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Title: Cyprus Human Rights Practices, 1995

Author: U.S. Department of State

Date: March 1996



  • Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person
  • Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties
  • Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
  • Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
  • Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
  • Section 6 Worker Rights


Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish military intervention of 1974, following a coup d'etat directed from Greece. Since 1974 the southern part of the country has been under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. The northern part is ruled by a Turkish Cypriot administration. In 1983 that administration proclaimed itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"), which is recognized only by Turkey. Substantial numbers of Turkish troops remain on the island. In both the government-controlled areas and in the Turkish Cypriot community there is a generally strong regard for democratic principles. Glafcos Clerides was elected President of the Republic of Cyprus in 1993; in April Turkish Cypriots reelected Rauf Denktash as their leader.

Police in the government-controlled areas and in the Turkish Cypriot community are responsible for law enforcement. Police forces operating in the government-controlled areas are under civilian control, while Turkish Cypriot police forces are directed by military authorities. In general, the police forces of both sides respect the rule of law, but there were occasional instances of abuses by the Republic of Cyprus police.

Both Cypriot economies operate on the basis of free market principles, although in both communities there are significant administrative controls. The government-controlled part of the island has a robust, service-oriented economy, with declining agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Growth in the government-controlled economy is expected to be 4.0 percent. Tourism generates 22 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 26 percent of the labor force. In 1994 per capita income on the Greek Cypriot side was $11,350, inflation less than 5 percent, and unemployment 2.7 percent. The Turkish Cypriot economy, which relies heavily on subsidies from Turkey, is burdened by an overly large public sector. It is basically service oriented, as in the south, but has a relatively smaller tourism base and a larger agricultural sector. Per capita income in the north was less than $3,000 in 1994, a 20 percent decline over 1993 as GDP fell by over 4 percent. Inflation reached 212 percent in 1994 as a result of the drastic devaluation of the Turkish lira. Inflation is forecast to drop to about 80 percent in 1995, and real growth is expected to be positive, at about 2 percent. Significant problems in the Turkish Cypriot economy also included widespread power outages which began in mid-1994 and continued until late April.

The Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot authorities generally respect human rights norms and practices. However, police brutality and discrimination and violence against women continue to be problems.

Although the Turkish Cypriot authorities took positive steps to improve the conditions of Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the territory under their control, the treatment of these groups still falls short of Turkish Cypriot obligations under the Vienna III agreement of 1975. The Turkish Cypriot authorities continued to impose significant restrictions on meetings between members of the two communities. Greek Cypriot women are denied the right to pass citizenship to their children if they are married to foreign spouses.


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

a. litical and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

While political disappearances do not occur in Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot military authorities failed to notify United Nations Forces in Cyprus officials on three occasions that they were holding Greek Cypriots who had crossed the buffer zone. In one instance, these authorities denied holding a Greek Cypriot national guardsman for 5 days in November after they had seized him.

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

Both the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus and the basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community specifically prohibit torture. The law in both communities provides for freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Respect is generally accorded to these prohibitions throughout the island. However, in November it was revealed that police in Limassol had, until 1992, used "torture chambers" to force confessions from detainees. According to a team comprising a former Supreme Court justice and prominent attorneys, police hung at least 11 victims by their feet and applied electric shocks to their genitals. On November 5, the Government announced it would pay compensation to eight of the victims. On November 11, the Council of Ministers announced its intention to fire 12 police officers, including the Limassol police chief. The officers involved have maintained their innocence and taken legal action to prevent their firing.

Republic of Cyprus police were also accused of torturing suspected Turkish Cypriot drug smuggler Erkan Egmez. Egmez was arrested October 7 along with eight Greek Cypriots. Charges were dropped against the eight. Egmez appears to have been seriously beaten in the period during and after his arrest and eventually required 10 days of hospitalization. According to some eyewitnesses, hooded police officials continued beating Egmez even as he was being admitted into the hospital. On December 1, the Attorney General ordered Egmez' release after announcing there was insufficient evidence to try the case. The Attorney General has announced that the alleged mistreatment by the police will be investigated by the Republic's ombudsman.

A Greek Cypriot mistakenly arrested in 1994 for bank robbery and allegedly beaten by police settled his case pending before the European Court of Justice. The Government agreed to compensate the individual.

Parliament failed to pass a proposed bill addressing police brutality; the bill was reintroduced in the fall.

