2017 Human Rights Reports: Cyprus

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
April 20, 2018

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Since 1974 the southern part of Cyprus has been under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus. The northern part of Cyprus, 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.

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYShare    

The Republic of Cyprus is a constitutional republic and multiparty presidential democracy. In 2013 voters elected President Nicos Anastasiades in free and fair elections. In May 2016 voters elected 56 representatives to the 80-seat House of Representatives (Vouli Antiprosopon) in free and fair elections.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included instances of corruption, which the authorities investigated; and societal violence against members of minority ethnic and national groups.

The government investigated and prosecuted officials who committed human rights abuses. There were no reports of impunity during the year.

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 the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports, however, that police engaged in abusive tactics and degrading treatment of suspects. Members of ethnic and racial minorities were more likely to be subjected to such treatment.

On September 5, the NGO Action for Equality, Support, and Antiracism (KISA) reported that a police officer brutalized a 60-year-old Turkish citizen on August 31, when he crossed the Ledra Palace checkpoint on his bicycle without showing a valid entry visa. KISA claimed the incident occurred in front of citizens who urged police to stop. The beating allegedly continued inside a police station in view of another officer who did nothing to stop it. KISA reported the incident to the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints against Police, and the authority investigated the complaint and recommended the criminal prosecution of the officer. The Office of the Attorney General ordered the officer’s criminal prosecution and rejected a police request for criminal prosecution of the complainant for resisting arrest and causing bodily harm to a police officer. The complainant remained in custody until the completion of the investigation and was deported to Turkey on October 7.

During the year the ombudsman, who also acts as the country’s national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, received “a small number” of complaints of mistreatment and discriminatory and degrading behavior, including complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, from inmates in the Central Prison and in detention centers. The ombudsman reported that most of the complaints were not sufficiently substantiated. Overall, the ombudsman established improvement in the treatment of prisoners and detainees in the Central Prison and in detention centers.

KISA reported that police sometimes used violence to suppress detainees’ protests in the Mennoyia Detention Center. Following a January 2016 visit to the country, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture stated that it still faced several problems, particularly regarding the independent monitoring of places of detention and the treatment of migrants.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions, including detention centers for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants pending deportation, did not sufficiently meet international standards, and prison overcrowding was a problem. Nicosia Central Prison, the only prison in the Republic of Cyprus, and all detention centers are operated by the government. In addition to Mennoyia Detention Center for Illegal Immigrants and the Central Prison, there are seven detention facilities suitable for over 24 hours of detention in the Republic of Cyprus. There are also holding cells in police stations for short-term detention.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding continued to be a problem for the male wing of Nicosia Central Prison, but to a lesser extent than in previous years. In 2016 the prison’s official capacity was 528; the maximum number of inmates held during the year was 624. In December 2016 a new wing for female prisoners was opened which has resolved the problem of overcrowding of female prisoners.

Prison authorities held juvenile pretrial detainees in cells separate from convicted juveniles, but the two groups shared the same grounds in their daily activities. Authorities reportedly held migrants detained on deportation orders together with detainees charged with criminal offenses in nearly all police stations. Such detentions are limited to a maximum of 48 hours.

During the year the ombudsman reported a further reduction in the number of migrant detainees in detention centers as a result of a policy instituted in 2015 to transfer them to the Mennoyia Detention Center within 48 hours. The Ministry of Justice reported that it runs a substitution program for drug addicts at the Central Prison, which is based on World Health Organization recommendations.

Approximately 44 percent of prisoners in the Central Prison were non-Cypriots convicted for criminal offenses. They were convicted for immigration and drug-related offenses, thefts, sexual offenses, and road accidents.

The ombudsman reported a further reduction in the number of detainees at Mennoyia Detention Center during the year but noted that there were still some rare cases of migrants and asylum seekers detained for deportation purposes for periods longer than the stated government policy, although there was no prospect they would be deported. A considerable number of detainees at Mennoyia Detention Center were awaiting a decision on their request for international protection or for adjudication of their appeals against the rejection of their asylum applications. Unlike in previous years, the ombudsman and NGOs did not encounter cases of detainees deported before final adjudication of their asylum applications. In previous years the ombudsman intervened and prevented some of the deportations. In a February 2016 report, the ombudsman warned that deportation of asylum seekers while court proceedings were still pending could amount to violation of the principle of nonrefoulement, which could bring into question the legality of the deportation order and detention.

