Back Anti-torture Committee publishes report on its visit to Cyprus

In a report on Cyprus published today, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) raises concerns over persistent allegations of police ill-treatment and shortcomings of the current system of investigations into such allegations. The report also looks into the situation of immigration detainees at Menoyia Detention Centre and that of inmates in Nicosia Central Prison, and is critical of the sub-standard material conditions at Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital and at Ariadni Home. The CPT calls for determined action to tackle the problem of police ill-treatment and address the various shortcomings identified, including by way of legislative changes.
Anti-torture Committee publishes report on its visit to Cyprus

During its February 2017 visit to the country, the CPT received a number of credible allegations of physical and/or psychological ill-treatment of detained persons (including juveniles) by police officers – notably at Limassol and Paphos Central Police Stations. The alleged ill-treatment consisted primarily of slaps, punches and kicks to the head and to other parts of the body, but also included verbal abuse, threats and intimidation. There were also a number of allegations of physical, verbal and racist abuse of immigration detainees by staff at Menoyia Detention Centre, as well as several allegations of ill-treatment of detainees being escorted to the airport by immigration police officers. The CPT concludes that persons detained by the police – and in particular foreign nationals – still run a risk of being ill-treated, notably at the moment of apprehension, during questioning, and in the context of immigration detention and removal operations. The Cypriot authorities need to take determined action to tackle the problem of police ill-treatment, and promote a culture change within the ranks of the Cypriot Police. Further, steps should be taken to ensure that formal safeguards against ill-treatment are effectively implemented in practice.

The CPT’s findings also highlight the shortcomings of the current system of investigations into allegations of police ill-treatment and urge the adoption of certain improvements to strengthen the effectiveness of such investigations. In their response, the Cypriot authorities reaffirm their zero tolerance towards police ill-treatment and provide a range of measures that have been taken to address this problem, including reinforcing police training.

At Nicosia Central Prisons (NCP), the CPT’s delegation received several allegations of staff physically abusing prisoners and heard numerous allegations of staff verbally abusing inmates and threatening them with reprisals for making complaints. The positive efforts made to improve conditions of detention are undermined by persistent overcrowding in NCP. Certain areas, such as the admissions/gatehouse room, should no longer be used for accommodating prisoners, as the living conditions there could be seen as inhuman and degrading. Recommendations are also made, inter alia, to combat inter-prisoner violence, promote staff professionalism, improve the treatment of foreign prisoners and strengthen procedural safeguards within the disciplinary system. There is also a continuing need to reinforce aspects of the health-care service.

In their response, the authorities, inter alia, refer to new policies and procedures to prevent ill-treatment, any abuse of power and threats of reprisals and to combat inter-prisoner violence. Information is also provided on the inauguration of a new block in the prison and of forthcoming legislative and regulatory changes.

As regards Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital, the CPT expresses dismay at the substantially below standard material conditions and is critical of a lack of therapeutic, occupational and rehabilitative activities on offer and of the poor regulation of use of means of restraint. It also recommends legislative amendments to strengthen the safeguards offered to psychiatric patients. As regards social care homes, the CPT welcomes on-going de-institutionalisation efforts but is critical of the inadequate legislative framework governing the operation of such homes and involuntary placement and stay of residents. The CPT also expresses concern poor living conditions and a lack of personal hygiene for residents at the Ariadni Home.

In their response, the Cypriot authorities informed the CPT of the renovation of several wards at Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital and of the establishment of two committees that have begun to consider the revision of the Law on Psychiatric Care and to develop a new protocol for the hospital, in the light of the CPT’s recommendations. Information is also provided on the state of advancement of the review into social care legislation. The Cypriot authorities acknowledge the poor situation found at Ariadni Home and state that action is being taken to improve living conditions there.

The main findings of the CPT are set out in the executive summary of the report.

The report and response have been made public at the request of the Cypriot authorities.

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