Read a Section: The Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots
The Republic of Cyprus →
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 remain on the island. A buffer zone, or “Green Line,” patrolled by the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), separates the two sides. This report is divided into two parts: The Republic of Cyprus, and the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.
The northern part of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots since 1974 and 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. In 2015 Mustafa Akinci was elected “president” in free and fair elections. In January 2018, 50 “members of parliament” were elected in free and fair elections. The “TRNC constitution” is the basis for the “laws” that govern the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.
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 “constitution,” which “temporarily” cedes responsibility for public security and defense to Turkey. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Significant human rights issues included: refoulement, the worst forms of restrictions on freedom of expression and the press including criminal libel laws, trafficking in persons, and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national minorities.
Authorities took steps to investigate officials following allegations of human rights abuses. There was evidence, however, of impunity.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports the “government” or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
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 “law” prohibits such practices, but there were reports during the year that police abused detainees. The “law” does not refer explicitly to torture; however, it does prohibit police mistreatment of detainees under the section of the “criminal code” that deals with assault, violence, and battery.
The “Attorney General’s Office” reported investigating two complaints concerning police battery and use of force between January and September. The “Attorney General’s Office” finalized a 2018 investigation against a police officer and stated the trial would begin in October.
In August local press published a video showing a Turkish Cypriot police officer kicking a detained tourist in the presence of other officers at the Ercan (Tymbou) airport police station. According to local press, the detainee was drunk and yelled at police for getting his cell phone wet during security screening. Police suspended the officer from his duty pending an investigation and announced that officers who observed and failed to report the incident would also be investigated. The investigation continued at year’s end.
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, heating, and access to food.
Physical Conditions: The area’s only prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia, has a stated capacity of 452, according to the “Ministry of Interior.” According to authorities, additional rooms were converted into cells and a bunkbed system was installed to increase the capacity. As of September, it reportedly held 568 prisoners and pretrial detainees. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the “ombudsman” reported overcrowding remained a problem and that mattresses 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 continued to occupy the same cells. NGOs reported conditions were better in the women’s section of the “Central Prison.”
In June press reported that a Turkmen prisoner, Roman Bazarov, who was held in the “Central Prison,” had died of AIDS. Tests reportedly indicated that he did not have HIV upon entering the “Central Prison” but that he was diagnosed with HIV during a subsequent visit to the “state hospital.” The “Ministry of Health” conducted hepatitis and HIV tests on the other 58 inmates and detainees who shared a cell or medical room with Bazarov, and authorities said they took appropriate precautions within the scope of the “prison regulation” to ensure the safety of inmates and detainees.
The “Attorney General’s Office” reported that in March a lawyer finished an independent investigation into the death of a 30-year-old detainee who reportedly committed suicide at a police station detention center in Kyrenia in September 2018. The report concluded the detainee had committed suicide on his own but identified deficiencies with police actions. The detainee’s spouse and father had accused police of killing the detainee. Authorities continued to wait for medical reports from Turkey at year’s end.
Activists continued to say a lack of security cameras at detention centers and in parts of the “Central Prison” allowed police officers and prison guards to abuse detainees with impunity. In March local press reported that prison guards hit two female inmates’ heads against the wall in the “Central Prison.” Security cameras in that area of the prison were deactivated before the incident. Press outlets reported allegations that “Central Prison director” Metin Bilmem instructs prison guards to abuse inmates without leaving visible marks. “Minister of Interior” Aysegul Baybars told the press she did not see signs of abuse or mistreatment while visiting the prison after the incident.
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 periods longer than a day. They instead relied on relatives to bring them food.
NGOs reported sanitation remained a significant issue in the “Central Prison” and that inadequate access to hot water failed to meet inmates’ hygiene needs. An NGO reported authorities did not provide basic sanitation supplies, such as soap, toilet paper, and toothbrushes, which detainees and inmates had to purchase themselves from a stand inside the “Central Prison” at inflated prices. Authorities said hygiene supplies were insufficient due to an increasing number of inmates.
In January the “Central Prison Advisory Board” visited the “Central Prison” after a detainee had complained about inhuman conditions. Authorities reported they carried out an investigation and identified ways to improve the hygiene of inmates, and shortcomings in the physical structure of the building.
