Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2018 - Cyprus

Since 1974 the southern part of Cyprus has been under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus. The northern part of Cyprus, administered by Turkish Cypriots, proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in 1983. The United States does not recognize the “TRNC,” nor does any country other than Turkey. A substantial number of Turkish troops remain on the island. A buffer zone, or “Green Line,” patrolled by the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), separates the two sides. This report is divided into two parts: the Republic of Cyprus and the Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots.

READ A SECTION: REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS | THE AREA ADMINISTERED BY TURKISH CYPRIOTS (BELOW)


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The northern part of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots since 1974 and proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in 1983. The United States does not recognize the “TRNC,” nor does any country other than Turkey. Mustafa Akinci was elected “president” in 2015 in free and fair elections. The “TRNC constitution” is the basis for the “laws” that govern the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Police and Turkish Cypriot security forces were ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish military, per transitional article 10 of the “TRNC constitution,” which cedes responsibility for public security and defense “temporarily” to Turkey.

Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included trafficking in persons and crimes involving violence against ethnic minority groups.

Authorities took steps to investigate police officials following press allegations of human rights abuses. There was evidence, however, of impunity.

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

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the “government” or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of “government” authorities.

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

The “law” prohibits such practices, but there were reports during the year that police abused detainees. The “law” does not refer to torture, which falls under the section of the “criminal code” that deals with assault, violence, and battery.

The “Attorney General’s Office” reported it received three complaints concerning police battery and use of force from January to September. The “Attorney General’s Office” reported a “court” case was filed for one of the complaints, and the other two were under investigation at year’s end.

In September a “court” found a police officer guilty of assault and battery for physically abusing a 67-year-old man arrested for the sexual assault of a mentally disabled 19-year-old man in 2016. According to reports, police beat the man in an effort to obtain his confession without informing him of the reason for his arrest. When the victim was later brought to identify the alleged attacker, police discovered they had detained the wrong person. The police officer was sentenced to two months in prison.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, in particular for sanitary conditions, medical care, and food.

Physical Conditions: The area’s only prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia, has a stated capacity of 311. According to authorities, additional rooms were converted into cells and a bunkbed system was installed, which increased the capacity of the “Central Prison” to 480. As of September, it held 528 prisoners and pretrial detainees. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the ombudsman reported overcrowding remained a problem and that beds were stacked in the corridors at the “Central Prison.” The prison did not 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.

In September police announced a 30-year-old detainee had committed suicide at a police station detention center in Kyrenia. Police reported the detainee used a lace from a pair of shorts his wife brought him while in custody to commit suicide. The detainee’s spouse released a statement claiming she never brought him a pair of shorts and accusing police of killing her husband. The detainee’s father told the press he also believed police killed his son. NGOs suspected police abuse contributed to the detainee’s death. The “Attorney General’s Office” began an investigation, which continued at year’s end.

NGOs said a lack of security cameras at detention centers and the “Central Prison” allowed police officers and prison guards to abuse detainees with impunity. NGOs also reported major problems in security, including violence between inmates and detainees. The ombudsman received complaints that detainees in the “Central Prison” did not receive sufficient food and that police detention centers lacked heating. NGOs reported that, because of a lack of official procedures at police detention centers, detainees frequently received no food while held, sometimes for longer than a day. In March the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation (TCHRF) criticized detention cells at the “Central Prison” and police stations, which it claimed were sometimes underground, very small, and lacked light and ventilation.

In January the Refugee Rights Association (RRA) reported sanitation remained a significant issue in the “Central Prison” and that inadequate water supply failed to meet inmates’ hygiene needs. The RRA reported authorities did not provide soap, which detainees and inmates had to purchase themselves.

NGOs reported that prison healthcare was inadequate, lacking medical supplies, a full-time doctor, and a sufficient number of social workers. Authorities reported a doctor visited the prison twice a week and was on call for emergencies. NGOs reported complaints about contagious diseases at the “Central Prison,” including HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Authorities also reported there were a full-time psychologist and a dentist at the “Central Prison.”