Administration: Detention centers did not have facilities for religious observance.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, and such visits, unrestricted and unannounced, occurred during the year. The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CTP) visited the Central Prison in February. The House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Education and Culture also visited the prison.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Police enforce the law and combat criminal activity. The Cyprus National Guard, backed by a contingent of Greek military forces, the Hellenic Force in Cyprus, protects national security. The National Guard reports to the Ministry of Defense, which reports to the president, while police report to the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. The president appoints the chief of police.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and the National Guard, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity during the year.

In June 2016 a police officer and his wife were shot and killed and a second officer was seriously injured in a mafia-style shooting while dining at an Ayia Napa resort restaurant with a local businessman rumored to be a major crime lord, who was also killed. Acting on findings of a criminal investigation into possible police complicity and case file mismanagement, on May 4, the attorney general ordered the criminal prosecution of the deputy police chief for leaking confidential information related to the case to the press. Seven other police officers and a prison warden faced disciplinary action in the absence of evidence to support their criminal prosecution. The deputy police chief was fired from the police force. His trial began on July 3.

From July to October, the attorney general ordered the criminal prosecution of police officers in six cases. From January to October, the police investigated 34 criminal cases against members of the police force.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires judicially issued arrest warrants, and authorities respected this requirement. Authorities may not detain a person for more than one day without referral of the case to a court for extension of detention. Most periods of investigative detention did not exceed 10 days before the filing of formal charges. Detainees were promptly informed of the charges against them, and the charges were presented in a language they could understand. The attorney general made efforts to minimize pretrial detention, especially in cases of serious crimes.

While attorneys generally had access to detainees, the CPT noted in a 2014 report that persons apprehended by police were usually able to speak in private with an ex officio lawyer only at the time of their first court appearance. In criminal cases the state provides indigent detainees with an attorney. To qualify for free legal aid, however, detainees require a court decision, based on their financial need, before a lawyer is assigned. In its report the CPT noted this system inevitably delayed detainees’ access to a lawyer.

There is a system of bail. The government claimed the right to deport foreign nationals for reasons of public interest, regardless of whether criminal charges had been filed against them or they had been convicted of a crime. Trial delays were common and partially caused by lengthy legal procedures, which caused a larger workload for the courts.

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court to challenge the legal basis and length of their detention or for a writ of habeas corpus. If the application is successful, authorities should immediately release the detainee. NGOs reported a number of cases, however, of rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants who successfully challenged their detention before the Supreme Court, but the administration immediately issued new detention orders and rearrested them.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law and constitution provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

On March 1, the former deputy attorney general was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to pervert the course of justice while in office. In 2015 the Supreme Court ordered his dismissal for conduct unbecoming a public official.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to appeal. Officials informed defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them. The constitution provides for fair and public trials without undue delay, and defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Authorities provide an attorney for defendants who are unable to afford one, and defendants are allowed adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Authorities provided free interpretation as necessary through all stages of the trial. Defendants have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present evidence or witnesses on their behalf. The government generally respected the above rights and provided them to all defendants.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, permitting claimants to bring lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of human rights violations, and citizens used this procedure. Individuals could appeal cases involving alleged human rights violations by the state to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) once they exhausted all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.

Property Restitution

According to the law, the minister of interior is the guardian of the properties of Turkish Cypriots who have not had permanent residence in the government-controlled area since 1974. Ownership remains with the original owner, but the sale or transfer of Turkish Cypriot property under the guardianship of the minister requires the approval of the government. The minister has the authority to return properties to Turkish Cypriot applicants after examining the circumstances of each case. Owners can appeal the minister’s decisions to the Administrative Court.

During the year Turkish Cypriots filed seven court cases seeking to reclaim property located in the government-controlled area, including one filed with the Administrative Court. The Administrative Court issued one decision accepting the application of the owner against the guardian’s decision to place the property under guardianship law. The court annulled the guardian’s decision.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:Share    

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Expression: The law criminalizes incitement to hatred and violence based on race, color, religion, genealogical origin, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. Such acts are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 10,000 euros ($12,000), or both. In 2015 police examined 11 complaints of verbal assault and/or hate speech based on ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, and color. Authorities opened criminal prosecutions in five cases that are currently pending trial.