NGOs said prison health care was inadequate, lacking sufficient medical supplies and a full-time doctor. NGOs reported testing for contagious diseases at the “Central Prison” was haphazard and inconsistent. In June the Prison Guards’ Association chair stated that overcrowding in prison cells created a breeding ground for contagious diseases. Authorities reported all inmates are subject to health checks at the “state hospital” before entering the “Central Prison.” Authorities said a doctor visited the prison twice a week and was on call for emergencies. A dentist visited the “Central Prison” once per week, a dietician visited twice per week, and there were two full-time psychologists at the “Central Prison,” according to authorities.
An NGO reported the detention center at Ercan (Tymbou) airport lacked proper ventilation and access to natural light. The NGO said hygiene was a concern because there is only one bathroom inside each detention room and no regular cleaning.
Administration: Authorities did not conduct proper investigations of allegations of mistreatment at the “Central Prison.” The “Ministry of Interior” reported receiving only personal complaints, which the “Central Prison” administration took into consideration. 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 said they would facilitate religious observance for persons of other religions upon their request and reported not receiving any requests.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Authorities reported that Famagusta Lions Club, EVKAF, foreign missions, and the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus visited the “Central Prison” during the year. A One NGO reported authorities prevented a local human rights organization from visiting the “Central Prison” to monitor claims about serious abuses during the year.
Improvements: Authorities said they conducted seminars and trainings for inmates and detainees on a variety of topics, including on contagious diseases, showing respect for others, and for inmates imprisoned for drug-related offenses. Authorities reported installing a new visitor area and a new room for religious worship.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The “law” prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge his or her arrest or detention in court. Authorities generally observed these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
“Judicial warrants” are required for arrests. 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. 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.
Bail may be granted by the “courts” and was routinely used. “Courts” confiscated detainees’ passports pending trial. According to the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation (TCHRF), during the detention review process, officials pressure detainees to sign a confession in order to be released on bail. It cited situations in which police used the threat of prolonged detention to induce detainees to plead guilty.
According to the “constitution,” indicted detainees and prisoners have the fundamental right of access to “legal” representation. Authorities usually allowed detainees prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice, but NGOs noted cases in which authorities prevented detainees from seeing a lawyer.
An NGO reported that authorities at times did not permit lawyers to enter detention rooms at Ercan (Tymbou) airport.
The TCHRF commented that the absence of cameras or voice recorders and the lack of a requirement that a lawyer be present during questioning created an atmosphere in which police coerced detainees into signing or physically abused them until they signed statements admitting their guilt. Authorities provided lawyers to the indigent only in cases involving violent offenses. Police sometimes did not observe legal protections, particularly at the time of arrest. Suspects who demanded the presence of a lawyer were sometimes physically intimidated or threatened with stiffer charges.
A lawyer said the “Central Prison Regulation” prohibits sentenced individuals in solitary confinement from meeting with a lawyer without the “prison director’s” permission. The “prison director” may deny the visit without providing a justification. According to the TCHRF, when the prison authorities want a detainee, indicted individual, or prisoner not to speak or meet with his or her family or lawyer, they commonly threatened to punish the individual with solitary confinement. In May the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation and Bar Association alleged that prison authorities listened to inmates’ telephone conversations without a court order.
In September local press reported that a 28-year-old man was released and found not guilty of raping a 73-year-old woman in March after authorities received DNA test results from Turkey. The man subsequently told local press that police physically abused him during the time of arrest and at the police station until he signed a written confession they had prepared. Press reported he planned to file complaints against both the police and the accuser.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The “law” provides for an independent judiciary, and authorities generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
Most criminal and civil cases begin in district “courts,” from which appeals are made to the “Supreme Court.” Civilian “courts” have jurisdiction in cases where civilians face charges of violating military restrictions, such as filming or photographing military zones.
The “law” provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and independent judicial authorities generally enforced this right.
Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. NGO representatives and human rights lawyers said defendants generally enjoyed the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. The “constitution” provides for fair, timely, and 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 (or, in cases of violent offenses, have one provided at public expense if unable to pay). Criminal defendants enjoy the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense.
There was insufficient free interpretation for some languages and insufficient professional translation in “courts.” Lawyers and NGOs said authorities haphazardly recruited nonprofessional translators who did not translate everything said during proceedings. Inadequate translation delayed hearings and prolonged defendants’ detention.
Defendants may question prosecution witnesses and present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have a right to appeal.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were reports of detention and deportation to Turkey of persons with alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen and his movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup attempt, and designated by the Turkish government as the “Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization” (“FETO”). In July the Turkish “ambassador” said the majority of alleged “FETO” members extradited to Turkey came from the “TRNC.” Authorities fired 30 police officers for alleged “FETO” ties in July.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic “courts.” After exhausting local remedies, individuals and organizations may appeal adverse decisions that involve human rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Greek Cypriots continued to pursue property suits in the ECHR against the Turkish government for the loss of property located in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities since 1974.
