2012 Human Rights Reports: Cyprus - the Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
April 19, 2013

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Since 1974 the southern part of Cyprus has been under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus, while the northern part, 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 remained on the island. A buffer zone, or “green line,” patrolled by the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), separates the two parts.



Since 1974 the northern part of Cyprus has been run by a Turkish Cypriot administration that 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. Dervis Eroglu was elected “president” in 2010 in free and fair elections. Elections to the “Assembly of the Republic” in 2009 were also free and fair and resulted in the formation of a single-party “government” of the National Unity Party. 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.

The most significant problems reported during the year included police abuse of detainees and restrictions on the rights of asylum seekers. There was no regulatory infrastructure to handle applications for asylum seekers or to protect their rights.

Other problems reported during the year included mistreatment of persons in custody and in prison, overcrowding in prisons, lack of separation of incarcerated adults and juveniles, corruption and cronyism in the executive and legislative branches, domestic violence against women, trafficking in persons, and criminalization of same-sex sexual activity between men.

In contrast with 2011, authorities took steps to investigate police officials who the press alleged had committed abuses. However, there was evidence that officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

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

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports that authorities or their agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year.

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

The “law” prohibits such practices; however, there were reports 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.

In December 2011 a “parliamentary committee” established to investigate allegations of police torture reported that torture has been carried out at police stations. Police and the “attorney general’s office” investigated the complaints and torture allegations and filed a case in “court” based on their findings. The “committee” studied another 12 petitions from persons who claimed to have been beaten and consulted with police and the “attorney general’s office” on the cases. The “attorney general’s office” investigated the claims and filed cases against three police officers at the “Heavy Penal Court.” According to the “attorney general’s office,” police have instructed their staff regarding behavioral methods and approaches towards suspect investigation, as well as suspect rights.

In December 2011 the Kibrisli newspaper began publishing a series of torture allegations dating from 2006, based on first-hand accounts. One victim alleged that he was covered with a sack, tortured, beaten and that electricity was applied to his genitals for seven days after he refused to sign statements prepared by police. The newspaper published a full statement and photos showing the alleged signs of torture. Another victim alleged that he was beaten so severely he required medical care; the doctor at the hospital reportedly described his wounds as “scratches” and did not give him a health report. The victim claimed police released him when they understood that he was not guilty. He claimed he filed a complaint with the “attorney general’s office” but had never received a response. The “attorney general’s office” stated that it investigated all complaints and claims made to the “Civil Department.”

Two police abuse cases filed with the “attorney general” in 2011 were being prepared for a “court” hearing at the end of the year. In September a “court” found three police officers guilty in police abuse cases that were filed with the “attorney general” and sentenced them to two months in prison for inflicting “serious damage” and “serious harm” in the beating a 17-year-old who was driving a car without a license. The officers appealed; the “Court of Appeal” found them guilty of the lesser sentence of “harm,” and their sentence was reduced to 20 days in jail.

In April, Erol Diker confessed to abusing and killing his seven-year-old son and then dumping the body into a field among trash. He was awaiting his conviction in an isolated cell in prison. In May and June, newspapers reported that a senior guard entered Diker’s cell, despite being prohibited from doing so, and beat him. A representative from a human rights organization denounced the violence as illegal. According to the “attorney general’s office,” other inmates also attacked Diker in the common, outdoor space. Officials subsequently took disciplinary action against the alleged attackers. As of year’s end, Diker was being held in a separate cell while awaiting the outcome of his trial.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, and prison overcrowding was particularly a problem.

Physical Conditions: Of the 286 prisoners and detainees held at year’s end, 42 percent were foreigners, most of whom were Turkish citizens. Of those sentenced, 60 percent were sentenced to heavy penalty and 40 percent were sentenced to light penalty. Five female prisoners and two juveniles were incarcerated. (Prison sentences are classified as either light or heavy prison punishments.) Approximately 38 percent of the prisoners were awaiting trial.