Press and Media Freedom: The law penalizes the use of geographical names and toponyms in the country other than those included in the gazetteer the government presented at the 1987 Fifth UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. According to the law, anyone who publishes, imports, distributes, or sells maps, books, or any other documents in print or digital form that contain geographical names and toponyms on the island of Cyprus other than those permitted, commits an offense punishable by up to three years in prison, a fine of up to 50,000 euros ($60,000), or both.

In May and June, the Radio and Television Authority issued decisions fining two television stations and a radio station for airing interviews and programs deemed to tarnish the reputation of high-level government and church officials in the country.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law criminalizes the use of computer systems to incite and promote racism, xenophobia, prejudice, racial discrimination, hate speech, and violence. Such acts are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 35,000 euros ($42,000), or both. The use of computer systems to commit offenses related to child pornography is criminalized and is punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 42,500 euros ($51,000).

According to statistics compiled by Eurostat in April, approximately 78 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

On April 17, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prevented 13 child members of a dance troupe from Serbia and their adult chaperones from traveling to the area under Turkish Cypriot administration to participate in a cultural event at the invitation of the “TRNC.” The ministry denied reports it had detained and deported the group and stated the group voluntarily chose to depart Cyprus after officials advised them that their participation in the event would violate UN resolutions, and that no consular assistance would be available while in the north. The Greek Cypriot media reported that the Serbian Foreign Ministry claimed on April 19, that the children had been detained and barred from leaving the airport before eventually being allowed to enter the Republic of Cyprus and returning to Serbia the next day.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law and constitution provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement within government-controlled areas, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: NGOs reported that some rejected asylum seekers under detention submitted complaints of psychological and verbal abuse by police officers at the Mennoyia Detention Center. Foreign nationals sentenced to a few months’ imprisonment for entering the country illegally were generally deported as soon as their travel documents were ready.

According to local NGOs, authorities routinely detained irregular migrants and certain categories of rejected asylum seekers in prison-like conditions for extended periods while awaiting deportation. Detainees reportedly included unaccompanied minors.

While the government’s policy was not to hold such persons in detention for long periods and to release them and provide them residency permits if they were not deported within 18 months, there were reports that irregular migrants and asylum seekers were held beyond 18 months or, if released, were rearrested and incarcerated on different grounds. In a March 2016 report following his 2015 visit, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights expressed concern over the wide use of migrant detention, often for excessively long periods, and the practice of rearresting and redetaining migrants. The commissioner urged the government to end the detention of migrants, especially of asylum seekers and migrants deprived of liberty when there was no reasonable prospect of their deportation.

Unlike in previous years, the ombudsman reported that long-term detentions continued to occur in some rare occasions although her office, which handles these cases, did not receive any complaints concerning detainees held for considerable time based on deportation orders during the year. The ombudsman had repeatedly called on the government not to detain foreigners for deportation when there was no prospect of deportation because they did not have travel documents.

An NGO reported that in some isolated cases, undocumented foreigners arrested for illegal stays in the country remained in long-term detention.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, including migrants.

In-country Movement: The government did not restrict Greek Cypriots from traveling to the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, but it advised them against spending the night at Greek Cypriot properties occupied by Turkish Cypriots or Turks, gambling in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, or buying or developing property there. NGOs reported that the government prohibits recognized non-Cypriot refugees with temporary residence status and asylum seekers from crossing to the area administered by the Turkish Cypriots, asserting it could not assure their safety in an area not under its control.