There were no public allegations or media reports of police brutality in the Turkish Cypriot community, although credible reports indicate that some detainees received harsh treatment at the hands of police during pretrial detention.

Prison conditions are generally adequate in both communities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Throughout Cyprus, laws providing for freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention are respected by the police. Judicially issued arrest warrants are required. No one may be detained for more than 1 day without referral of the case to the courts for extension of the period of detention. Most periods of investigative detention do not exceed 8 to 10 days before formal charges are filed. Attorneys have free access to detainees, and bail is permitted.

In July Turkish Cypriot police took a prominent religious figure, sheikh Nazim Kibrisi, into custody from a Kyrenia mosque after the sheikh criticized the Turkish Cypriot authorities for their handling of a large forest fire in late June. The sheikh was later released and no charges were filed against him. Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash later expressed regret at the incident.

Exile is specifically prohibited by the Constitution and by the basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Under the Republic's Constitution and the basic law governing the Turkish Cypriots, the judiciary is independent of executive or military influence Cyprus inherited many elements of its legal system from the British legal tradition, including the presumption of innocence, the right to due process, and the right of appeal. Throughout Cyprus, fair public trial is provided for in law and accorded in practice. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, to be represented by counsel (at government expense for those who cannot afford one), to confront witnesses, and to present evidence in their own defense. There are no special courts to try security or political offenses.

On the Turkish Cypriot side, civilians deemed to have violated military zones are subject to trial in a military court. These courts consist of one military and two civilian judges and a civilian prosecutor. Defendants in military courts have all the due process rights available in civilian courts.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

Both the Cyprus Constitution and the basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community include provisions protecting the individual against arbitrary interference by the authorities. A judicial warrant is required for a police official to enter a private residence.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. reedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press are provided for by law and are freely practiced throughout the island. The proliferation of party and independent newspapers and periodicals in both communities enables ideas and arguments to circulate freely, and opposition papers frequently criticize the authorities. Several private television and radio stations in the Greek Cypriot community compete effectively with the government-controlled stations. Turkish Cypriot authorities retain a monopoly over local radio and television, which tend not to criticize them. Two small university-run radio stations in Nicosia and Famagusta are continuing their operations under a temporary permit. International broadcasts are available without interference throughout the island, including telecasts from Turkey and Greece.

Academic freedom is accorded wide respect throughout the island.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The freedom to associate, organize, and hold meetings is protected by law and respected in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is respected in Cyprus. Although missionaries have the legal right to proselytize in both communities, missionary activities are closely monitored by the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church and by both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot authorities.

Both Turkish Cypriots residing in the southern part of the island and non-Muslims in the north are allowed to practice their religion. However, Greek Cypriots resident in the Turkish Cypriot-controlled area face significant restrictions on their right to visit an important pilgrimage site in the Karpass, the Apostolos Andreas monastery, and a shortage of priests, despite guarantees in both these regards under the 1975 Vienna III agreement. There was some easing of access to Apostolos Andreas in 1995: in August a group of expatriate Greek Cypriots and American congressmen visited the monastery. A group of 70 Greek Cypriots resident in the government- controlled area visited Apostolos Andreas in November. Also in November, the Turkish Cypriot authorities announced that Greek Cypriots resident in the north would be allowed to visit the monastery on religious holidays.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots enjoy freedom of movement within their respective areas. Despite some liberalization in 1995, Turkish Cypriot authorities continue regularly to deny permission for travel by Turkish Cypriots into the government- controlled areas. Turkish Cypriots who apply for permission to visit the south are required to justify their applications with formal invitations to events arranged by individuals or organizations resident in the Greek Cypriot community. Many of these applications are denied, often without an official reason, although the basis for most denials is clearly political and related to the state of intercommunal relations.

Turkish Cypriot authorities usually grant the applications of Greek Cypriot residents in the north to visit the government-controlled area. The right to visit the south was expanded in July to allow monthly visits of 5 days per visit. In November this right was further extended to 15 days per month (previous rules allowed only quarterly visits of 7 days per visit). Turkish Cypriot authorities began as well to allow monthly visits of a day for close relatives of Greek Cypriots living in the Karpass. However, implementation of the new regulations has been inconsistent. The applicants must return within the designated period or risk losing their right to return and their property, although this rule is rarely enforced in practice. Also under the new regulations, Turkish Cypriot authorities allow monthly visits by close relatives of Greek Cypriots resident in the north and, as in the past, permit school holiday visits by children under the ages of 16 (male) and 18 (female) residing in the government-controlled area. Turkish Cypriot authorities apply generally similar but slightly looser restrictions to visits by Maronite residents of the north to the government-controlled area and visits by Maronites living in the south to Maronite villages in the north.