Administration: Authorities did not conduct proper investigations of allegations of mistreatment at the “Central Prison.” Authorities reported receiving no complaints or allegations of mistreatment of prisoners or detainees at the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated facilities were available for Muslim prisoners and detainees to conduct their religious observance and that an imam visited the “Central Prison” on the religious days of Bayram. Authorities reported there were no facilities for religious observance for non-Muslim prisoners or detainees and that they received no requests for non-Muslim religious support.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities permitted prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Authorities reported foreign missions, local human rights NGOs, psychologist organizations, the “Fight against Drugs Commission,” and the press visited the “Central Prison.”

Improvements: Authorities reported implementing a rehabilitation pilot project for prisoners and detainees younger than age 21, with the aim of reintegrating them into the community.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The “law” prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge his/her arrest or detention in court, and authorities generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Police are responsible for enforcement of the “law.” The “chief of police” reports to a “general,” who is nominally under the supervision of the “Prime Ministry,” which holds the “security portfolio.” Police and Turkish Cypriot security forces are ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish armed forces, as provided by the “TRNC constitution,” which “temporarily” cedes responsibility for public security and defense to Turkey.

On January 23, local press outlets reported police officials failed to intervene effectively when a protest against the Afrika newspaper turned violent (see section 2.a.).

Police and other Turkish Cypriot security forces generally cooperated with civilian authorities and were effective in enforcing the “law.” The “Attorney General’s Office” worked with the police inspection division (or occasionally the criminal investigative division) to investigate allegations of police misconduct. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

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. Authorities usually allowed detainees prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice, but NGOs noted cases in which authorities prevented detainees from seeing a lawyer. Authorities provided lawyers to the indigent only in cases involving violent offenses.

Police sometimes did not observe legal protections, particularly at the time of arrest. Contrary to the “law,” some “courts” did not permit suspects to have their lawyers present when giving testimony. Suspects who demanded the presence of a lawyer were sometimes physically intimidated or threatened with stiffer charges.

According to the TCHRF, during the detention review process officials pressure the detainee to sign a confession in order to be released on bail. It cited situations in which police used the threat of prolonged detention to induce detainees to plead guilty. The TCHRF commented that the absence of cameras or voice recorders and the lack of a requirement that a lawyer be present during questioning created an atmosphere in which police coerced detainees into signing or physically abused them until they signed statements admitting their guilt.

In January a suspect arrested for driving while intoxicated complained that police broke both his arms at the Iskele police station. Police accused the detainee of causing his own injuries and claimed to have video evidence but failed to produce it when requested by the suspect’s lawyer. The detainee filed a case against two police officers for abuse during his arrest. According to the “Attorney General’s Office,” the “Police General-Directorate” launched an investigation into the incident, which continued at year’s end.

According to the “TRNC constitution,” indicted detainees and prisoners have the fundamental right of access to “legal” representation. A lawyer said the “Central Prison Regulation” prohibits sentenced individuals in solitary confinement from meeting with a lawyer without the “Prison Director’s” permission. The “Prison Director” may deny the visit without providing a justification. According to the TCHRF, when the prison authorities want a detainee, indicted individual, or prisoner not to speak or meet with his or her family or lawyer, they commonly threatened to punish the individual with solitary confinement.

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,” from which appeals are made 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.

Trial Procedures

The “law” provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and independent judicial authorities generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Various NGO representatives and human rights lawyers noted defendants did not fully enjoy 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. Criminal defendants enjoyed the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense.

There was insufficient free interpretation for some languages and insufficient professional translation in “courts.” Lawyers reported there are only two official interpreters in the “TRNC court” system, and as a result in some cases lawyers acted as interpreters. Authorities haphazardly recruited nonprofessional translators who did not translate everything said during proceedings. Insufficient translation also delayed hearings and prolonged defendants’ detention. Defendants may question prosecution witnesses and present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and have a right to appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were reports of detention of persons with alleged ties to the so-called “Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO)” and the deportation to Turkey of Turkish citizens purportedly affiliated with “FETO.”

