2016 Human Rights Reports: Cyprus - the Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 3, 2017

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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 sides.



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 domestic violence against women, limited access to some places of worship, and trafficking in persons.

Other reported problems included overcrowding in prisons and poor prison conditions; lack of separation of incarcerated adults and juveniles; societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; absence of a system to handle asylum applications or protect the rights of asylum seekers; 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; restrictions on freedom of speech and expression; 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 Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that authorities or their agents committed arbitrary, unlawful or politically motivated 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.

The “Attorney General’s Office” reported it received only one complaint during the year concerning police battery and use of force. In August the “Attorney General’s Office” opened an investigation against the police officer on assault and battery charges, and a “court” case was pending against the officer who allegedly beat a 67-year-old man arrested for the sexual assault of a mentally disabled 19-year-old boy. According to reports, without informing him of the nature of his arrest, police detained, beat, and insulted the man in an effort to obtain his confession. When police later brought the victim to face and identify the alleged attacker, police discovered they had confused names with someone else. Political party leaders called for an investigation. The “Attorney General’s Office” received a complaint, and an investigation was ongoing.

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, has a stated capacity of 294. As of October, it held 386 prisoners and pretrial detainees. Approximately 35 percent of the prison population consisted of persons awaiting trial. As of October, the prison system held 22 female prisoners, of which nine were pretrial detainees, and one juvenile. The prison did not separate adults and juveniles, and there were no detention or correction centers for children. Due to lack of space, detainees and prisoners were kept in the same cells.

In a March interview with the Havadis newspaper, prison director Metin Bilmem reported prison policy did not allow staff to separate the seven 14- to 17-year-old children and the twenty 19- to 20-year-old teenagers at the prison from other inmates. The article reported that the absence of a rehabilitation center at the prison and the lack of separation between juveniles and more serious offenders were helping turn younger inmates into “crime machines.” The press also reported young drug users returned to prison, but as drug dealers, illustrating a claim that incarceration of young offenders with older, more serious criminals, negatively affected them once they were released.

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

An NGO representative stated that prison facilities lacked health and other services and 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. Authorities reported a doctor visited the prison twice a week and remained on call for any emergencies. Authorities also reported potable water was provided to inmates and detainees. In September a local newspaper reported inmates were under serious risk of contracting contagious diseases at the Central Prison, including HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

In February the Guards Association complained to Kibris about poor working conditions at the Central Prison. According to Kibris, the association asserted that the infrastructure of the prison had deteriorated, and there was a need for a new building. The association also noted that criminals who had committed minor crimes were placed near those convicted of serious crimes. It asserted conditions were such that the prison could no longer carry out its duties to protect, monitor, educate, and rehabilitate inmates and help them reenter the community.

In an April letter to Halkinsesi, inmates at the Central Prison announced they had started a hunger strike to protest poor prison conditions. According to the letter, inmates reported the prison was overcrowded, with more than 400 inmates housed in a facility that had a capacity of 180. Inmates also reported there were 45 persons in one cell that had capacity for only 20 and had just one shower. The inmates demanded the return of the general “amnesty law” and criticized the prison administration for not keeping its promises regarding probation. The inmates asserted that for the past 25 years there had not been any amnesties at the Central Prison.

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, addressing the status of juvenile prisoners, or improving detention or bail conditions.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities permitted prison monitoring.

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,” which holds the “security portfolio.” Police and Turkish Cypriot security forces are ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish armed forces, as provided by 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.”

The “Attorney General’s Office” continued to work with police inspection division (or occasionally the criminal investigative division) to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

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 may be granted and was routinely used. There were no alternatives to bail, which is determined by the “court.” Detainees’ passports were confiscated by the “court,” pending trial. 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.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons who are arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and can obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

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 public 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.

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. They have also noted that there was a lack of sufficient free 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. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse decisions by the “courts” that involve human rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 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.

Property Restitution

Greek Cypriots continued to pursue property suits in the 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.

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 6,304 applications with the commission, 775 of which were concluded through friendly settlements and 25 through formal hearings. The commission has paid more than 227 million British pounds ($287 million) in compensation to applicants.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful 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.

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: While there is no law restricting the use of non-”TRNC” flags or symbols, some individuals who have flown Republic of Cyprus flags have been publicly criticized and put on trial on charges of “disturbing the peace” or “provocative actions.”

