Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports, however, that police engaged in abusive tactics and degrading treatment of suspects and detainees. Members of ethnic and racial minorities were more likely to be subjected to such treatment.
In a report published on April 26, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted persistent credible allegations of police mistreatment of detainees, including one allegation of sexual abuse of a woman received during the CPT’s 2017 visit. Three juvenile detainees reported officers kicked, punched, and hit them with clubs during questioning at the Limassol Central Police Station. The CPT found that persons detained by police, particularly foreigners, risked physical or psychological mistreatment at the time of apprehension, during questioning, and in the process of deportation.
During the year the ombudsman, who also acts as the country’s national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, received limited complaints of mistreatment and discriminatory and degrading behavior, including complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, from inmates in the Cyprus Prisons Department and in detention centers. The ombudsman reported most of the complaints were not substantiated. Overall, the ombudsman noted continued improvement in the treatment of prisoners and detainees in the Cyprus Prisons Department and in detention centers.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions, including detention centers for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants pending deportation, did not meet international standards.
Physical Conditions: In its April report, the CPT recommended reducing the prison population in Blocks 1, 2, 5 and 8 of the Cyprus Prisons Department, where many cells did not have toilets and prisoners lacked reliable access to toilets at night. The CPT found conditions at the Cyprus Prisons Department admissions/gatehouse room, reportedly used for accommodating prisoners, to be degrading. The Ministry of Justice said the Cyprus Prisons Department only used the admissions/gatehouse room temporarily to accommodate one prisoner who demonstrated aggressive and self-harming behavior.
Prison authorities held juvenile pretrial detainees in cells separate from convicted juveniles, but the two groups shared the same grounds in their daily activities. Authorities reportedly held migrants detained on deportation orders together with detainees charged with criminal offenses in nearly all police stations. Such detentions are limited to a maximum of 48 hours.
The CPT reported a few allegations of physical abuse of detainees by staff at the Mennoyia Detention Center. It also reported several allegations of Cyprus Prisons Department staff physically abusing prisoners and threatening them with reprisals for making complaints.
The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Action for Equality, Support, and Antiracism (KISA) reported police treatment of detainees at Mennoyia Detention Center for undocumented migrants improved significantly compared with last year. The ombudsman also noted a decrease in complaints about treatment of detainees in Mennoyia Detention Center.
The ombudsman reported her officers regularly visited and discussed conditions in the prisons and detention centers with prisoners and inmates. The ombudsman noted a reduction in the number of irregular migrants detained at police stations and compliance with previous recommendations of the ombudsman to improve physical conditions of detention facilities in police stations.
Approximately 40 percent of prisoners in the Cyprus Prisons Department were non-Cypriots convicted for criminal offenses, such as immigration and drug-related offenses, thefts, sexual offenses, and road accidents. The CPT reported allegations of discrimination against foreign prisoners regarding access to education, health care, work, and recreation. Foreign prisoners did not have access to the semiopen and the open prison or the right to apply for parole.
The ombudsman reported some cases of migrants and asylum seekers detained for deportation even though there was no prospect they would be deported. A considerable number of detainees at the Mennoyia Detention Center were awaiting a decision on their request for international protection or for adjudication of their appeals against the rejection of their asylum applications. Unlike in previous years, the ombudsman and NGOs did not encounter cases of detainees deported before final adjudication of their asylum applications. An NGO reported, however, that instead of deporting detainees before final adjudication of their cases, immigration authorities pressured them to sign a voluntary return consent by threatening them with indefinite detention.
The Ministry of Justice reported it runs a substitution program that provides medicine to drug addicts at the Cyprus Prisons Department based on World Health Organization recommendations and under the supervision of the mental health-care services of the Ministry of Health.
Administration: The CPT raised concerns that insufficient resources and personal ties between accused police officers and investigators (most of whom were former police officers) weakened investigations into allegations of police abuse. Detention centers lacked facilities for religious observance, but religious representatives were permitted to visit inmates.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, and unrestricted and unannounced visits occurred during the year. The CPT visited the Cyprus Prisons Department in February 2017. The Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Education and Culture of the House of Representatives also visited the prison. KISA visited the Mennoyia Detention Center multiple times during the year.
Improvements: The Cyprus Prisons Department increased its capacity from 528 to 566. Authorities added Block 3 to the female prison and fully renovated block 10A, which will receive its first inmates in 2019. Police renovated detention centers to increase natural light and airflow and added televisions in the five largest detention centers.