The prison, which is located in Nicosia, did not separate incarcerated adults and juveniles. There were no detention or correction centers for children in the north.

Authorities stated that the capacity of the prison was 291, but a bunk-bed system increased the official number of beds to 452. In previous years inmates complained of overcrowding at the prison, but authorities routinely claimed they had addressed the problem. Nongovernment organization (NGO) representatives stated that health and other services were sorely lacking, and inmates lacked regular access to washing water and hot water. Authorities stated that health services were provided to inmates twice a week and were available for emergencies, and that health checks were given to prisoners and detainees upon entry into the prison.

The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation’s May report, Detainee Rights in the Northern Part of Cyprus, emphasized the inadequate level of healthcare, noting a lack of medical supplies; lack of medical and support staff; no full time doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist; and an insufficient number of social workers. The report also highlighted the lack of effective treatment for drug users or addicts. It also noted security problems, including insufficient methods to reduce violence between inmates and detainees, overcrowded cells, and bars on doors and windows that prisoners easily removed during violent encounters. The report cited incidences of gang violence, violence or torture inflicted by guards on inmates, and easy access to weapons and drugs.

During the year there were no deaths within the prison or detention centers. Prisoners had access to potable water.

In August the Havadis newspaper reported a change in profile of inmates in the central prison, noting that most inmates were at that time Turkish Cypriots, not foreigners. According to the newspaper article, the majority of the prisoners allegedly were convicted for nonpayment of financial debts.

Administration: Recordkeeping on inmates was inadequate. Community service is not an alternative to prison confinement for nonviolent offenders. According to the “law,” alternatives to prison sentences, which were used most often for nonviolent offenses, include warnings, conditional and unconditional release, and bail. In addition in some cases of domestic violence or drug use, the “court” may also suggest psychological and social counseling. According to authorities prisoners and detainees were permitted to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhumane conditions. Authorities reported they did not receive any complaints.

Authorities stated that all prisoners were allowed religious observance and that an imam visited the prison once a week to conduct prayers. Prisoners with “stern” penalties were allowed to receive visitors every 10 days while prisoners with “light punishment” were allowed to receive visitors every 15 days. Detainees were allowed to receive visitors every 30 days. Visits were limited to 30 minutes except during holidays. Convicted inmates were allowed a maximum of 40 minutes of telephone calls four days a week; detainees were given access to telephones three days a week for 40 minutes each.

The scope of the “ombudsman’s” duties does not include advocating for reduced or alternative sentences or addressing the status of juvenile prisoners or improving detention or bail conditions.

Monitoring: Authorities stated that prison monitoring is permitted, but no local or international NGO had applied to do so. Authorities added that, throughout the year, press and media representatives visited the prison. One NGO representative stated that, during prison visits to help detainees, he repeatedly expressed to authorities his concerns regarding poor prison conditions, particularly the detention of women and children who had no legal cause to be detained. According to one journalist, prison visits were permitted only when organized by Turkish Cypriot authorities and thus were overly monitored and controlled.

Improvements: Some steps were taken to improve conditions and morale in the prisons. In August authorities permitted a prison visit by a group of local journalists and hosted an iftar dinner for the group at the prison, where they were able to meet with inmates and prison employees.

In April inmates and detainees formed a theater group named Gundogdu (Sunrise) Theater with the approval of the prison administration and the support of psychologists. The group staged a play that prison administration, “members of parliament,” the media, and the general public attended. Authorities announced that they improved nutritional requirements for inmates and were also working on improving morale. Prisoners were permitted to make as many calls as they desired to seven persons they had designated. Inmates and detainees noted that they were receiving English and computer courses in addition to participating in ceramic, bookbinding, and woodworking workshops.