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations 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 Restitution

Greek Cypriots continued to pursue property suits in the ECHR against the Turkish government for the loss of property located in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities since 1974.

A property commission handles claims by Greek Cypriots. As of October, claimants had filed 6,485 applications with the commission, 922 of which were concluded through friendly settlements and 315 through formal hearings. The commission has paid more than 292 million British pounds ($378 million) in compensation to applicants.

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

The “law” prohibits such actions. There were reports that police subjected Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities to surveillance. Although authorities reported otherwise, a Maronite representative asserted that during the year the Turkish armed forces occupied 18 houses in the Maronite village of Karpasia.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The “law” provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and authorities generally respected this right. Individuals were usually able to criticize authorities publicly without reprisal, with some exceptions.

Freedom of Expression: While there is no “law” restricting the use of non-”TRNC” flags or symbols, some individuals who have flown flags of the Republic of Cyprus have been publicly criticized and put on trial on charges of “disturbing the peace” or “provocative actions.”

Press and Media Freedom: While authorities usually respected press freedom, at times they obstructed journalists in their reporting. One media representative complained that press and media representatives were prevented from getting close enough to conduct on site reporting during incidents or to follow up reporting at “court” hearings.

Violence and Harassment: There were reports defendants in some “court” cases allegedly threatened journalists, who also faced pressure for their reporting from companies that advertised in their publications.

A journalist association reported some journalists were verbally and physically attacked by detainees or their families or friends. Journalists also reported they were at times prevented from doing their jobs, verbally assaulted, and their equipment damaged while at “courts,” hospitals, and police stations.

In January, Turkish President Erdogan condemned the Afrika newspaper for republishing in December 2017 a cartoon of a Greek statue urinating on Erdogan’s head and for publishing on January 21 an article sharply critical of Turkish military operations in Syria. He called for action against the paper. In response, 500 demonstrators staged a protest in front of the newspaper’s office. According to press reports, demonstrators threw rocks, glass bottles, and eggs, causing 16,450 Turkish lira ($3,130) in damage. Police arrested six demonstrators for rioting, gathering illegally, and deliberately destroying private property. The six demonstrators received jail sentences ranging from two to six months. Afrika’s chief editor reported in August that he continued to receive threats, and a journalist association reported that press and media groups who covered the attack also received threats.

In July a police officer in Famagusta reportedly ordered his subordinates to “inflict violence” on journalists who were trying to take photos of suspects being brought to the Famagusta “courts.” The police officers hit journalists trying to report from outside the court. The journalists filed a complaint against the police officer who ordered the attack. The “Attorney General’s Office” reported police started an investigation, which continued at year’s end.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists cannot interview or report on persons under control of the armed forces. The Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association reported authorities used these restrictions to prevent journalists from investigating valid subjects, such as suicides or allegations of police torture or battery within the military or police systems.

Journalists practiced self-censorship for fear of losing their jobs. A journalist reported some press representatives censored themselves when reporting on Turkey’s role in Cyprus and on the Turkish leadership.

In March police officers charged the Afrika newspaper with instigating violence, insulting Turkish President Erdogan, and trying to set the “TRNC” against Turkey. At a May hearing, Afrika’s editor and columnist were charged with several crimes, including insulting foreign state representatives, insulting religion, and publishing false news relating to a cartoon, three articles, and editorials. The trial began in October and continued at year’s end.

Separately, Afrika newspaper opened a lawsuit against President Erdogan for instigating attacks on the newspaper. The “court” dismissed the case, ruling that foreign heads of state were immune from prosecution.

Internet Freedom

Authorities did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that they monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Although technological developments improved delivery methods, journalists reported continued difficulties in accessing public information.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no “government” restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The “law” provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the “government” sometimes limited both.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

A teachers union reported police obstructed unions and civil society organizations from demonstrating and opening banners in front of the Turkish “embassy” during demonstrations and protests.

A labor union reported police interfered in demonstrations and used force against peaceful demonstrators. The labor union also reported police used force and pepper gas to disperse demonstrators during the Animal Producer Association’s demonstration in September.