In August a local newspaper alleged the government had engaged in racial discrimination by refusing to grant a passport to the child of a Greek Cypriot mother and a Turkish father, even though the child was born and living in Cyprus. The paper reported that the parents applied for their child’s passport more than three months previously, but their request had not been processed, claiming this was due to the father’s nationality. The Republic of Cyprus’ Commissioner for the Rights of the Child requested a quick resolution to this application.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The government considers Greek Cypriots displaced as a result of the 1974 division of the island to be refugees, although they fell under the UN definition of IDPs. As of October there were 229,840 such individuals and their descendants. UNHCR did not provide assistance to IDPs and officially considered the IDP population to be zero. Depending on their income, IDPs were eligible for financial assistance from the government. They were resettled, had access to humanitarian organizations, and were not subject to attack, targeting, or mandatory return under dangerous conditions. Until July, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were engaged in ongoing UN-facilitated peace talks, including discussions to resolve the issue of their lost property.

Protection of Refugees

Refoulement: The ombudsman reported that authorities discontinued the practice of deporting asylum seekers while their application appealing the rejection of their asylum application was pending. In 2016 the ombudsman warned authorities in writing that deportation in those cases could amount to an infringement on the principle of nonrefoulement. An NGO reported that authorities instead pressured asylum seekers arrested for immigration offenses to withdraw their appeal in exchange for being sent to a safe third country willing to receive them.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

The ombudsman reported delays in the examination of asylum applications and delays in the examination of appeals against rejections of asylum applications.

In a March 2016 report based on a visit to the country’s only reception center for asylum seekers in Kofinou, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights deplored a 2014 law restricting the right of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection to family reunification. The commissioner noted the termination of the practice of detaining Syrian asylum seekers and the reduction of the capacity of the Mennoyia Detention Center by half, but expressed concern over the growing number of rejected asylum seekers and other migrants who were detained for long periods of time while awaiting deportation.

The NGO KISA visited the Mennoyia Detention Center several times during the year and reconfirmed the ombudsman’s findings that detention facilities for rejected asylum seekers did not respect their fundamental rights. KISA reported that conditions at the center had improved but found the change did not entirely end the inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees.

The government provides subsidiary protection status for citizens or residents of Syria who entered the country legally or illegally. All persons seeking such status were required to provide a Syrian passport or other identification.

Employment: Authorities allowed asylum seekers whose cases were awaiting adjudication to work after residing six months in the country but limited them to the areas permitted by law. The law restricts the areas of employment for asylum seekers to fisheries, the production of animal feed, waste management, gas stations and car washes, freight handling in the wholesale trade, building and outdoor cleaning, distribution of advertising and informational materials, and food delivery.

There were reports of racism by Labor Department officers who met with valid residency applicants seeking a contract of employment. From January to October, the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance approved 36 labor contracts for asylum seekers, of which seven were in agriculture, 12 in car wash services, six in distribution of advertising and informational material, nine in outdoor cleaning, and two for labor work in recycling facilities.

Local NGOs complained about the remoteness of the government’s reception center for asylum seekers at Kofinou, located approximately 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) from Nicosia, the lack of language or job training, and the shortage of job opportunities other than as day laborers at nearby farms.

Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers who refused an available job could be denied state benefits. To obtain welfare benefits, asylum seekers also needed a valid address, which was not possible for those who were homeless. NGOs and asylum seekers reported delays and inconsistencies in the delivery of benefits to eligible asylum seekers.

In its observations released on May 12, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern over the limited reception facilities and insufficient access to services for the large number of asylum seekers at the Kofinou center; the limited range of employment opportunities for asylum seekers; the negative impact on the ability of asylum seekers to access benefits or assistance if categorized as “willfully unemployed,” and the insufficiency of social assistance benefits paid to asylum seekers.

The ombudsman reported improvement but only on a case-by-case basis following her July 2016 report highlighting the problem of retroactive welfare benefits owed to asylum seekers. The ombudsman also reported that the system of providing welfare support to asylum seekers via coupons was problematic in that the special needs of vulnerable groups among asylum seekers were not taken into account or accommodated appropriately. The coupons could be redeemed only in specific shops that may lack some supplies and were usually more expensive than other grocery stores.

An NGO reported that the procedure to enable access of asylum seekers to state medical care was cumbersome and time consuming.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection, called subsidiary protection, to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Authorities granted subsidiary protection to 767 persons in the first eight months the year.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political ProcessShare    

The law and constitution provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. In national elections only Turkish Cypriots who resided permanently in the government-controlled area were permitted to vote and run for office. In elections for the European Parliament, Cypriot citizens, resident EU citizens, and Turkish Cypriots who lived in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots have the right to vote and run for office.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In May 2016 the country held free and fair elections for the 56 seats assigned to Greek Cypriots in the 80-seat House of Representatives. In 2013 voters elected Nicos Anastasiades president in free and fair elections.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. There was one woman in the 11-seat Council of Ministers and 10 women in the 56-seat House of Representatives.

