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Cyprus: Anti-torture experts warn authorities over police abuse and prison overcrowding

Allegations of police abuse, prison overcrowding and poor conditions in psychiatric and social care establishments, are prominent in a new report on Cyprus.

Today’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) report, follows an expert visit to the country last year.

The CPT delegation logged credible allegations of ill-treatment of detained persons, including juveniles, by police officers – notably at Limassol and Paphos Central Police Stations. Alleged ill-treatment – especially against foreign nationals – included slaps, punches and kicks to the head and to other parts of the body.

Allegations of physical, verbal and racist abuse of immigration detainees by staff at Menoyia Detention Centre also were reported, as were allegations of ill-treatment of detainees being escorted to the airport by immigration police officers.

The CPT wants the Cypriot authorities to improve the system of investigation into allegations of ill-treatment.

It also calls for a new legal framework to protect whistle blowers who disclose information on such abuses.

In their response, the Cypriot authorities reaffirm a “zero tolerance” towards police ill-treatment and provide a range of measures that have been taken to address this problem, including reinforcing police training.

Positive efforts to improve detention conditions are undermined by persistent overcrowding in some locations, including Nicosia Central Prisons (NCP), where the CPT delegation received several allegations of staff physically abusing prisoners. The delegation also heard numerous allegations of staff verbally abusing inmates and threatening them with reprisals for making complaints.

The report makes recommendations to stop inter-prisoner violence, promote staff professionalism, improve the treatment of foreign prisoners and strengthen procedural safeguards within the disciplinary system.

In their response, the authorities refer to new policies and procedures to prevent ill-treatment, abuse of power and threats of reprisals and to prevent inter-prisoner violence.

The committee expresses dismay at the substantially below standard material conditions at Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital.

It criticizes 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.

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