c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The “law” does not refer explicitly to torture but does prohibit police mistreatment of detainees under the section of the “criminal code” that deals with assault, violence, and battery. There were reports that police abused detainees.
In February police arrested Russian fugitive Alexander Satlaev in Kyrenia four days after he escaped from the “Central Prison.” The Turkish Cypriot Bar Association Human Rights Committee, Refugee Rights Association, Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, and other human rights organizations issued a joint statement claiming police subjected Satlaev to inhuman treatment and torture. Organizations reported a police officer pulled Satlaev’s hair and that there were bruises on his arms and his face. Online news outlets posted photographs and videos purportedly showing a police officer pulling Satlaev’s hair while his arms were handcuffed behind his back.
The “attorney general’s office” reported they received four complaints concerning police battery and use of force and had launched investigations into all four cases. The “attorney general’s office” determined two of the complaints were baseless, based on statements from eyewitnesses. Investigations regarding the other two cases continued at year’s end.
The “attorney general’s office” also reported the completion of three investigations regarding police mistreatment pending since 2020: two complaints were assessed to be baseless; the third resulted in a police officer being charged with abuse. The trial was pending at year’s end.
An “attorney general’s office” investigation concluded that a complaint by two female international students of police mistreatment in July 2020 was unfounded. The students had reported that they were forced into a vehicle by four undercover police officers, beaten in the vehicle and at a police station, and then released 24 hours later without any explanation. Press outlets published photos of their bruised faces. The “attorney general’s office” determined the students were fighting in the street while intoxicated and had refused to report to the police station to provide statements, so police detained both students and held them overnight at the police station. The students were charged with disturbing the peace and public intoxication.
In one of the complaints, which it assessed to be baseless, the “attorney general’s office” determined that a complainant’s injuries in 2019 resulted from a traffic accident that occurred three days prior to an alleged abuse complaint. The complainant was charged with providing false statements to police and fined.
In April a police officer was sentenced to 50 days in prison after a video was published of the officer kicking a detained tourist in the presence of other officers at the Ercan (Timbou) airport in 2019. Other police officers present during the incident received administrative penalties. According to local press, the detainee was drunk and yelled at police for getting his cell phone wet during the security screening.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, including overcrowding, sanitary conditions, medical care, heating, and access to food. A nongovernmental organization (NGO) reported asylum seekers were detained in overcrowded, “government”-run detention centers pending their return to Turkey.
Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding was reported to be a problem. The “Central Prison,” the only prison administered by Turkish Cypriots, is in the northern part of Nicosia and has an official capacity of 454 inmates. Authorities stated the number of prisoners and pretrial detainees at the “Central Prison” was 622 in October, after peaking at 633 earlier in the year, requiring the use of prison classrooms and computer rooms as cells for inmates. Press reported as many as 45 to 50 persons for every 10 square meters (107.6 square feet) living in unhygienic conditions. An NGO that visited both the “Central Prison” and detention centers reported conditions remained deplorable: asylum seekers complained about inadequate sleeping arrangements, poor hygienic conditions, insect infestation, poor ventilation, lack of heating and cooling systems, lack of access to fresh air or shower facilities, inadequate food, and no access to internet or phones. Asylum seekers at detention centers, as a general practice, were provided sandwiches twice a day.
NGOs, media, and the “ombudsman” reported overcrowding remained a problem. An NGO also reported receiving complaints about police mistreatment of detainees in police detention centers. Most of the complaints alleged inhuman conditions in the detention centers and that police officers verbally abused detainees. According to NGOs, the “Central Prison” did not effectively 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. NGOs reported conditions were better in the women’s section of the prison.
NGOs reported that the 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 addition, NGOs reported that sanitation remained a significant problem in the “Central Prison,” with inadequate access to hot water. Authorities stated hygiene supplies were insufficient due to an increasing number of inmates. An NGO also reported the police detention facilities lack hygienic conditions, direct sunlight, proper ventilation, and access to water.
NGOs claimed that 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 2020 the Prison Guards Association chair stated that overcrowding in prison cells created a breeding ground for contagious diseases. Authorities reported all inmates were subject to hospital health checks before entering the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated a doctor visited the prison twice a week and was on call for emergencies. A dentist visited the prison once per week, a dietician visited twice per week, and there were two full-time psychologists at the prison, according to authorities.
