseases. Authorities generally enforced these prohibitions.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The “law” criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Authorities and police enforced the “law” effectively. 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 without prosecution, a few cases of domestic violence were prosecuted that resulted in fines and bail but no prison sentences.

According to police reports published in March, 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.

In February, the “social services officer” announced that, in the period 2012-14, some 521 women reported being subjected to violence, according to domestic violence forms filled in by police and others. She noted that her office would call or visit women who filed complaints but were not able to come in for help.

In August a woman who was trying to escape from her husband to a neighbor’s house over her balcony fell 21 feet and died at the hospital. The night of the incident, police arrested her husband, who confessed that he had fought with his wife and beat her because she received a text message.

In August police released statistics from the domestic violence hotline indicating that, over the previous 19 months, 364 women reported being subjected to domestic violence, with 96.7 percent saying that they had been beaten. According to the report, between January 2014 and July 2015, the hotline was called 2,639 times.

In September the “cabinet” decided to allocate land for the construction of a women’s shelter. Speaking to the press, the “social services director” stated that there were two women in a temporary shelter and two more women with their children scheduled to be transferred to the temporary shelter.

Sexual Harassment: The “criminal code” prohibits sexual harassment and considers it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment and/or an unspecified fine. According to NGOs, incidents of sexual harassment went largely unreported.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Discrimination: Women generally have the same legal status as men under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance “laws.” Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. 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 (see section 7.d.).

In June, the press reported that a number of NGOs criticized the Near East University Hospital for firing a woman working in the hospital after she got pregnant.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive “citizenship” from their parents, and there was universal registration at birth.

Child Abuse: There were reports of child abuse. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seeking legal remedies for such problems, which observers believed were underreported.

Early and Forced 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.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “criminal code” prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and authorities generally enforced the prohibition. The age of consent is 16. Statutory rape or attempted statutory rape of a minor under the age of 16 is classified as a felony, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If the offender is under 18 and two years or less apart in age from the victim, then this is a misdemeanor punished by up to two years in prison and/or an unspecified fine. There are no “laws” regarding child pornography.

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/rls/tiprpt/.

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 “law” does not mandate access to public buildings and other facilities for persons with disabilities, and the disability community complained of the absence of infrastructure in public areas, including lack of sidewalks, blocked sidewalks, and the inability to use public transportation.

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 335 Greek Cypriot and 93 Maronite residents in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

Under the Vienna III Agreement, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) visited enclaved Greek Cypriot residents 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 that emigrated from Turkey in the 1980s lived in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. There were reports of social and job discrimination against the Kurds as well as allegations that police closely monitored Kurdish activities, in particular 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.

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

The “law” prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Homosexuality remained a social taboo and was rarely discussed. Few LGBTI 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 LGBTI community noted that an overwhelming majority of LGBTI persons hid their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid such problems.

Section 7. Worker RightsShare    

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The “law” provides for the rights of workers, except members of the 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 health, 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.” Any employer who violates the “law” can be fined from two to eight times the monthly minimum wage of 1,730 Turkish lira ($634).

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.

In February the press reported that there were 1,875 registered NGOs in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots. There are 479 solidarity NGOs; 264 cultural NGOS; 45 women’s rights NGOs; 552 sports NGOs; 74 health NGOs; 290 professional NGOs; 55 environmental NGOs; 74 religious NGOs; 6 traffic safety NGOs; 26 NGOs for veterans, war casualties, and their families; and 10 NGOs for retirees.

In August a new private sector workers union (Ozel-Sen) was established in the north, with the stated aim of filling the gap in union protections for private sector workers.

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 was 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 the 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 at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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 per day and 30 hours per 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 are entitled to the wage of a full-time employee, although they 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 8,650 Turkish lira ($3,170) per incident of child labor involving a foreigner.

Authorities reported that the labor inspectors identified 18 child laborers in various workplaces.

NGOs alleged authorities did not always effectively enforce the “laws,” and employers used children, mainly from Turkey, for labor, primarily working alongside their families in the agricultural, manufacturing, automotive, and construction sectors. NGOs reported children worked in dangerous conditions, such as on construction sites, and were subjected to heavy physical work despite “laws” to the contrary. One NGO reported that some employers delayed applying for work permits for seasonal agricultural workers from Turkey, which prevented the workers’ children from being eligible for local schooling.

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 tissues 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.

In January the press reported the dangerous conditions for construction workers at the Turkish-funded religious complex adjoining the Hala Sultan Divinity School, especially workers doing construction work around the tall minarets.

On June 11, press reported that a worker fell to his death from the seventh story of a building under construction in the latest of a series of workplace accidents. The local paper called for workplace safety “laws” to be enforced. Dev-Is workers union held a demonstration in front of the “Ministry of Labor” to protest and call for implementation of labor “laws.”

In August during a heat wave, the “Ministry of Labor” announced restricted working hours for anyone working outside between noon and 4 p.m. during the day, with fines for employers violating the restriction. The “minister” of labor announced that they inspected 215 workplaces and gave out 38 letters to employers who had continued operations during restricted working hours. During these inspections, labor inspectors identified 13 illegal workers and, as a result, fined four employers a total of 108,875 Turkish lira ($39,900).

According to labor authorities, during the year there were 94 work-place accidents, six of which resulted in fatalities.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment or Occupation

The “law” generally prohibits 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, disability, and gender.

Foreign migrant workers faced societal discrimination, with respect to ethnicity, race, and religious belief.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The “government” increased the minimum wage from 1,675 Turkish lira ($614) to 1,730 Turkish lira ($634). A public sector union announced to the press that the “hunger level” was 1,572 Turkish lira ($576) per month and the poverty level was 7,137 Turkish lira ($2,610) 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 was premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Premium pay for overtime was 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. Despite occasional inspections of working conditions by labor authorities, enforcement was rare 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. There was little improvement in working conditions, particularly for hazardous sectors and vulnerable groups. It was common practice to deport 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.

According to a local newspaper, from 2006 through August 2015, 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.