In 2014 some Turkish Cypriots complained that problems in the electoral roll disenfranchised a number of Turkish Cypriot voters. A law enacted in 2014 automatically registered all adult Turkish Cypriot holders of a government identity card who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots in the electoral roll for the European Parliament elections. Turkish Cypriots not residing in that area needed to apply for registration in the electoral roll, as did all other citizens. The government did not automatically register an unspecified number of Turkish Cypriots residing in the north because they were incorrectly listed in the official civil registry as residents of the government-controlled area.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare    

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, which vary depending on the charges, and the government generally implemented the laws effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. The government generally investigated and prosecuted cases of corruption.

Corruption: During the year the government initiated several investigations against public officials on suspicion of corruption. In August and September, police arrested 14 individuals in connection with possible fraud in the implementation of 23 multimillion euro ($27 million), EU cofunded research programs by the state-owned Cyprus University of Technology and the University of Cyprus. Police were investigating embezzlement and whether the funds went to relatives of university staff without completing the projects.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires the president, members of the Council of Ministers, and members of parliament to declare their income and assets. The publication of their declarations is obligatory. There are no specific sanctions for noncompliance. Spouses and children of the same officials are required to declare their assets but the publication of their declarations is prohibited. Other public officials are not required to declare their assets.

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

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is a government ombudsman, whose portfolio includes human rights, and a legislative Committee on Human Rights.

During her independent investigations, the ombudsman generally enjoyed good cooperation with other government bodies. The ombudsman’s reports focused on police misconduct, treatment of patients at state hospitals, treatment of asylum seekers and foreign workers, and gender equality in the workplace. Citizens respected the Office of the Ombudsman and considered it effective. On May 12, CERD expressed concern that the ombudsman’s office lacked the financial and human resources necessary to carry out its mandate independently, impartially, and effectively.

The legislative Committee on Human Rights, which most local NGOs considered effective, consists of nine members of the House of Representatives who serve five-year terms. The committee discussed wide-ranging human rights problems, including trafficking in persons, violence against women, sexual abuse of women and children, prison conditions, and the rights of foreign workers. The executive branch did not exercise control over the committee.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in PersonsShare    

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum sentence of life in prison for violations. The government enforced the law effectively.

There were reports of violence against women, including spousal abuse, and the number of cases reportedly increased in recent years. The law establishes clear mechanisms for reporting and prosecuting family violence and provides for the imprisonment of persons found guilty of abusing family members. A court can issue a same-day restraining order against suspected or convicted domestic-violence offenders.

Survivors of domestic violence had two shelters, each funded primarily by the government.

Police conducted detailed educational programs for officers on the proper handling of domestic violence, including training focused on child abuse. NGOs noted, however, that police dismissed claims of domestic abuse by foreign women and children.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): While the practice was not a problem locally, the government received and granted asylum applications from migrant women subjected to FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides a penalty of up to six months in prison and/or a 12,000 euro ($14,440) fine. The ombudsman and NGOs reported that authorities did not investigate sexual harassment complaints submitted by foreign domestic workers.

Sexual harassment was reportedly a widespread problem.The office of the ombudsman provided training to police, social workers, health care providers, teachers, prosecutors, labor and immigration service personnel, and journalists.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law requires equal pay for equal work or work of equal value. The government generally enforced these laws. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as hiring, career advancement, conditions of employment, and pay.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents, and there was universal registration at the time of birth.