Other improvements noted by authorities were improvements to inmates’ bathrooms and toilets, continued maintenance and repairs of windows and walls, installation of visitor toilets, installation of new televisions in certain sections, and the opening of a new butcher section.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The “law” prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and authorities generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Police are responsible for “law” enforcement. The “chief of police” reports to a “general,” who is nominally under the supervision of the “Prime Ministry,” holding the “security portfolio.” Police and “Turkish Cypriot security forces” are ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish military, per transitional article 10 of the “TRNC constitution,” which “temporarily” cedes responsibility for public security and defense to Turkey. Security forces generally cooperated with civilian authorities and effective in matters of “law” enforcement. Police are divided into eight functional divisions and five geographic divisions.

The “office of the attorney general” continued to work with the inspection division (or occasionally the criminal investigative division) to investigate allegations of police misconduct. Two complaints were filed with and investigated by the “attorney general’s office”; disciplinary actions were taken against police staff.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

Judicially issued warrants are required for arrests. No person may be detained longer than 24 hours without referral of the case to the “courts” for a longer period of detention. Authorities generally respected this right in practice. Authorities usually informed detainees promptly of charges against them, although individuals believed to have committed a violent offense were often held for longer periods without being charged. According to the “law,” any detained person must be brought before a “judge” within 24 hours. The person can then be detained in police custody for a period of up to three months, but a “judge” must review the detention after the third day and every eight days thereafter. Bail was permitted and routinely used. Detainees were usually allowed prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice. Authorities only provided lawyers to the indigent for cases involving violent offenses.

Police sometimes did not observe legal protections, particularly at the time of arrest. Some suspects were not permitted to have their lawyers present when giving testimony, in contravention of the “law.” Suspects who demanded the presence of a lawyer were sometimes threatened with stiffer charges or physically intimidated. According to one NGO representative, authorities asked asylum seekers detained in prison or detention centers to sign documents they were not able to read. At times “court” hearings took place with no interpreters or translators as witnessed by volunteer human rights lawyers. One NGO representative remarked that translators, when present, did not translate everything said during “court” hearings.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The “law” provides for an independent judiciary, and authorities generally respected judicial independence in practice.

Most criminal and civil cases begin in district “courts,” from which appeals are made to the “Supreme Court.” There were no special “courts” for political offenses. Civilian “courts” have jurisdiction in cases where civilians are accused of violating military restrictions, such as filming or photographing military zones.

Trial Procedures

The “law” provides for the right to a fair trial, and independent judicial authorities generally enforced this right. The “TRNC constitution” provides for 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. Authorities provide lawyers to indigent defendants only in cases involving violent offenses. Defendants are allowed to question witnesses against them and present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. The “law” also requires that defendants and their attorneys have access to evidence held by the “government” related to their cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have a right to appeal. Authorities generally respected these rights in practice and generally respected “court” orders.

One NGO representative and human rights lawyer noted that defendants do not fully enjoy the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges brought against them. The representative added that there is lack of sufficient interpretation for some languages as well as lack of professional translation; for example, translators are randomly recruited and do not translate everything said during “court” hearings.

In July the “Constitutional Court” found the “cabinet’s” decision to send the Nicosia mayor and board members on mandatory leave to be illegal and contrary to the “constitution,” which states that “cabinet” decisions should be approved by “parliament.” Authorities respected the “court” order and reinstated the mayor and board members.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There was generally an independent and impartial “judiciary” for civil matters, permitting claimants to bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. There were generally no problems enforcing domestic “court” orders.

Property Restitution

During the year Greek Cypriots continued to pursue property suits in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the Turkish government for the loss since 1974 of property located in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots pursued claims against the Republic of Cyprus as well. Under ECHR rules, as long as adequate local remedies exist, an appellant does not have standing to bring a case before the ECHR until that appellant exhausts all local remedies.