Freedom of Association

While the “law” provides for the freedom of association, and while the “government” usually respected this right, some organizations faced lengthy registration processes.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The “law” provides for freedom of movement within the area administered by the Turkish Cypriot “authorities,” foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. Authorities generally respected these rights. An intermediary NGO handled cooperation between the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) (UNHCR) and Turkish Cypriot authorities. Because no “law” exists regarding the handling of asylum applications, UNHCR representatives in the Republic of Cyprus assessed asylum claims by applicants in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: UNHCR reported that, with few exceptions, asylum seekers generally were treated as illegal migrants because an official framework for asylum does not exist. Most were either denied entry or deported, irrespective of the risk of refoulement.

In-country Movement: Authorities required Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to show identification cards when crossing the “Green Line.”

Foreign Travel: Only Turkey recognizes travel documents issued by the “TRNC.” Some Turkish Cypriots used Turkish travel documents, but many obtained travel documents issued by the Republic of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to parents who, prior to 1974, were both Republic of Cyprus citizens, obtained passports relatively easily, compared to Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to only one Cypriot parent.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Turkish Cypriots considered those displaced as a result of the island’s 1974 division to be refugees, although they fell under the UN definition of IDPs. At the time of the division, the number of IDPs was approximately 60,000 in the north.

Protection of Refugees

Refoulement: Authorities did not provide protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened. According to NGOs, authorities at “ports” often denied entry to asylum seekers.

Human rights associations continued to work with authorities, including UNHCR, to provide protection for asylum seekers from refoulement, at times without success. With the involvement of these organizations, several asylum seekers gained access to asylum procedures in Turkey or in the government-controlled area.

Access to Asylum: There is no “law” or system in place for dealing with asylum seekers or the protection of refugees. Turkish Cypriot authorities generally cooperated with UNHCR’s NGO implementing partner, SOS Children’s Village.

There were reports Turkish Cypriot authorities deported numerous asylum seekers during the year before UNHCR’s implementing partner could interview them to obtain information necessary for assessing their asylum claims. Some potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities illegally were arrested, taken to “court,” and deported after serving their prison sentences.

Freedom of Movement: Asylum seekers could not travel abroad because they would be unable to return due to their lack of “legal” status.

Employment: According to immigration “law,” employers need official permission from the “Department of Labor” to register foreign workers. Authorities prohibited entry or deported irregular migrants without work permits. Persons holding a UNHCR certificate receive the same access to the labor market as third country nationals.

A “regulation” provides that any employer of illegal workers may be fined 2,620 Turkish lira ($500) or face closure of their business for two months. As of September, the “Labor Authority” had inspected 973 workplaces, and identified 1,254 illegal workers. Authorities fined employers 639,000 Turkish lira ($122,000).

Access to Basic Services: Persons holding a UNHCR certificate could access basic services, including primary health care and education, but persons of concern to UNHCR lacked access to residence permits or welfare assistance, which rendered them at risk of exploitation and put vulnerable individuals at risk of destitution.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The “law” provides Turkish Cypriots the ability to choose their “government” in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Turkish Cypriots who live in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities have the right to vote and run for office in elections for the European Parliament.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body at least every five years. On January 7, Turkish Cypriots held “parliamentary” elections that observers considered free and fair. In 2015 Turkish Cypriots elected Mustafa Akinci “president” in elections that were also considered free and fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: While membership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages, there were widespread allegations of political cronyism and nepotism.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No “laws” limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.

Turkish Cypriot authorities did not permit Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north to participate in Turkish Cypriot elections. Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north were eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but had to travel to the government-controlled area to do so. Greek Cypriot and Maronite enclave communities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities directly elected municipal officials, but Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize them. There was no minority representation in the 50-seat “parliament” or in the “cabinet.”

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The “law” provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. Authorities did not implement the “law” effectively, and “officials” sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Observers generally perceived corruption, cronyism, and lack of transparency to be serious problems in the legislative and executive branches, but they reported corruption decreased compared with previous years.

