Watchdog criticises Cyprus over alleged police brutality

Many members of Cyprus’ police force have been accused of abusing detainees. (AFP pic)

NICOSIA: Europe’s anti-torture watchdog has warned Cyprus to take action against persistent allegations of police brutality, especially against foreigners, in a report issued on Thursday.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), an arm of the Council of Europe, said immigrants and foreigners ran the risk of ill-treatment by police on the eastern Mediterranean island.

“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,” said the CPT report.

The report also looked into the conditions of immigration detainees at a camp, as well as those of inmates in the Central Jail of Nicosia.

“The CPT calls for determined action to tackle the problem of police ill-treatment and address the various shortcomings identified,” said the report.

CPT said it had received a number of credible allegations of ill-treatment of detained persons, including juveniles, by police.

“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.”

CPT referred to allegations of physical, verbal, and racist abuse of immigration detainees at a detention centre, as well as ill-treatment of detainees being escorted to the airport by immigration police.

It called on Cypriot authorities to take “determined action” and to promote a culture change within the ranks of the police.

The findings also highlighted shortcomings in investigating alleged police ill-treatment.

Cypriot authorities, however, have reaffirmed their zero tolerance towards ill-treatment and taken steps to address the problem, including reinforced police training, the CPT said.