Child Abuse: From January to October 15, police investigated 134 cases of child abuse, 47 of which were filed in court.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18, but persons between the ages of 16 and 18 may marry, provided there are serious reasons justifying the marriage and their legal guardians provide written consent. A district court can also allow the marriage of persons between the ages of 16 and 18 if the parents unjustifiably refuse consent or in the absence of legal guardians.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, offering or procuring a child for prostitution, and engaging in or promoting a child in any form of sexual activity. The penalty for violations is up to life in prison. Authorities enforced these laws. Possession of child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sex is 17. The penalty for sexual abuse and exploitation of a child between the ages of 13 and 17 is a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for sexual abuse and exploitation of a child under 13 is up to life in prison.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 3,000 persons in the Jewish community, which consisted of a very small number of native Jewish Cypriots and a greater number of expatriate Israeli, British, and other Jews.

There were reports of verbal harassment of members of the Jewish community along with incidents of property damage.

Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue in the Republic of Cyprus. Since 2009 the country has included International Holocaust Remembrance Day among important historical events observed in public secondary schools and regularly organizes teacher and student participation in Holocaust-related lectures, cultural events, and projects. This year the Honorary President of the Greek-Jewish Association of Holocaust Survivors gave lectures to secondary education teachers and students at the Ministry of Education (MOE) in cooperation with the Embassy of Israel. Teachers and MOE officials also participated in an educational visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.

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 in the provision of other state services. The law provides persons with disabilities the right to participate effectively and fully in political and public life, including by exercising their right to vote and to stand for election. The government generally enforced these provisions.

Problems facing persons with disabilities included access to natural and constructed environments, transportation, information, and communications.

The state provided facilities to enable children with disabilities to attend all levels of education. The MOE has adopted a code of good practices, prepared in collaboration with the ombudsman, regarding attendance of students with disabilities in special units of public schools. Authorities provided a personal assistant for students with disabilities attending public schools but not private ones.

In a March 13 report assessing the 2016 deinstitutionalization program for persons with mental disabilities, the ombudsman noted that authorities failed to handle effectively matters related to the rights, needs, and abilities of these persons, and did not meet the main objective, which was the enjoyment of the right of independent living within society.

The Cyprus Paraplegics Organization reported that several public buildings were still not accessible to wheelchair users

The Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance’s Service for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Observers did not consider fines for violating the law against employment discrimination sufficient to deter employers from discriminating against persons with disabilities (see also section 7.d.).

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Minority groups in the government-controlled area of Cyprus included Latins, Maronites, Armenians, and Roma. Although legally considered one of the two main communities of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots constituted a relatively small proportion of the population in the government-controlled areas and experienced discrimination.

There were incidents of violence against Turkish Cypriots as well as some incidents of verbal abuse or discrimination against non-Greek Cypriots. On April 14, a married Turkish Cypriot couple driving a car with Turkish Cypriot license plates were forced off the road by a taxi and another vehicle bearing Republic of Cyprus Cypriot plates. The Greek Cypriot drivers of the two vehicles beat the husband and caused damage to the couple’s car. The victims reported the attack to police. A police investigation is ongoing.

The MOE applied a code of conduct against racism in schools that provided schools and teachers with a detailed plan on handling, preventing, and reporting racist incidents.

On May 12, CERD reported that the Romani community continued to face discrimination and stigmatization as well as challenges such as low school attendance and high dropout rates of Romani children, difficulty accessing adequate housing, unemployment, and racist attacks. The 2014 EU Roma Health Report also noted that the Romani population faced difficulty obtaining housing, education, and employment.

In 2015 the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities noted incidents of racial prejudice against Romani and migrant children in schools and of Greek Cypriot parents removing their children from certain schools where there were a large number of non-Greek Cypriot students.

The ombudsman continued to receive complaints that the government delayed approval of citizenship to children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots

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

Antidiscrimination laws exist and prohibit direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Antidiscrimination laws cover employment and the following activities in the public and private domain: social protection, social insurance, social benefits, health care, education, participation in unions and professional organizations, and access to goods and services. An LGBTI NGO noted in February that equality and antidiscrimination legislation remained fragmented and failed to adequately address discrimination against LGBTI persons. NGOs dealing with LGBTI matters claimed that housing benefits favored “traditional” families. Hate crime laws criminalize incitement to hatred or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Despite legal protections, LGBTI individuals faced significant societal discrimination. As a result, many LGBTI persons were not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor did they report homophobic violence or discrimination. There were reports of employment discrimination against LGBTI applicants (see section 7.d.).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The president of the HIV-Positive Persons Support Center stated that HIV-positive persons faced prejudice from society and their own families, largely due to lack of public awareness. She also claimed that raising public awareness of this problem was low in the government’s priorities.