In response to the ECHR’s 2005 ruling in the Xenides-Arestis case that Turkey’s “subordinate local authorities” in Cyprus had not provided an adequate local remedy, a property commission was established to handle claims by Greek Cypriots. In 2006 the ECHR ruled that the commission had satisfied “in principle” the ECHR’s requirement for an effective local remedy. In a 2010 ruling, the ECHR recognized the property commission as a domestic remedy. As of December 6, some 4,191 applications had been filed with the commission, 293 of which were concluded through friendly settlements and nine through formal hearings. The commission has paid 93,929,229 pounds sterling (approximately $151,989,000) to the applicants in compensation.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:Share    

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

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

Freedom of Press: While authorities generally respected freedom of the press in practice, journalists were at times obstructed in their reporting and threatened with charges. The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. International media were generally allowed to operate freely. Bayrak Radyo Televizyon Kurumu (BRT) is the only “government”-owned television and radio station. In June the BRT trade union chair stated that the BRT director was imposing psychological abuse and pressure on staff. Journalists alleged that press freedom was limited, noting that political interests often used the media according to the bias of the media owners; journalists whose reporting was contrary to these views could face dismissal or loss of other rights. One journalist noted that some journalists were forced to create coverage that was positive towards the “government.”

Violence and Harassment: Two journalists were attacked during 2011, although the relationship between the attacks and the journalists’ reporting was unclear. In July 2011 an assailant shot at journalist Ali Osman Tabak inside the Afrika newspaper’s office. In April a “court” sentenced Mustafa Yalcin, who was arrested for opening fire on the offices of Afrika, to 10 years in prison. Yalcin was found guilty of the attempted murder of Afrika journalist Tabak and other counts. In his confession Yalcin stated that he attacked the newspaper because it was publishing anti-Turkish statements.

In April and May 2011, a second journalist, Mutlu Esendemir, was a victim of bomb attacks on his vehicle, which slightly injured him. After an investigation authorities filed various charges against a suspect, who was arrested in June 2011. The suspect was found guilty by the “High Penal Court” and sentenced to three years in prison.

The Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association reported that journalists were threatened and prevented from working and that they experienced problems trying to access public or other information and political pressure. Journalists were alleged to have been threatened by defendants in “court” cases as well as to face pressure for their reporting from companies that advertise in their publications. According to a study by the association, the most serious hardships that journalists faced were restrictions on freedom of expression, threats, and poor working conditions.

Internet Freedom

Authorities did not restrict access to the Internet, and there were no reports that they monitored e‑mail or Internet chat rooms without appropriate legal authority. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e‑mail. There are no accurate statistics regarding the percentage of the Turkish Cypriot population that used the Internet.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Authorities did not restrict academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The “law” provides for freedom of assembly and association, and authorities generally respected these rights in practice, although some organizations faced lengthy registration periods.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/drl/irf/rpt.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The “law” provides for freedom of movement within the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and authorities generally respected these rights in practice.

Cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Turkish Cypriot authorities was handled through an intermediary NGO. Since no “law” exists regarding the handling of asylum applications, the UNHCR representative in Cyprus adjudicated asylum claims.

Authorities required Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to show identification cards when crossing the green line. Greek Cypriots and foreigners crossing into the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were also required to fill out a “visa” form.

In an effort to improve regulation of undocumented workers, authorities passed an “immigration amnesty law” in December 2011 allowing illegally present workers to request amnesty within 60 days. Applications continued until February 2012. The “State Planning Organization” estimated there were approximately 10,000 illegal workers in the north before the “immigration amnesty.” In total, 9,543 previously illegal workers benefitted from the “immigration amnesty,” including 6,670 who benefitted from the amnesty and reentered the island. Of those who reentered, 3,998 received work permits, 34 received work-place permits, 2,278 received residence permits, and 63 received student permits. In addition, effective as of April, the new “regulation” stipulated that any employer of illegal workers would be fined 6,500 Turkish lira ($3,400) or face business closure for two months. The “Labor Authority” stated it identified 454 workers without work permits. The “Labor Authority” fined businesses that employed illegal workers a total of 1,942,200 Turkish lira (approximately $1.087 million).