Corruption: In August the former “director of the government electricity utility” was arrested and charged with abuse of power, damaging the institution, deceptive statements, operations against regulations, and making illegal overtime payments. The former “director” was released on bail, and the investigation continued at year’s end.

Financial Disclosure: The “law” provides that all “government” employees must declare their wealth and assets. The “law” covers persons who hold elective office, appointees of the “council of ministers,” “judges” and “prosecutors,” the “ombudsman,” the chair of the “Attorney General’s Office,” and members of the “Attorney General’s Office.” Every five years employees who fall under this “law” must declare any movable and immovable property, money, equity shares, stocks, and jewelry worth five times their monthly salary as well as receivables and debts that belong to them, their spouses, and all children in their custody. The disclosure is not publicly available. Once a declaration is overdue, the employee receives a written warning to disclose his/her wealth within 30 days. If an employee fails to do so, authorities file a complaint with the “Attorney General’s Office.” Penalties for noncompliance include a fine of up to 5,000 Turkish lira ($952), three months’ imprisonment, or both. If confidentiality is violated, employees may receive a fine of up to 10,000 Turkish lira ($1,905), 12 months’ imprisonment, or both.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

While many local groups were concerned with human rights conditions, only a limited number of domestic human rights organizations operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. NGOs promoted awareness of domestic violence; women’s rights; rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants; trafficking in persons; police abuse; and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons. These groups had little effect on “legislation” to improve the protection of human rights. Local Turkish Cypriot NGOs liaised with the United Nations, UNHCR, and international NGOs on human rights issues.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The “law” criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Authorities and police did not enforce the “law” effectively. The Nicosia Turkish Cypriot Municipality provided a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and there were local NGOs whose specific mission was to support rape victims.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a major problem. The “law” prohibits domestic violence under a general assault/violence/battery clause.

In March the Nigerian student association told local newspapers that police did not take seriously complaints that African students were sexually abused and raped in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.

In November police arrested a man who had allegedly murdered his ex-girlfriend at the house in Kioneli where she worked. Press reported the man stabbed the victim 13 times before neighbors heard her screams and rushed her to the hospital where she died.

Sexual Harassment: The “criminal code” prohibits sexual harassment and considers it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months’ imprisonment, an unspecified fine, or both. According to NGOs, sexual harassment went largely unreported. A group of international students reported widespread sexual harassment of female international students and that police routinely dismissed complaints of sexual harassment from international students.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The “law” provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive “citizenship” from their parents, and there was universal registration at birth, including of children born to migrants.

Child Abuse: The “criminal code” does not explicitly prohibit child abuse, but it does prohibit sexual abuse of children, which carries a penalty of up to six years’ imprisonment. There were reports of child abuse. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seeking legal remedies for such problems.

In October a 17-year-old girl complained to the “Social Services Department” that her father and uncle had sexually abused her since she was nine years old. The “Social Services Department” helped her file a complaint with police, who arrested the father and uncle. In a “court” hearing, the victim said she had filed a complaint at the Lapta police station on the guidance of her school counselor but later withdrew it under pressure from her family. The “Social Services Department” provided support and psychological aid to the victim and her brother, and the trial continued at year’s end.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage for girls and boys is 18. A “court” may allow marriages for minors ages 16 and 17 if they receive parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “law” prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and authorities generally enforced the prohibition. The age of consent is 16. Statutory rape or attempted statutory rape of a minor younger than 16 is a felony, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If the offender is younger than 18 and two years or fewer apart in age from the victim, the act is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison, an unspecified fine, or both. There are no “laws” regarding child pornography.

In August Turkish Cypriot police arrested a 29-year-old British woman for soliciting herself and her two children in a nude live video online. She admitted to advertising prostitution and sexually abusing her children live on the internet. The “Social Services Department” took custody of one of the children, and the other was handed over to the Turkish Cypriot father. The woman was deported to the United Kingdom, according to press reports.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 150 persons in the Jewish community, which primarily consisted of nonresident businesspersons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The “law” prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and authorities effectively enforced these provisions. The “law” does not mandate access to public buildings and other facilities for persons with disabilities, and the disability community complained of the absence of infrastructure in public areas, including lack of sidewalks, blocked sidewalks, and inaccessible public transportation.