A property commission handles claims by Greek Cypriots. As of October the commission has paid more than 303 million British pounds ($372 million) in compensation to applicants.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The “law” prohibits such actions. There were reports police subjected Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities to surveillance. A Maronite representative asserted that during the year the Turkish armed forces occupied 18 houses in the Maronite village of Karpasia.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The “law” provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and authorities generally respected this right. Individuals were usually able to criticize authorities publicly without reprisal, with some exceptions.
Freedom of Expression: The “law” criminalizes libel, although in practice this was rarely enforced due to “court” rulings protecting freedom of speech. It is a criminal offense to insult the “government,” the Turkish government, or “government” officials. This often led journalists to self-censor. According to a journalist association, authorities advised some journalists not to criticize the Turkish government.
Press and Media, Including Online Media: While authorities usually respected press and media freedom, at times they obstructed journalists in their reporting.
Violence and Harassment: There were reports defendants in some “court” cases allegedly threatened journalists, who also faced pressure for their reporting from companies that advertised in their publications.
A journalist association reported some journalists were verbally and physically attacked at “court” hearings by detainees or their families or friends. Journalists also reported they were at times prevented from doing their jobs, verbally assaulted, and their equipment damaged while reporting at “courts,” hospitals, and police stations.
The “Attorney General’s Office” declined to pursue a case against a police officer in Famagusta accused of ordering his subordinates to “inflict violence” on journalists who were trying to take photos of suspects being brought to the Famagusta “courts” in July 2018.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists cannot interview or report on persons under control of the armed forces. The Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association reported authorities used these restrictions to prevent journalists from investigating some subjects, such as suicides or allegations of police torture or battery within the military or police systems.
Journalists practiced self-censorship for fear of losing their jobs. A journalist reported some press representatives censored themselves when reporting on Turkey’s role in Cyprus and on the Turkish leadership.
Libel/Slander Laws: The “law” criminalizes libel and blasphemy, although in practice “courts” often declined to convict defendants on those charges, citing free speech precedents. In May the newspaper Afrika was acquitted of the charges brought against it for allegedly instigating violence, insulting President Erdogan or Turkey, insulting religion, and publishing false news relating to a cartoon, three articles, and editorials. The “Attorney General’s Office” appealed the decision, and the trial continued at year’s end.
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.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were some “government” restrictions on cultural events. In August the director of the “State Theater,” Erdinc Akgur, prevented a play by Yasar Ersoy from being performed there on the grounds it conflicted with the theater’s founding purpose. Press outlets reported the play controversially portrayed relations between Turkey and the “TRNC.” “Minister of Education” Nazim Cavusoglu stated the play was determined to be inappropriate for the “State Theater” but that it could be staged at another theater.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The “government” sometimes limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The “law” provides for the right of peaceful assembly, and the government usually respected this right, although some restrictions were reported. A labor union reported police interfered in demonstrations and at times used force against peaceful demonstrators.
Some union representatives reported police obstructed unions and civil society organizations from demonstrating and opening banners in front of the Turkish “embassy” during demonstrations and protests.
Freedom of Association
While the “law” provides for the freedom of association, and while the “government” usually respected this right, some organizations faced lengthy registration processes.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The “law” provides for freedom of movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. Authorities generally respected these rights.
In-country Movement: Authorities required individuals to show identification when crossing the “Green Line.”
Foreign Travel: 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 were both Republic of Cyprus citizens prior to 1974, obtained passports relatively easily compared to Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to only one Cypriot parent.
e. Internally Displaced Persons
Turkish Cypriots considered those displaced as a result of the island’s 1974 division to be refugees, although they fell under the UN definition of internally displaced persons (IDPs). At the time of the division, the number of IDPs in the north was approximately 60,000.
f. Protection of Refugees
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported asylum seekers generally were treated as illegal migrants because an official framework for asylum does not exist in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Most were either denied entry or deported, irrespective of the risk of refoulement.
Turkish Cypriot authorities at times cooperated with UNHCR’s NGO implementing partner, SOS Children’s Village, and other humanitarian organizations with regard to asylum seekers and refugees. UNHCR reported cooperation was more frequent during the first half of the year, when authorities allowed SOS Children’s Village lawyers to interview Syrian asylum seekers seeking access to international protection in Cyprus. Following the introduction of a “visa” requirement for Syrian nationals in June, cooperation between Turkish Cypriot authorities and UNHCR was less frequent. With the involvement of these organizations, several asylum seekers gained access to asylum procedures in Turkey or in the government-controlled area.