Previously, persons of Greek Cypriot or Armenian origin, or even persons having Greek or Armenian names, faced considerable difficulties entering the north. In the summer, the Turkish Cypriots instituted a new policy under which third country nationals of Greek Cypriot origin would be permitted to visit the Turkish Cypriot-controlled areas. Under the new regulation, several groups of Americans of Greek Cypriot origin visited the north during the summer and fall. During the same period, however, implementation of the new procedures was inconsistent, and several persons entitled to cross under the new guidelines were denied permission without apparent cause.

The Turkish Cypriot authorities also stated that Greek Cypriots living in the areas under their control would no longer require police permits for travel to Famagusta or Nicosia. According to the new policy, the areas where travel without prior authorization would be permitted will gradually expand. However, members of the Maronite community living in the north continued to need permits even to visit neighboring villages and are generally denied permission to visit areas in the north other than Morphou and Nicosia.

The Republic of Cyprus authorities permit only day travel by tourists to the northern part of the island. They have declared that it is illegal to enter Cyprus except at authorized entry points in the south, effectively barring entry into the government-controlled area by foreigners who have entered Cyprus from the north. Following the March 1994 assassination of the director of a Greek Cypriot association supporting Kurds in Turkey, the authorities placed significantly tighter controls on the movement of Turkish Cypriots to the areas under their control. Institutions and individuals sponsoring visits of Turkish Cypriots to the government-controlled areas must notify the police in advance and provide them with an exact itinerary.

In March the European Court of Human Rights ruled that certain reservations made by Turkey when it acceded to the European human rights convention were invalid. Thus, beginning in September, the Court was scheduled to hear the case of a Greek Cypriot woman who alleged that Turkey is responsible for depriving her of the use of her lands in the Turkish Cypriot-controlled areas.

The authorities respect the right to travel abroad and to emigrate. Turkish Cypriots have difficulty traveling to most countries because travel documents issued by the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" are recognized only by Turkey. Most Turkish Cypriots resort to utilizing Turkish travel documents instead.

The Government of Cyprus does not accept third-country refugees for resettlement in Cyprus on the grounds that it already has enough responsibilities in caring for those displaced after the 1974 Turkish intervention. All refugee and asylum claimants are referred to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for consideration. The Government has been cooperative in extending residency permission to those with pending applications and does not generally repatriate claimants to their home country.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Multiparty political systems exist throughout Cyprus. Under the Republic's Constitution, political parties compete for popular support actively and without restriction. Suffrage is universal, and elections are held by secret ballot. Elections for the office of President are held every 5 years and for members of the House of Representatives every 5 years or less. The small Maronite, Armenian, and Latin communities elect non-voting representatives from their respective communities, in addition to voting in elections for voting members. However, under the terms of the 1960 Constitution Turkish Cypriots may only vote for the position of the Vice President and for Turkish Cypriot Members of Parliament. As a result, Turkish Cypriots living in the government- controlled area may not vote.

The Turkish Cypriots elect a leader and a representative body every 5 years or less. In April the Turkish Cypriot voters elected Rauf Denktash in elections deemed by observers to be free and fair. Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north are barred by law from participating in Turkish Cypriot elections. They are eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but must travel to the south to exercise that right. They may also choose their own village officials but those elected are not recognized by the Government of Cyprus.

In both communities, women face no legal obstacles to participating in the political process. While clearly underrepresented in government, they hold some cabinet-level and other senior positions.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

There are organizations in both parts of the island that consider themselves human rights groups, but they are generally concerned with alleged violations against the rights of their community's members by the other community. Groups with a broad human rights mandate include organizations promoting awareness of domestic violence and others concerned with alleged police brutality.

There are no restrictions preventing the formation of human rights groups. Representatives of international human rights organizations have access throughout the island.