In May the Turkish Cypriot Orthopedic Disabled Persons Association reported 653 persons with disabilities were waiting to be employed by the “government.” The association also complained that persons with disabilities had no access to buildings, sidewalks, or public areas, and that there were no public restrooms they could use. The association noted the “government” had not employed a single person with disabilities since 2006, although the “law” requires 4 percent of public sector positions be filled by persons with disabilities.

Authorities reported more than 300 persons with disabilities worked in the “government.” Authorities also reported more than 4,000 disabled persons received financial aid from the “government” during the reporting period. In September, the “government” paid an additional one-time relief contribution of 1,000 Turkish lira ($190) to 8,000 poor and disabled persons who receive government aid, due to the economic crisis.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The “law” prohibits discrimination, and the 1975 Vienna III Agreement remains the legal source of authority regarding the treatment of the 320 Greek Cypriot and 73 Maronite residents in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.

UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus representatives visited enclaved Greek Cypriot residents weekly and Maronites twice a month. In April the “TRNC government” cancelled an October 2017 decision by the former “government” to tax humanitarian aid convoys to the Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities. While the humanitarian aid was taxed, humanitarian aid deliveries for Greek Cypriots living in Rizokarpaz were limited to medical supplies.

Greek Cypriots and Maronites could take possession of some of their properties in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities but were unable to leave their properties to heirs residing in the government-controlled area. Maronites living in the government-controlled area could use their properties in the north only if those properties were not under the control of the Turkish military or allocated to Turkish Cypriots.

A small Kurdish minority that emigrated from Turkey in the 1980s lived in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. There were reports of social and job discrimination against the Kurds as well as allegations that police closely monitored Kurdish activities, in particular the annual Nowruz festival. In March local press reported a group of nationalist students tore down Nowruz posters posted at a university bus stop. When three Kurdish students tried to stop them, the nationalist students reportedly attacked the Kurdish students and forced them to voice insults against Kurds while the attackers filmed them. School security intervened; the victims were taken to the hospital, and police began an investigation.

Some of the more than 10,000 African students reportedly studying at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities reported racial discrimination in housing, employment, and interactions with law enforcement.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The “law” prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

While there were no cases recorded of official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, members of the LGBTI community noted an overwhelming majority of LGBTI persons concealed their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid potential discrimination.

The Queer Cyprus Association said LGBTI persons often could not access legal remedies to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity because authorities declined to enforce them. The association reported that during the year police refused to register a complaint about discrimination based on gender identity from a transgender woman.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The “law” provides for the rights of workers, except members of police and other Turkish Cypriot security forces, to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. The “law” allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for their right to strike, with the provision that a union notify authorities in writing if members planned to strike for longer than 24 hours. The “law” does not permit “judges,” members of the police force, or other Turkish Cypriot security forces to strike. The “Council of Ministers” has the power to prohibit a strike in any individual sector twice a year for up to 60 days if it affects the general health, security, or public order or if it prevents the provision of essential services. There is no list of what constitutes essential services.

The “law” provides for collective bargaining but does not prohibit antiunion discrimination or provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activities.

The “government” did not effectively enforce applicable “laws.” Despite having the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining, there was very little unionization among the estimated 90,000 workers in the private sector. According to one labor union, only 8 percent of private sector workers were unionized. A union representative said that if private sector workers affected business operations while exercising their rights, employers would likely dismiss them. Some companies pressured workers to join unions that the company led or approved. Officials of independent unions claimed authorities created public sector unions as rivals to weaken the independent unions. Labor authorities and the “state” did not provide adequate resources, inspections, or improvements. Penalties for employers convicted of violating the “law” range from two to eight times the monthly minimum wage of 2,620 Turkish lira ($499), which was insufficient to deter violations due to sporadic enforcement.