According to the immigration “law,” all employers who wish to import foreign workers need official permission from the “Department of Labor” to register them. Authorities deported illegal immigrants without work permits. All illegal immigrants without work permits were prohibited from entering the “TRNC” at ports of entry. With few exceptions “authorities” generally treated asylum seekers as illegal immigrants and either deported or denied them entry. There is no “law” or mechanism for the right of asylum seekers, thus no identification or protection is available. Human rights associations continued to work with authorities, including the UNHCR, to ensure that asylum seekers were protected from refoulement, at times without success. With the involvement of these associations, several asylum seekers entered the government-controlled area, through the UN-patrolled area, and started the asylum process there or traveled to Turkey, where they then applied for asylum.

Only Turkey recognizes travel documents issued by the “TRNC.” Journalists noted that they could not travel to other countries because of this restriction. 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.

On April 9, the “cabinet” decided that “civil servants” whom the “cabinet” financially supported to go abroad for seminars, meetings, sports activities, or scholarships could do so only by using “TRNC” or Turkish passports. If they failed to abide by this rule, the “cabinet” would ask them to return money provided for their official travel. The political and business communities criticized this decision, and it created concerns for Turkish Cypriots who held Republic of Cyprus passports and used ports in the south for travel.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Turkish Cypriots considered persons displaced as a result of the division of the island to be refugees, although they fell under the UN’s definition of IDPs. At the time of the division, this number was approximately 60,000 in the north. They were resettled, had access to humanitarian organizations, and were not subject to attack, targeting, or return under dangerous conditions.

Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is incorporated into Turkish Cypriot domestic “law,” as were all other “laws” that originated from the British colonial period and the pre-1963 Republic of Cyprus period and were later “ratified” by the Turkish Cypriot administration. Authorities admitted that they had no “law” or system in place for dealing with asylum seekers or the protection of refugees and stated that they systematically rejected asylum applications. Potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriots illegally were almost always arrested, taken to “court,” and deported after serving their sentence. During the year, however, authorities facilitated the access of 17 asylum seekers to the UNHCR representatives in the UN buffer zone.

Individuals who requested asylum were supposed to be directed to the UNHCR or its local implementing partner, the Refugee Rights Association (RRA). However, authorities often refused to grant asylum seekers access to the RRA, refused their entry, treated them as undocumented immigrants, and denied them the opportunity to apply for asylum through the UNHCR. The RRA was affiliated with the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Only the UNHCR representative could consider applicability of the 1951 Refugee Convention; the RRA’s mission was to monitor and identify individuals who wanted to apply for asylum, refer them to the UNHCR, and advocate to Turkish Cypriot authorities not to deport such individuals but instead to provide protection for the prospective applicants and to facilitate their accommodation and employment.

Of 86 asylum seekers, 69 were deported during the year before a determination had been made regarding their status. Seventeen deportation orders were successfully cancelled, with the RRA’s assistance. These 17 asylum seekers received facilitated access to continue their claims with the UNHCR.

In September police arrested 35 Syrians near the Karpassia area for attempting to enter the island illegally by boat from Turkey. According to the press, the Syrians paid $2,000 per person to Turkish smugglers. The Syrians, including six children and five women, were detained for three days and then appeared in the “court.” The “court” ordered the Syrians to be jailed for five days while the two Turkish smugglers were jailed for two months. On October 2, authorities forcibly deported the 35 Syrian asylum seekers. The press reported that police officers dragged them onto the ground and allegedly sprayed them with pepper spray. The asylum seekers’ lawyer from the RRA was forcibly refused access to her clients and was dragged by a “customs officer” while trying to speak with the Syrians. The Syrians were allegedly resisting because they did not want to return to camps in Turkey where they said they felt unsafe. Many political parties, human rights organizations, and civil society representatives criticized Turkish Cypriot authorities for the manner in which the situation was handled.

Refoulement: In practice authorities did not provide protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. The RRA stated during the year that, despite its efforts, authorities at ports often denied entry to asylum seekers, and those trying to enter the “TRNC” illegally were usually detained and subsequently deported. The RRA complained that authorities usually denied asylum seekers access to the RRA’s lawyers and vice versa. During the year only one of 69 asylum seekers was deported to his place of origin, Pakistan.