An NGO reported that the detention center at Ercan (Timbou) airport lacked proper ventilation and access to natural light. The NGO stated hygiene was a concern because there was only one bathroom inside each detention room and the rooms were not regularly cleaned.
An NGO reported that pandemic quarantine centers generally included cells where individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were placed together with close contacts or travelers undertaking mandatory quarantine after their arrival in the country.
In October local press reported COVID-19 continued to spread at the “Central Prison,” with 125 inmates and eight guards testing positive for COVID-19 in one week. The COVID-19 positive inmates were first placed in a quarantine hotel and later transferred to a newly constructed – but at the time, not yet fully functional – prison meant to replace the “Central Prison.” After several days at the new prison, the inmates were sent back to another quarantine hotel as the infrastructure at the new prison was inadequate, including a lack of running water and closed-circuit cameras. Multiple media outlets reported the inmates did not have water for three days.
Administration: Authorities reported an investigation of a complaint regarding a prison guard’s mistreatment and battery against an inmate. Authorities reported there were no intentional or nonintentional deaths at the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated facilities were available for Muslim prisoners and detainees to conduct their religious observance but that due to space restrictions, inmates generally conducted their religious observance in their cells. No equivalent facilities or space was provided for non-Muslim prisoners to conduct religious observances, services, or prayers. Non-Muslim clergy were permitted to visit the prison, although there were no reports of such visits.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted prison monitoring but with some restrictions. An NGO reported the physical conditions at the “Central Prison” could not be observed in detail, as their staff were not allowed to visit the cells. They were only allowed to conduct detainee interviews in the visitor waiting room or in areas designated for private conversations.
Improvements: Authorities reported that the “Ministry of Health” provided disinfectant and masks to the “Central Prison” to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Authorities also reported that all prisoners and prison guards had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Authorities reported some inmates completed their high school education and exams online. While in-person visits were restricted due to the pandemic, inmates held video conferences with their families.
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. 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. Human rights contacts and an NGO reported that translators were not available for non-Turkish speakers, forcing defense attorneys or NGOs to provide one. As in previous years, according to an NGO and a human rights attorney, during the detention review process, officials pressured detainees to sign confessions in order to be released on bail. The lawyer 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 right to access legal representation. Authorities usually allowed detainees prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice, but as in previous years, NGOs reported there were cases in which authorities prevented detainees from seeing a lawyer. Authorities provided lawyers to the indigent only in cases involving violent offenses. According to NGOs and human rights attorneys, police sometimes did not observe required 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 reported a “Central Prison” “regulation” prohibits sentenced individuals in solitary confinement from meeting with a lawyer without the “prison director’s” permission. The “prison director” has the authority to deny the visit without providing justification.
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,” whose decisions can be appealed 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 stated 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, to have one provided at public expense if unable to pay). The “attorney general’s office” reported the pandemic and COVID-19 mitigation measures delayed investigations, prosecutions, and court proceedings. The “attorney general’s office” reported the “courts” often chose to ban departure from the island or request a pecuniary guarantee in order to avoid sending pretrial detainees to prison for minor offenses.
There was insufficient free interpretation for some languages and insufficient professional translation in “courts.” Lawyers and NGOs claimed authorities haphazardly recruited nonprofessional translators who did not translate everything said during proceedings. Inadequate translation delayed hearings and prolonged defendants’ detentions.
Defendants may question prosecution witnesses and present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have a right to appeal.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
As in previous years, there were reports of detention and deportation to Turkey of persons with alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen and his movement. The Turkish government holds Gulen responsible for the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and designated his network as the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” (“FETO”).
According to press reports in March, police arrested an alleged Gulen movement member in the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) and transferred him to a Turkish General Directorate of Security Interpol-Europol team, who took him to Turkey.
In July 2020 the Turkish “ambassador” to the “TRNC” stated the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” was the first “foreign country” to define “FETO” as a terror organization and that cooperation between Turkish and “TRNC” authorities would continue toward identifying additional members of Gulen’s network.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses 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).
Property Seizure and Restitution
Greek Cypriots continued to pursue property suits against the Turkish government in the ECHR for the loss of property in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities since 1974.
A property commission handles claims by Greek Cypriots. As of November the commission had paid more than 318 million British pounds ($420 million) in compensation to applicants this year.
The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly in July 2020, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.