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Cyprus

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

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 and detainees. Members of ethnic and racial minorities were more likely to be subjected to such treatment.

In a report published on April 26, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted persistent credible allegations of police mistreatment of detainees, including one allegation of sexual abuse of a woman received during the CPT’s 2017 visit. Three juvenile detainees reported officers kicked, punched, and hit them with clubs during questioning at the Limassol Central Police Station. The CPT found that persons detained by police, particularly foreigners, risked physical or psychological mistreatment at the time of apprehension, during questioning, and in the process of deportation.

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 limited complaints of mistreatment and discriminatory and degrading behavior, including complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, from inmates in the Cyprus Prisons Department and in detention centers. The ombudsman reported most of the complaints were not substantiated. Overall, the ombudsman noted continued improvement in the treatment of prisoners and detainees in the Cyprus Prisons Department and in detention centers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions, including detention centers for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants pending deportation, did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: In its April report, the CPT recommended reducing the prison population in Blocks 1, 2, 5 and 8 of the Cyprus Prisons Department, where many cells did not have toilets and prisoners lacked reliable access to toilets at night. The CPT found conditions at the Cyprus Prisons Department admissions/gatehouse room, reportedly used for accommodating prisoners, to be degrading. The Ministry of Justice said the Cyprus Prisons Department only used the admissions/gatehouse room temporarily to accommodate one prisoner who demonstrated aggressive and self-harming behavior.

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.

The CPT reported a few allegations of physical abuse of detainees by staff at the Mennoyia Detention Center. It also reported several allegations of Cyprus Prisons Department staff physically abusing prisoners and threatening them with reprisals for making complaints.

The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Action for Equality, Support, and Antiracism (KISA) reported police treatment of detainees at Mennoyia Detention Center for undocumented migrants improved significantly compared with last year. The ombudsman also noted a decrease in complaints about treatment of detainees in Mennoyia Detention Center.

The ombudsman reported her officers regularly visited and discussed conditions in the prisons and detention centers with prisoners and inmates. The ombudsman noted a reduction in the number of irregular migrants detained at police stations and compliance with previous recommendations of the ombudsman to improve physical conditions of detention facilities in police stations.

Approximately 40 percent of prisoners in the Cyprus Prisons Department were non-Cypriots convicted for criminal offenses, such as immigration and drug-related offenses, thefts, sexual offenses, and road accidents. The CPT reported allegations of discrimination against foreign prisoners regarding access to education, health care, work, and recreation. Foreign prisoners did not have access to the semiopen and the open prison or the right to apply for parole.

The ombudsman reported some cases of migrants and asylum seekers detained for deportation even though there was no prospect they would be deported. A considerable number of detainees at the 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. An NGO reported, however, that instead of deporting detainees before final adjudication of their cases, immigration authorities pressured them to sign a voluntary return consent by threatening them with indefinite detention.

The Ministry of Justice reported it runs a substitution program that provides medicine to drug addicts at the Cyprus Prisons Department based on World Health Organization recommendations and under the supervision of the mental health-care services of the Ministry of Health.

Administration: The CPT raised concerns that insufficient resources and personal ties between accused police officers and investigators (most of whom were former police officers) weakened investigations into allegations of police abuse. Detention centers lacked facilities for religious observance, but religious representatives were permitted to visit inmates.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, and unrestricted and unannounced visits occurred during the year. The CPT visited the Cyprus Prisons Department in February 2017. The Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Education and Culture of the House of Representatives also visited the prison. KISA visited the Mennoyia Detention Center multiple times during the year.

Improvements: The Cyprus Prisons Department increased its capacity from 528 to 566. Authorities added Block 3 to the female prison and fully renovated block 10A, which will receive its first inmates in 2019. Police renovated detention centers to increase natural light and airflow and added televisions in the five largest detention centers.

Cyprus – the Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

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

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 three complaints concerning police battery and use of force from January to September. The “Attorney General’s Office” reported a “court” case was filed for one of the complaints, and the other two were under investigation at year’s end.

In September a “court” found a police officer guilty of assault and battery for physically abusing a 67-year-old man arrested for the sexual assault of a mentally disabled 19-year-old man in 2016. According to reports, police beat the man in an effort to obtain his confession without informing him of the reason for his arrest. When the victim was later brought to identify the alleged attacker, police discovered they had detained the wrong person. The police officer was sentenced to two months in prison.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, in particular for sanitary conditions, medical care, and food.

Physical Conditions: The area’s only prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia, has a stated capacity of 311. According to authorities, additional rooms were converted into cells and a bunkbed system was installed, which increased the capacity of the “Central Prison” to 480. As of September, it held 528 prisoners and pretrial detainees. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the ombudsman reported overcrowding remained a problem and that beds were stacked in the corridors at the “Central Prison.” The prison did not separate adults and juveniles, and there were no detention or correction centers for children. Due to lack of space, pretrial detainees and prisoners occupied the same cells.

In September police announced a 30-year-old detainee had committed suicide at a police station detention center in Kyrenia. Police reported the detainee used a lace from a pair of shorts his wife brought him while in custody to commit suicide. The detainee’s spouse released a statement claiming she never brought him a pair of shorts and accusing police of killing her husband. The detainee’s father told the press he also believed police killed his son. NGOs suspected police abuse contributed to the detainee’s death. The “Attorney General’s Office” began an investigation, which continued at year’s end.

NGOs said a lack of security cameras at detention centers and the “Central Prison” allowed police officers and prison guards to abuse detainees with impunity. NGOs also reported major problems in security, including violence between inmates and detainees. The ombudsman received complaints that detainees in the “Central Prison” did not receive sufficient food and that police detention centers lacked heating. NGOs reported that, because of a lack of official procedures at police detention centers, detainees frequently received no food while held, sometimes for longer than a day. In March the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation (TCHRF) criticized detention cells at the “Central Prison” and police stations, which it claimed were sometimes underground, very small, and lacked light and ventilation.

In January the Refugee Rights Association (RRA) reported sanitation remained a significant issue in the “Central Prison” and that inadequate water supply failed to meet inmates’ hygiene needs. The RRA reported authorities did not provide soap, which detainees and inmates had to purchase themselves.

NGOs reported that prison healthcare was inadequate, lacking medical supplies, a full-time doctor, and a sufficient number of social workers. Authorities reported a doctor visited the prison twice a week and was on call for emergencies. NGOs reported complaints about contagious diseases at the “Central Prison,” including HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Authorities also reported there were a full-time psychologist and a dentist at the “Central Prison.”

Administration: Authorities did not conduct proper investigations of allegations of mistreatment at the “Central Prison.” Authorities reported receiving no complaints or allegations of mistreatment of prisoners or detainees at the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated facilities were available for Muslim prisoners and detainees to conduct their religious observance and that an imam visited the “Central Prison” on the religious days of Bayram. Authorities reported there were no facilities for religious observance for non-Muslim prisoners or detainees and that they received no requests for non-Muslim religious support.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities permitted prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Authorities reported foreign missions, local human rights NGOs, psychologist organizations, the “Fight against Drugs Commission,” and the press visited the “Central Prison.”

Improvements: Authorities reported implementing a rehabilitation pilot project for prisoners and detainees younger than age 21, with the aim of reintegrating them into the community.

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