Access to Basic Services: According to the RRA, at year’s end 13 asylum seekers and refugees were residing and working (for below-minimum wages and sometimes in exchange for food) or attending school in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. They could not travel abroad because they would be unable to return due to their lack of status, which rendered them illegal according to Turkish Cypriot immigration rules. The UNHCR did not provide financial assistance to asylum seekers except in exceptional cases. There were no reliable estimates of the number of asylum seekers crossing into the government-controlled areas, since irregular crossings went unrecorded.

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

The “law” provides Turkish Cypriots the right to change their “government” peacefully, and they exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body every five years or less. In 2010 they elected Dervis Eroglu “president” in free and fair elections.

Political Parties: Greek Cypriots and Maronite residents were prohibited from participating in Turkish Cypriot “national elections;” they were eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but had to travel to the government-controlled area to exercise that right. Greek Cypriot and Maronite enclave communities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots directly elected municipal officials. Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize these officials.

While membership or nonmembership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages or disadvantages, there were widespread allegations of societal cronyism and nepotism.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There were four women in the 50-seat “parliament.” No minorities were represented in the “parliament.”

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare    

The “law” provides criminal penalties for official corruption. However, 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.

Opposition parties continued to claim that the “government” primarily hired supporters of the ruling party for public sector jobs during the year. Throughout the year newspapers alleged that the ruling party hired workers to staff various public offices and planned to hire additional persons.

The “constitution” provides for free access to “government” information, and the “law” provides for public access. In practice, however, “civil servants” were not allowed to provide access to “government” documents without first obtaining permission from their superiors or “minister.” There were some complaints by NGO representatives that they were denied access to “government” information during the year. Other NGO representatives claimed that authorities denied access to “land registry records,” specifically for cases that involved pre-1974 Greek Cypriot owners who wanted to apply to the Immovable Property Commission.

According to an NGO human rights representative, associations often can only access “government” information on a discretionary basis. The representative alleged that, at times, authorities and police either withheld information or deliberately misled organizations to conceal violations. For example, authorities refused requests for information concerning policy decisions or procedures regarding the deportation of 35 Syrians in October.

In February, April, and May, Nicosia Turkish Municipality workers went on indefinite strike and organized demonstrations because they had not received their monthly salaries on time and were not receiving their social benefits. The “Audit Office” carried out investigations at the municipality in May. According to the “office’s” report, there was growing debt dating to 2011 due to corruption and unauthorized work, including unauthorized jobs. Newspapers reported that the report was taken to the “attorney general’s office.”

In August newspapers published the “Audit Office’s” report on corruption allegations at the “Social Security Department” involving fake health reports for temporary disability benefits for individuals who had already received financial benefits. Authorities removed five personnel, including the director, from their positions after the corruption investigation began. According to the “attorney general’s office,” the investigation continued.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsShare    

A number of domestic human rights groups operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. The international NGO Minority Rights Group International was also active in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Authorities’ cooperation with NGOs was inconsistent.

Many local human rights groups were concerned with improving human rights conditions in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. NGOs included groups promoting awareness of domestic violence; women’s rights; rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants; trafficking in persons; torture; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons’ rights. These groups were numerous but had little impact on specific “legislation.” A few international NGOs were active in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, but many were hesitant to operate there due to political sensitivities related to working in an unrecognized area.

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

The “law” prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. Authorities generally enforced these prohibitions.


Rape and Domestic Violence: The “law” does not provide a minimum sentence for individuals convicted of rape, including spousal rape; the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Authorities and police effectively handled and prosecuted rape cases, including cases of spousal rape. There were no NGOs whose specific mission was to support rape victims.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was a problem. The “law” prohibits domestic violence under a general assault/violence/battery clause in the criminal code. While allegations of domestic violence were usually considered a family matter and settled out of “court,” a few cases of domestic violence were prosecuted that resulted in fines and bail but no prison sentences. Authorities considered a case more credible if there was at least one witness in addition to the victim.