Section 7. Worker RightsShare    

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, including supporting statutes and regulations, provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, strike, and bargain collectively with employers. Antiunion discrimination is illegal. Dismissal for union activity is illegal with reinstatement, a fine, compensation options, or all three, if the courts find the dismissal illegal. The law excludes essential services personnel from joining unions and striking. Police officers could form associations that had the right to bargain collectively.

Authorities have the power to curtail strikes in essential services defined by the law as the armed forces, police, and gendarmerie. An agreement between the government and essential services personnel provides for dispute resolution and protects workers in the sector.

The government generally enforced applicable laws. Resources and investigations were adequate in the formal sector. Penalties require payment of pecuniary damages and compensation, but unions did not consider them sufficient to deter violations. Administrative procedures were efficient and immediate, but judicial procedures were subject to delays due to a backlog.

The law provides for freedom of association and collective bargaining. The government generally protected the right of unions to conduct their activities without interference, and employers generally respected the right of workers to form and join independent unions and to bargain collectively. Although collective agreements are not legally binding, employers and employees effectively observed their terms. Workers covered by such agreements were predominantly in the larger sectors of the economy, including construction, tourism, the health industry, and manufacturing.

Private sector employers were able to discourage union activity in isolated cases because of sporadic enforcement of labor regulations prohibiting antiunion discrimination and the implicit threat of arbitrary dismissal for union activities.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but forced labor occurred. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Inspections of the agricultural and domestic service sectors remained inadequate, and resources at the Department of Labor Inspections within the Ministry of Labor were insufficient. The maximum penalty is six years’ imprisonment for forced labor of adults and 10 years’ imprisonment for forced labor of minors, but actual penalties imposed were not sufficient to deter violations.

Forced labor occurred primarily in the agriculture sector. Police investigated cases of forced labor among men and women working on farms. Foreign migrant workers, children, and asylum seekers were particularly vulnerable. Employers forced foreign workers, primarily from Eastern Europe and East and South Asia, to work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, for very low wages and in unsuitable living conditions. In 2016 police identified two victims of labor trafficking. Employers often retained a portion of foreign workers’ salaries as payment for accommodations. There have been isolated cases of Romani parents forcing their children to beg.

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 law prohibits the employment of children, defined as persons under the age of 15, except in specified circumstances, such as combined work-training programs for children who are at least 14 or employment in cultural, artistic, sports, or advertising activities, subject to rules limiting work hours. The law prohibits night work and street trading by children. The law also permits the employment of adolescents, defined as persons between the ages of 15 and 18, provided it is not harmful, damaging, or dangerous and subject to rules limiting hours of employment. The law prohibits employment of adolescents between midnight and 4 a.m. The minimum age for employment in industrial work is 16.

The government effectively enforced laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace. Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance inspectors were responsible for enforcing child labor laws and did so effectively. The Social Welfare Services Department of the ministry and the commissioner for the rights of the child could also investigate suspected cases of exploitation of children at work. Employment of children in violation of the law is punishable by penalties, which were sufficient to deter violations. There were isolated examples of children under the age of 16 working for family businesses.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Laws and regulations prohibit direct or indirect discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of race, national origin or citizenship, sex, religion, political opinion, gender, age, disability, and sexual orientation. The government did not effectively enforce these laws or regulations. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and HIV-positive status. Penalties provided by the law were sufficient to deter violations.

A survey published in the International Journal of Manpower in 2014 suggested that despite a strong legal framework, the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance’s enforcement of the law governing employment and labor matters with respect to women was ineffective. Eurostat data released in October indicated that the average pay gap between men and women was 14 percent in 2015. The ombudsman reported receiving 19 complaints related to gender discrimination in the workplace, particularly against pregnant women who were not promoted or were dismissed from employment, as well as complaints relating to additional leave for breastfeeding and mothers achieving a work-life balance.