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: There were reports that defendants in some “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, inflicting head injuries that required five stitches. Police have not announced the results from their investigation of the incident.

On July 14, local newspapers reported that Mert Ozdag, a reporter, received a threatening message on his parked vehicle, which read, “Be careful. You are in trouble.” Ozdag had been writing about allegations of illegal loans and illegal construction in July. Police started an investigation of the threat and were reviewing closed circuit cameras in the area. On July 15, the journalists association and NGOs condemned the threat.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists cannot access or report on persons under control of the armed forces. The Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association reported authorities used these restrictions to deny access and prevent journalists from investigating valid 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 the number of broadband users reached 68,000 in the north, including fixed line and mobile internet subscribers.

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.

The Primary Education Teachers Union reported that police prevented its members from assembling in front of the Turkish-funded Hala Sultan Religious High School in June to protest the “government’s” failure to enforce the “Supreme Court’s” decision that the school should operate by vocational school instead of public school regulations, thereby allowing it to separate boys and girls and require girls to wear head scarves. Two weeks later the union reported that police prevented its members from assembling in front of the Turkish “embassy” to protest the same issue.

Freedom of Association

The “law” provides for the freedom of association, and authorities generally respected this right, although some organizations faced lengthy registration processes.

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. 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.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: UNHCR reported that, with few exceptions, asylum seekers generally were treated as illegal migrants because an official framework for asylum does not exist. Most either were denied entry or deported.

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

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

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 internally displaced persons (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 were engaged in ongoing UN-facilitated peace talks 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 NGO implementing partner, the Refugee Rights Association (RRA). As of October 31, the RRA reported that 279 persons claiming to be in need of international protection arrived in the Turkish Cypriot area, including at “ports of entry.” As of October 31, the RRA also directed 146 individuals either to regularize their stay in the “TRNC” or to apply for asylum in the government-controlled area with the assistance of UNHCR.

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 their imprisonment or systematic deportation. 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 at the prison.

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. As of October 31, the RRA successfully cancelled the expulsion of 64 persons, allowing them access to the territory or regularizing their stay in the “TRNC.”

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 irregular migrants without work permits. Authorities sometimes treated asylum seekers as irregular migrants and either deported them or denied them entry. In January the press reported that, as of September 2015, a total of 47,798 non-”TRNC” citizens were in possession of work permits but did not identify how many of these were asylum seekers.

A “regulation” provides that any employer of illegal workers may be fined 8,650 Turkish lira ($2,480) 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 ($546,000).

According to press reports, between January 1 and March 22, the Labor Authority carried out investigations at 276 workplaces and identified 102 illegal workers. The total penalties assessed were 903,600 Turkish lira ($260,000).

Access to Basic Services: According to the RRA, at the end of October, there were 73 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 their presence 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 choose their “government” through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal suffrage and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body every five years or less. In April 2015 Turkish Cypriots elected Mustafa Akinci “president” in elections that were considered free and fair. 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: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did participate.

While 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.” There were four women in the 50-seat “parliament.” During the year one woman was a member of the “cabinet.” She has since been replaced in a new government, leaving no women in “cabinet” positions.

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 June the press reported that the “prime minister” used “state” funds to travel to Istanbul with a seven-person delegation to attend his daughter’s graduation. The press also reported the group was given a travel advance of 5,000 Turkish lira ($1,440), reportedly paid by the “state.” The same month, the People’s Party (HP) filed a complaint with the “Auditor General’s Office” concerning the “prime minister’s” use of “state” funds to cover the delegation’s travel. The HP urged that the money be returned to the “state” and an apology made to the public.

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”; the chair of the “Attorney General’s Office;” and “Attorney General’s Office” members. Every five years employees who fall under this definition must declare any movable and immovable property, money, equity shares, stocks, and jewelry worth five times their monthly salary, as well as receivables and debts that belong to them, their spouses, and all children under their custody. The disclosure is made internally and is not public information. Once a declaration is overdue, the employee receives a written warning to disclose wealth within 30 days. If the disclosure is not forthcoming, a complaint is filed with the “Attorney General’s Office.” The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of up to 5,000 Turkish lira ($1,440) or three months’ imprisonment, or both. If confidentiality is violated, employees may receive a fine of up to 10,000 Turkish lira ($2,870), 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. 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; police abuse; and the 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    


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 local NGOs whose specific mission was to support rape victims. One NGO representative reported societal pressure against reporting incidents of spousal rape.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained 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 and resulted in fines and bail for the perpetrator but no prison sentences.