Public and semipublic employees benefited from collective bargaining agreements. Semipublic employees worked for companies run jointly by public and private enterprises where, for example, the “government” handled administration while the company’s budget came from private sources.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The “law” prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the “government” did not effectively enforce it. Forced labor was reportedly punishable by up to one year in prison, a term that was not commensurate with other serious crimes and was not adequate to deter violations.

There were reports of forced labor during the year, primarily in the private sector. A labor union representative reported migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages, nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threats of deportation.

A researcher reported the university sector is used to smuggle and traffic large numbers of Africans and South Asians. The researcher stated these victims are registered in certain universities by their employers to obtain student resident “permits” and subsequently subjected to forced labor. Students from Nigeria and Zimbabwe were often unable to pay their tuition and therefore could not renew their student visas. In exchange for not being reported to immigration police, they reportedly accept harsh working conditions consistent with forced labor at construction sites.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for restricted employment is 15, the last year at which education is compulsory. Employers may hire children between the ages of 15 and 18 in apprentice positions under a special status. Children older than 15 are restricted to not more than six hours of work per day and 30 hours per week. The “law” prohibits children between the ages of 15 and 18 from working during mealtimes, at night, in heavy physical labor, and under dangerous conditions. The “law” also states that every six months the employer must prove, with medical certification, that the physical work done by a child is suitable for children. Written parental consent is also required, and children are entitled to the hourly wage of a full-time employee.

The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing child labor “laws” and policies. Resources, penalties, and inspections were not adequate to deter violations.

Authorities did not always effectively enforce the “laws,” and employers used children, mainly from Turkey, for labor, primarily alongside their families in the agricultural, manufacturing, automotive, and construction sectors. NGOs reported children worked in dangerous conditions, such as on construction sites, and were subjected to heavy physical work despite “legal” prohibitions. One NGO reported some employers delayed applying for work permits for seasonal agricultural workers from Turkey, which prevented the workers’ children from being eligible for local schooling.

Child labor in the urban informal economy was also a problem, albeit to a lesser extent than in agriculture and manufacturing. The number of children selling tissues or other small items on the street increased over 2017, particularly in neighborhoods in Nicosia with large immigrant populations. It was common in family-run shops for children to work after school and for young children to work on family farms.

One union representative reported there were only nine “inspectors” working at the “Employment Department,” making it difficult to inspect workplaces to detect child labor.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The “law” generally prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and social status. The “law” does not specifically address discrimination with respect to religion, political opinion, or HIV-positive status. The “government” did not effectively enforce these “laws.” Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, disability, and gender.

Authorities reported 22,882 registered foreign workers in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriot authorities, mainly from Turkey, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and the Philippines. Foreign migrant workers faced societal discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, and religious belief. Greek Cypriots faced social and employment discrimination.

Women faced sexual harassment in the workplace and held far fewer managerial positions than men. An NGO reported a private school teacher was dismissed from her job for becoming pregnant. The private school allegedly did not want to have staff on maternity leave during the school year.

LGBTI individuals often hid their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace to avoid discrimination. Persons with disabilities routinely found it physically difficult to access workplaces.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The “government” increased the minimum wage during the year, but it remained below the poverty level for a family of four, as inflation and the cost of living outpaced the increase. As of October, the monthly minimum wage was 2,620 Turkish lira ($499). Accommodations for migrant workers, either as part of their compensation or for those made to pay, were substandard.

The standard workweek for the private and public sectors was 40 hours. There was premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Premium pay for overtime is also required, but frequently not paid, in the private sector. The “law” prohibits compulsory overtime and provides for paid annual holidays.

The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing both the minimum wage and paying public sector wages, but it did not effectively do so.

Occupational safety and health standards were insufficient. Despite occasional inspections by labor authorities, authorities did not effectively enforce those standards in all sectors. Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Authorities commonly deported migrant workers claiming violations. Authorities did not penalize violators, and inspections were not adequate to protect worker rights. The “government” has not established social protections for workers in the informal economy.

There was little improvement in working conditions, particularly for hazardous sectors and vulnerable groups. Authorities reported 10 fatal accidents at nine work places during the year.


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