The United Nations is engaged in resolving the missing persons dilemma which remained from the 1974 conflict. Both sides have completed submission of their cases to the U.N. Committee on Missing Persons. On October 6, President Clerides announced that his side would not be submitting some of the cases included among the 1,619 persons claimed to be missing, since it was clear that some of them were in fact dead. Both sides have offered to cooperate with a U.S. effort to determine the fates of five American citizens of Greek Cypriot origin who disappeared in the 1974 conflict.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Legislation in both communities provides for protection against discrimination based on sex, national, racial or ethnic status, or religion. While such laws are generally respected by each community, significant problems remain with the treatment of the Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north and, to a lesser extent, with the treatment of Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area. Homosexuality is illegal in Cyprus, and a bill presented to decriminalize such activities failed to pass in 1995.


There are reports of spousal abuse in the Greek Cypriot community, and the problem is believed to be significant. There is little public discussion of domestic violence in the Turkish Cypriot community, although a women's shelter opened in 1994. Domestic violence cases are rare in the Turkish Cypriot legal system. In the Greek Cypriot community, a law aimed at making spousal abuse easier to report and prosecute that was enacted in July 1994 has had little impact because key provisions remain unfunded and therefore unimplemented. Many suspected cases of domestic violence do not reach the courts, largely because of family pressure and the wife's economic dependence on her husband. An organization formed to address the domestic abuse problem reports an increasing number of daily calls over its hot line, although hard statistics on the number of incidents are not available. Very few cases tried in the courts result in convictions.

Throughout Cyprus, women generally have the same legal status as men. While legal provisions in both communities requiring equal pay for men and women performing the same job are effectively enforced, women disproportionately fill lower paying jobs.

In the Greek Cypriot community, women face discrimination that denies them the ability to pass on citizenship to their children if they marry foreign spouses. Under existing Cypriot law, only a Greek Cypriot male may transmit citizenship to his children automatically or obtain expeditious naturalization for his foreign spouse.

In the Turkish Cypriot community, women face discrimination in divorce proceedings with regard to property acquired during the marriage.

Republic of Cyprus law forbids forced prostitution. However, there continue to be allegations of forced prostitution in the Greek Cypriot community, generally from East Asian or Eastern European night club performers. To date there have been few arrests since the women, fearing retaliation by their employers, generally do not bring charges. There are also continuing allegations that Cyprus is a transit point for trafficking in women. Both government and non-governmental authorities believe, however, that this problem abated considerably in 1994 and 1995.

Reports on mistreatment of maids are frequent in the Greek Cypriot press. These reports usually involve allegations that maids, usually from East or South Asia, have been forced to work under inhuman circumstances. While these women generally receive fair treatment when their cases come before the courts, many women do not file charges due to fear of retribution from their employers.


Both the Government and the Turkish Cypriot authorities demonstrate a strong commitment to children's welfare. There is no societal abuse of children nor any difference in the health care and educational opportunities avialable to boys and girls.

People with Disabilities

In the Greek Cypriot community, disabled persons applying for a public sector position are entitled to preference if they are deemed able to perform the required duties and their qualifications equal those of other applicants. In the Turkish Cypriot community, regulations require businesses to employ one disabled person for every 25 positions they fill, although enforcement is ineffective. Disabled persons do not appear to be discriminated against in education and the provision of state services. Legislation also mandates that new public buildings and tourist facilities provide access for the disabled. The Turkish Cypriot community has not yet enacted legislation to provide for such access.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Both the Government of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot administration have constitutional or legal bars against discrimination. Nevertheless, Greek Cypriots living in the north are, despite recent improvements, unable to move about freely (see Section 2.d.) and to change their housing at will. Maronites living in the north face a pervasive system of petty restrictions on their right of movement and generally lack public services available in most other Turkish Cypriot areas. Some Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area face difficulties in obtaining identification cards and other government documents. There are persistent reports of harassment and surveillance by the Greek Cypriot police.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. he Right of Association

All workers, except for members of the police and military forces, have the legal right to form and join trade unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. In the government-controlled area, police officers also have the right to join associations which have the right to bargain collectively, although not to strike. More than 82 percent of the Greek Cypriot work force belongs to independent trade unions. Approximately 50 to 60 percent of Turkish Cypriot private sector workers and all public sector workers belong to labor unions.