Refoulement: Authorities did not provide protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened. According to NGOs, authorities at “ports” often denied entry to asylum seekers. Authorities “extradited” a number of persons designated by the Turkish government as alleged affiliates of “FETO.” Some observers considered these deportations refoulement, as the individuals were denied the opportunity to seek refuge on the territory of Cyprus and were at substantial risk of mistreatment in Turkey or forcible return to Syria by Turkish authorities (also see section 2.f., Protection of Refugees in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Turkey).
Access to Asylum: The “law” does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and authorities have not established a system for providing protection to refugees. A small number of persons of concern to UNHCR were able to stay in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots with UNHCR protection papers.
There were reports Turkish Cypriot authorities continued to deport numerous asylum seekers during the year before UNHCR’s implementing partner could interview them to obtain information necessary for assessing their asylum claims. Some potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities illegally were arrested, taken to “court,” and deported after serving their prison sentences.
Freedom of Movement: Asylum seekers in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots could not travel abroad because they would be unable to return due to their lack of “legal” status.
Employment: According to immigration “law,” employers need official permission from the “Department of Labor” to register foreign workers. Persons holding UNHCR protection papers receive the same access to the labor market as third country nationals, although NGOs reported authorities refused to issue work “permits” to some individuals with UNHCR protection papers. UNHCR reported access to employment improved during the year after authorities lifted requirements that job seekers post a guarantee and hold a valid passport.
Access to Basic Services: Persons holding UNHCR protection papers could access basic services, including primary health care and education, but persons of concern to UNHCR lacked access to residence permits or welfare assistance, which rendered them at risk of exploitation and put vulnerable individuals at risk of destitution.
g. Stateless Persons
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The “law” provides Turkish Cypriots the ability to choose their “government” in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Turkish Cypriots who live in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities have the right to vote and run for office in elections for the European Parliament.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body at least every five years. In January 2018 Turkish Cypriots held “parliamentary” elections that observers considered free and fair. In 2015 Turkish Cypriots elected Mustafa Akinci “president” in elections that were also considered free and fair.
Political Parties and Political Participation: While membership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages, there were widespread allegations of political cronyism and nepotism.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No “laws” limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women remained underrepresented in senior political positions. Only nine of the 50 “members of parliament” were women.
Turkish Cypriot authorities did not permit Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north to participate in elections they administered. Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north were eligible to vote in elections in the government-controlled area but had to travel there to do so. Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities directly elected municipal officials, but Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize them. There was no minority representation in the 50-seat “parliament” or in the “cabinet.”
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The “law” provides criminal penalties for corruption by “officials.” Authorities did not implement the “law” effectively, and “officials” sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of “government” corruption during the year. Observers generally perceived corruption, cronyism, and lack of transparency to be serious problems in the legislative and executive branches.
Corruption: In May a “government minister” and political party leader was accused by other politicians of leasing “state” property to his son’s business to establish a university without a tender process. The authorities did not conduct an investigation.
In August 2018 the former “director of the government electricity utility” was arrested and charged with abuse of power, damaging the institution, deceptive statements, operations against regulations, and making illegal overtime payments. The former “director” was released on bail, and trials were still ongoing.
Financial Disclosure: The “law” requires persons who hold elective office, appointees of the “council of ministers,” “judges” and “prosecutors,” the “ombudsman,” the chair of the “Attorney General’s Office,” and members of the “Attorney General’s Office” declare their wealth and assets. Every five years, employees who fall under this “law” 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 in their custody. The disclosure is not publicly available. Once a declaration is overdue, the employee receives a written warning to make a disclosure within 30 days. If an employee fails to do so, authorities file a complaint with the “Attorney General’s Office.” Penalties for noncompliance include a fine of up to 5,000 Turkish lira ($880), three months’ imprisonment, or both. The penalties for violating confidentiality of the disclosures include a fine of up to 10,000 Turkish lira ($1,760), 12 months’ imprisonment, or both.