A survey published in the International Journal of Manpower in 2014 suggested that LGBTI job applicants faced significant bias compared with heterosexual applicants. The survey found that gay male applicants, who made their sexual orientation clear on their job application, were 39 percent less likely to get a job interview than equivalent male applicants who did not identify themselves as gay. Employers were 42.7 percent less likely to grant a job interview to openly lesbian applicants than to equivalent heterosexual female applicants.

Discrimination against Romani migrant workers occurred. Turkish Cypriots faced social and employment discrimination (see section 6).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Although there is no national minimum wage, there is a minimum wage for groups deemed vulnerable to exploitation. The minimum wage for shop assistants, clerks, assistant baby and child minders, health care workers, security guards, cleaners of business/corporate premises, and nursery assistants was 870 euros ($1,044) per month for the first six months and 924 euros ($1,109) per month thereafter.

The official poverty income level is set at 60 percent of the national median equalized disposable income, as per the EU commonly agreed definition. In 2015 (the latest estimate available) the official poverty income level was 8,276 euros ($9,931) per year for a single person and for a household of two adults with two dependent children it was 17,380 euros ($20,856).

Collective bargaining agreements covered workers in almost all other occupations, including unskilled labor. The wages set in these agreements were significantly higher than the minimum wage for specific occupations.

Foreign workers were able to claim pensions, and some bilateral agreements allowed workers to claim credit in their home countries. The Migration Service was responsible for enforcing the minimum wage for foreign workers but did not actively do so.

The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, including overtime. The law does not require premium pay for overtime or mandatory rest periods. The law stipulates that foreign and local workers receive equal treatment. The Department of Labor Relations within the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance is responsible for enforcing these laws. Labor unions, however, reported enforcement problems in sectors not covered by collective agreements. They also reported that certain employers, mainly in the construction industry, exploited undocumented foreign workers by paying them very low wages. The penalty for violating the law was sufficient to deter violations. The court may order the employer to pay the employee back wages.

The law protects foreign domestic workers who file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance from deportation until their cases have been adjudicated. The Department of Labor Relations reported that from January to June, it received 289 complaints from migrant workers against their employers; 221 were submitted by domestic workers. The department examined 226 of the complaints. Of those, 209 were resolved by both sides signing a release agreement which gave the worker the opportunity to seek employment with another employer, while eight cases were resolved with the voluntary return of the worker to the employer on mutually agreed terms. In nine cases the workers chose to return home. A total of 56 cases were referred to the Labor Disputes Committee for Migrants from Third Countries for examination. The ministry reported that most disputes were resolved with an amicable solution.

NGOs reported many foreign domestic workers remained reluctant to report contract violations by their employers due to fear of losing their jobs and, consequently, their work and residency permits. The ombudsman and NGOs reported that both the ineffective investigation of sexual harassment and violence, and the mismanagement of complaints submitted by domestic workers to the Department of Labor discouraged domestic workers from submitting complaints. They reported authorities treated sexual harassment complaints by foreign domestic workers merely as requests for a change of employer. The victims were allowed routinely to change employers, but sexual harassment complaints rarely were examined. The ombudsman reported that it did not receive sexual harassment complaints by foreign domestic workers but continued to monitor the issue closely because the unclear status of employment of this vulnerable group of employees could lead to nonapplication of the sexual harassment legal framework. The Department of Labor reported that it received five sexual harassment complaints from foreign domestic workers. Three of them withdrew their complaint after the employer agreed to release them from their contract and were free to change employer. The department was investigating the remaining two complaints.

The Department of Labor Inspection in the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance is responsible for enforcing health and safety laws. Authorities enforced health and safety laws satisfactorily in the formal sector but not in the informal sector. Labor unions stated that more work was required to protect undocumented workers. The penalty for failing to comply with work safety and health laws was up to four years’ imprisonment, a fine not to exceed 80,000 euros ($96,000), or both. From January to October, authorities prosecuted 12 persons for violations.

The number of inspectors employed by the Ministry of Labor was not sufficient to provide for enforcement of labor laws in the agricultural sector and in the informal economy where the majority of employees are migrant workers and undocumented workers. The Department of Labor Relations, on the other hand, carried out its own inspections to assure that employers abide by other labor laws. Inspectors were not allowed to inspect private households where persons were employed as domestic workers without a court warrant.

From January to June, there were no fatalities in work-related accidents. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.