In July the Social Risks Foundation NGO announced it was closing the only women’s shelter in the north after financial problems and problems between trafficking victims and domestic violence survivors. At a press conference, the foundation stated that, over a period of five years, the house had sheltered 227 women who had been subjected to domestic violence and 114 children living with them.

The “Attorney General’s Office” reported that, between January and October, 102 domestic violence complaints were made to police. Of these, 34 were referred to the “courts” and were pending trial, 18 were withdrawn after police gave warnings to the offender, 11 were resolved with the payment of fines, and 39 investigations were ongoing.

In October an NGO reported that police humiliated and neglected victims of domestic violence. The NGO also reported one of the biggest problems was women’s lack of access to family courts for protection orders and other legal rights, including divorce.

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: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. 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.

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 became pregnant.


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

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, the act is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and/or an unspecified fine. There are no “laws” regarding child pornography.


The small Jewish community consisted primarily of nonresident businesspersons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

In April a group of 50 Palestinian students protested and boycotted a conference presentation by an Israeli professor who was a guest speaker at the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU). Approximately 50 Palestinian students opened banners during the conference reading, “Free Palestine,” “Terrorist Israel,” and held photos of suffering Palestinian children. The students did not shout or interrupt the conference but rather made their protests in silence with banners. Police and private security intervened and removed the students from the conference hall. Observers reported that there were approximately 1,000 Palestinian students studying at EMU.

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, the “judicial system,” or 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.

In May the “parliament chair,” Sibel Siber, established a platform for persons with disabilities so they could access the “parliament” building and observe sessions or hold meetings in their wheelchairs. In August a local municipality established a platform by the shore to allow wheelchair users to access the sea.

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 87 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. In August a local NGO reported on the poor working and living conditions of seasonal workers in the north. According to the NGO, workers were promised clean accommodations, but instead were housed in terrible conditions and their children often did not attend school due to proper paperwork not having been filed.

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 police and Turkish Cypriot security forces, to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. The “law” allows all unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for the right to strike, provided that a union notify authorities in writing if the duration of a strike was planned for 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 in any individual sector 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 very little unionization among the estimated 70,000 to 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 them. 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 convicted of violating the “law” can be fined from two to eight times the monthly minimum wage of 1,834 Turkish lira ($527).

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 March, following the death of a construction worker, unions and NGOs held a demonstration calling for mandatory unionization in the private sector.

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, domestic, 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 restricted 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 are restricted to not more than six hours per day and 30 hours per week. The “law” prohibits children between the ages of 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 hourly wage of a full-time employee. 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 may be fined 8,650 Turkish lira ($2,480) per incident of child labor.

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 “legal” prohibitions. 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 number of children selling tissues or other small items on the street increased, 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.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and 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 “law” does not specifically address discrimination with respect to religion, political opinion, or HIV-positive 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. Women were paid far less than men in the private sector, faced sexual harassment in the workplace, and held far fewer managerial positions. Greek Cypriots faced social and employment discrimination. LGBTI individuals often hid their orientation in the workplace. Disabled persons routinely found it difficult physically to access traditional workplace settings, such as office buildings.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The “government” increased the minimum wage from 1,675 Turkish lira ($481) to 1,834 Turkish lira ($527), but inflation and cost of living outpaced the wage increase. 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 is premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Premium pay for overtime is also required, but frequently not paid, in the private sector. The “law” prohibits compulsory overtime and provides for paid annual holidays.

The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing both the minimum wage and paying public sector wages, but did not effectively do so. For example, in September workers for the Yenierenkoy “municipality” had not received salaries for two months. Employers paid undocumented migrant workers below the minimum wage.

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. There was little improvement in working conditions, particularly for hazardous sectors and vulnerable groups. It was common practice to deport migrant 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 labor authorities, as of April, there were 41 workplace accidents, two of which resulted in fatalities. Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Authorities did not protect workers in these situations.