In the Turkish Cypriot community, union officials have alleged that various firms have been successful in establishing "company" organizations and then applying pressure on workers to join these unions. Officials of independent labor unions have also accused the Turkish Cypriot authorities of creating rival public sector unions to weaken the independent unions. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has not yet acted on these complaints. There are no complaints outstanding against the Government of Cyprus.

In both communities, trade unions freely and regularly take stands on public policy issues affecting workers and maintain their independence from the authorities. Two of the major trade unions, one in each community, are closely affiliated with political parties. Both of the remaining major unions are independent.

All workers have the right to strike, and several strikes, usually of short duration, occurred. In the northern part of the island, however, a court ruling from 1978 gives employers an unrestricted right to hire replacement workers in the event of a strike, effectively limiting the effectiveness of the right to strike. Authorities of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have the power to curtail strikes in what they deem to be "essential services," although this right is rarely used.

Unions in both parts of Cyprus are able to affiliate with international trade union organizations.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Trade unions and confederations by law are free to organize and bargain collectively throughout Cyprus. This is observed in practice in the government-controlled areas, and most wages and benefits are set by freely negotiated collective agreements. However, Greek Cypriot collective bargaining agreements are not enforceable under the law. In the rare instances when such agreements are believed to have been infringed, the Ministry of Labor is called in to investigate the claim. If the Ministry is unable to resolve the dispute, the union may call a strike to support its demands. In practice, however, such alleged violations are extremely rare, and there were no reported instances in 1995. In the Turkish Cypriot community, where inflation exceeded 80 percent over the year, wage levels are reviewed twice a year for the private sector and six times a year for public sector workers, and a corresponding cost-of-living raise is established. A special commission composed of five representatives each from organized labor, employers, and the authorities conducts the review. Union leaders contend that private sector employers are able to discourage union activity because enforcement of labor and occupational safety regulations is sporadic and penalties for antiunion practices are minimal. As in the Greek Cypriot community, parties to a dispute may request mediation by the authorities.

Small export processing zones exist in Larnaca Port and Famagusta, but the laws governing working conditions and actual practice are the same as those outside the zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and no instances of it were reported.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

In both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, the minimum age for employment of children in an "industrial undertaking" is 16 years. Turkish Cypriots may be employed in apprentice positions at age 15. However, in family-run shops it is common to see younger children working. Official labor inspectors effectively enforce the law in both communities.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legislated minimum wage in the Greek Cypriot community, which is reviewed every year, is currently about $432 per month (216 Cyprus pounds) for shop assistants, practical nurses, clerks, hairdressers, and nursery assistants. This amount is insufficient to provide an adequate living for a worker and family. All other occupations are covered under collective bargaining agreements between trade unions and employers within the same economic sector, and the minimum wages set in these agreements are significantly higher than the legislated minimum wage.

The legislated minimum wage in the Turkish Cypriot area, while subject to frequent review because of high inflation, is approximately $180 per month (9 million Turkish lira) as of mid-1995. This amount is not adequate to support a worker and family, although most workers earn more than the minimum wage.

A significant percentage of the labor force in the north consists of illegal workers, mostly from Turkey. According to some estimates, illegal workers constitute as much as 25 percent of the total work force in the area under Turkish Cypriot control. There are frequent allegations that such workers are subject to mistreatment, including nonpayment of wages and threats of deportation.

In the Greek Cypriot community, the standard workweek is an average of 39 1/2 hours in the private sector. In the public sector, it is 37 1/2 hours during the winter and 35 hours in the summer. In 1992, however, Greek Cypriot unions won concessions that will reduce the workweek for most blue collar workers by one-half hour per year until 1997 when a 38- hour workweek will be in place for most sectors of the economy. In the Turkish Cypriot community, the standard workweek is 38 hours in winter and 36 hours in summer. Government labor inspectors effectively enforce these laws.

Greek Cypriot labor union leaders have complained that occupational and safety standards lack important safeguards. Factories are typically licensed by municipalities rather than by the Government, resulting in an uneven application of environmental and work safeguards. While a proposed bill to harmonize health and safety standards with those of the European Union failed to win approval in 1995, it continues to receive widespread support and is expected to pass in 1996.

Occupational safety and health regulations are administered at best sporadically in the Turkish Cypriot area. In both areas, a factory inspector processes complaints and inspects business in order to ensure that occupational safety laws are observed. Turkish Cypriot workers who file complaints do not receive satisfactory legal protection and may face dismissal.

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Wednesday, 6 March 1996