In January local press reported that former National Unity Party leader and “prime minister” Huseyin Ozgurgun inaccurately declared his assets, according to an “Attorney General” investigation. In May police charged Ozgurgun with failing to accurately declare wealth and for abuse of public office for private gain. In October “parliament” voted to remove Ozgurgun’s immunity.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A limited number of domestic human rights organizations operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Authorities were rarely cooperative or responsive to their views and requests. 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons. These groups had little effect on “legislation” to improve the protection of human rights. Local NGOs liaised with the United Nations, UNHCR, and international NGOs on human rights issues. “Government” Human Rights Bodies: There is an “ombudsman,” whose portfolio includes human rights issues. The “ombudsman” investigates and reports on institutions that exercise administrative and executive powers and ensures that “legislation” and “court” decisions are properly implemented. The “ombudsman” can initiate investigations in response to media reports, complaints from individuals and organizations, or on its own initiative. The “ombudsman” was not always effective because it could not enforce its recommendations.
“Government” Human Rights Bodies: There is an “ombudsman,” whose portfolio includes human rights issues. The “ombudsman” investigates and reports on institutions that exercise administrative and executive powers and ensures that “legislation” and “court” decisions are properly implemented. The “ombudsman” can initiate investigations in response to media reports, complaints from individuals and organizations, or on its own initiative. The “ombudsman” was not always effective because it could not enforce its recommendations.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The “law” criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Authorities and police did not enforce the “law” effectively. No “laws” specifically address domestic violence. The “law” prohibits domestic violence under various assault and violence or battery clauses, with a maximum sentence of four years’ imprisonment.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a major problem. The Nicosia Turkish Municipality operated a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and there were local NGOs that supported rape and domestic violence victims. Turkish Cypriot authorities also reported establishing gender focal points at relevant “ministries” to respond to complaints of violence against women.
In April police arrested a man on suspicion of killing his 47-year-old wife in Alaykoy (Yerolakkos). The victim’s daughter and sister told press outlets the suspect had physically abused and threatened to kill the victim on many occasions. They said the victim complained to police many times and alleged that police did not take her complaints seriously. In May the suspect was sent to prison pending trial, which continued at year’s end.
In November 2018 Nicosia district police in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots established a specialized unit to respond to violence against women. The unit responds to complaints of domestic violence, including calls to a dedicated hotline. Turkish Cypriot police said they investigated 498 reports of violence against women from January to June.
Sexual Harassment: The “criminal code” prohibits sexual harassment and considers it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months’ imprisonment, an unspecified fine, or both. According to NGOs, sexual harassment went largely unreported. A group of international students reported widespread sexual harassment of female international students and that police routinely dismissed complaints of sexual harassment from international students.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The “law” provides the same “legal” status and rights for women and men, but authorities did not enforce the “law” effectively. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. For example, female teachers were reportedly instructed to schedule their pregnancies in order to deliver during summer break.
Birth Registration: Children derive “citizenship” from their parents, and there was universal registration at birth, including of children born to migrants.
Child Abuse: The “law” does not explicitly prohibit child abuse, but it does prohibit sexual abuse of children, which carries a penalty of up to six years’ imprisonment. There were reports of child abuse. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seeking legal remedies for such problems.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage for girls and boys is 18. A “court” may allow marriages of minors who are 16 or 17 if they receive parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “law” 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 younger than 16 is a felony, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If the offender is younger than 18 and two years or fewer apart in age from the victim, the act is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison, an unspecified fine, or both. There are no “laws” regarding child pornography.
There were approximately 150 persons in the Jewish community, which primarily consisted of nonresident businesspersons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The “law” protects the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to social benefits, and prohibits discrimination against them. Authorities did not effectively enforce all parts of the “law.” For example, the disability community complained of the absence of accessible infrastructure in public areas, including lack of sidewalks, blocked sidewalks, and inaccessible public transportation.
The Turkish Cypriot Orthopedic Disabled Persons Association reported many buildings, sidewalks, and public bathrooms were not accessible to persons with disabilities. The association claimed the “government” had not employed a single person with disabilities since 2006, although the “law” requires 4 percent of public-sector positions be filled by persons with disabilities.
Authorities reported more than 270 persons with disabilities worked in the “government” as of August. In September the “Council of Ministers” decided to provide social security and provident fund contributions to persons with disabilities employed in the private sector to create incentives for private-sector employment. Authorities also reported that nearly 4,800 persons with disabilities received financial aid from the “government” as of September.
The “law” prohibits discrimination, and the 1975 Vienna III Agreement remains the legal source of authority regarding the treatment of the 314 Greek Cypriot and 69 Maronite residents in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots could take possession of some of their properties in that area but were unable to leave their properties to heirs residing in the government-controlled area. 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.
Foreign domestic workers faced discrimination and, at times, violence. In January the body of a Vietnamese domestic worker was found near Ercan (Tymbou) airport. The woman had been missing since 2017. According to press reports, the body had several stab wounds and was found wrapped in a plastic bag and then a carpet.
There were reports of social and job discrimination against Kurds in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, as well as allegations that police closely monitored Kurdish activities, in particular the annual Nowruz festival. There were reports police detained individuals for possessing books and symbols related to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Some of the approximately 10,000 African students reportedly studying at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities reported racial discrimination in housing, employment, and interactions with law enforcement. In March a union of academic staff at a local university published a report stating international students in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots encountered racism and sexual harassment.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The “law” prohibits discrimination against LGBTI persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Authorities did not effectively enforce the “law.”
While there were no cases recorded of official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, members of the LGBTI community noted an overwhelming majority of LGBTI persons concealed their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid potential discrimination.
The Queer Cyprus Association said LGBTI persons often could not access legal remedies to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity because authorities declined to enforce them. In a statement to the press in May, Queer Cyprus said activists were verbally and physically attacked by unknown persons within the walled city of Nicosia while celebrating pride. Queer Cyprus announced they would seek legal remedy but had not filed an official complaint by year’s end.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The “law” provides for the rights of workers, except members of police and other Turkish Cypriot security forces, to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. The “law” allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for their right to strike, with the provision that a union notify authorities in writing if members planned to strike for longer than 24 hours. The “law” does not permit “judges,” members of the police force, or other Turkish Cypriot security forces to strike. The “Council of Ministers” has the power to prohibit 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. The “Ministry of Labor” reported that employers could not condition employment on membership or nonmembership in a union or participation in strikes. The “law” does not provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activities.
The “government” did not effectively enforce applicable “laws.” Despite having freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining, very few private-sector workers were unionized, according to labor union representatives. A union representative said that if private-sector workers affected business operations while exercising their rights, employers would likely dismiss them. Some companies pressured workers to join unions that the company led or approved. Officials of independent unions claimed authorities created public-sector unions as rivals to weaken the independent unions.
Labor authorities did not conduct adequate inspections. Penalties for employers convicted of violating the “law” were insufficient to deter violations and sporadically enforced.
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.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The “law” prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the “government” did not effectively enforce it. Penalties for violations of the “law” were not adequate to deter violations.
There were reports of forced labor during the year, primarily in agriculture, construction, and the industrial sector. A labor union representative reported migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages, nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threats of deportation.
A researcher reported that universities were used to smuggle and traffic large numbers of Africans and South Asians. Some foreign students who could not pay their tuition after arriving in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots became vulnerable to exploitation, including forced labor.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The “law” prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for restricted employment is 15, the last year at which education is compulsory. Employers may hire children between the ages of 15 and 18 in apprentice positions under a special status. Children older than 15 are restricted to not more than six hours of work 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 “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing child labor “laws” and policies. Resources, penalties, and inspections were not sufficient to deter violations.
Authorities did not always effectively enforce the “laws,” and NGOs reported that primarily Turkish children often worked 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.
Child labor in the urban informal economy was also a problem, albeit to a lesser extent than in agriculture and manufacturing. It was common in family-run shops for children to work after school and for young children to work on family farms.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The “law” generally prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, and social status. The “law” does not specifically address discrimination with respect to religion, political opinion, or HIV-positive status, which were addressed by general “regulations.” Authorities did not effectively enforce the “law.” Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, disability, and gender.
Authorities reported there were more than 49,000 registered foreign workers in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriot authorities, mainly from Turkey, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Foreign migrant workers faced societal discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, and religious belief. Greek Cypriots faced social and employment discrimination.
Women faced sexual harassment in the workplace, but most instances of sexual harassment went unreported. Women held far fewer managerial positions than men.
LGBTI individuals often concealed their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace to avoid discrimination. Persons with disabilities routinely found it physically difficult to access workplaces.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The “government” increased the minimum wage during the year, but it remained below the poverty level for a family of four, as inflation and the cost of living outpaced the increase. The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage, but it did not effectively do so. The penalties for noncompliance were not sufficient to deter violations.
There was 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.
Occupational safety and health standards were insufficient. Authorities did not effectively enforce safety and health standards, and the number of inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Multinational companies reportedly met health and safety standards. Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Authorities commonly deported migrant workers claiming violations. Authorities did not penalize violators, and inspections were not adequate to protect worker rights. The “government” has not established social protections for workers in the informal economy. Accommodations for migrant workers, either as part of their compensation or for those made to pay, were substandard.
There was little improvement in working conditions, particularly in hazardous sectors and for vulnerable groups.
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