There were no accurate statistics regarding domestic violence against women available during the year, but press reports indicated that violence against women continued. According to 2011 statistics, 78 women were subjected to violence in the north. Of the victims, 34 were beaten by their spouses, 12 were victims of violence from a parent or other family member, while four were subjected to violence from boyfriends. Twenty-three women were given “court-appointed” lawyers.

Sexual Harassment: The “law” does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, but victims could pursue such cases under other sections of the “law.” Sexual harassment was not discussed widely, and such incidents largely went unreported.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals were able to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, and obstetric and postpartum care.

Discrimination: Women generally have the same legal status as men under property “law,” family “law,” and in the “judicial system.” The “government” generally enforced “laws” requiring equal pay for men and women performing the same work at the white-collar level. However, women working in the agricultural and textile sectors routinely received less pay than their male counterparts. Several NGOs worked to protect women’s rights, but no specific “government” agency had this responsibility.


Birth Registration: “Citizenship” is derived from one’s parents, and there was universal registration at birth.

Child Abuse: There were some media reports of child abuse, most commonly in the form of sexual battery or rape. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seeking legal remedies for such problems, which observers believed were underreported.

Child Marriage: The minimum age of marriage for girls and boys is 18. The “court” has the ability to allow marriages for girls who are between the ages of 16 and 18, if they receive parental consent. The rate of marriage during the year for girls under the age of 18 was 1.2 percent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “criminal code” penalizes sexual relations with underage girls. The maximum penalty for sex with a girl under the age of 13 is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for sex with girls older than 13 but younger than 16 is three years’ imprisonment. There are no “laws” regarding child pornography. The age of consent is 16 for girls. The “criminal code” does not specify an age of consent for boys.


The very small Jewish community consisted primarily 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 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

The “law” prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or in the provision of other “state” services, and in practice authorities effectively enforced these provisions. The “government” employed 563 persons with disabilities and provided financial aid to the remaining 3,804 persons with disabilities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. The “law” does not mandate access to public buildings and other facilities for persons with disabilities.

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 330 Greek Cypriot and 110 Maronite residents in the area under the administration of “TRNC” authorities.

Under the Vienna III Agreement, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) visited Greek Cypriot residents of the enclave weekly and Maronites twice a month; additional visits require preapproval by authorities. Although the Vienna III Agreement provides for medical care by a doctor from the Greek Cypriot community, authorities only permitted such care by registered Turkish Cypriot doctors. Individuals living in enclaves also traveled to the government-controlled area for medical care.

Greek Cypriots and Maronites were able to take possession of some of their properties but were unable to leave their properties to heirs residing in the government-controlled area. A Maronite representative asserted that Maronites were not allowed to bequeath property to heirs who do not reside in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots and possess “TRNC” identification cards. Authorities allowed the enclaved residents to make improvements to their homes and to apply for permission to build new structures on their properties. Maronites living in the government-controlled area could use their properties only if those properties were not under the control of the Turkish military or allocated to Turkish Cypriots.

A small Kurdish minority lived in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, a group that emigrated from Turkey in the 1980s. There have been reports of social and work discrimination against the Kurds, including the refusal of applications for birth certificates for children with Kurdish names in 2011. In addition close monitoring of Kurdish activities by police, including of the annual Nowruz Festival, has been alleged.

A majority of foreign workers in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were Turkish. Authorities noted that the majority of foreign workers worked in the service and construction sectors.

According to the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation’s report, The Human Rights of Migrant Workers in North Cyprus, foreign workers were generally from Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Philippines, China, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and several African countries. The report noted that many foreign workers were paid below the minimum wage and worked excessive hours.

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

Same-sex sexual activity between men is criminalized in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots under a general sodomy “statute.” The maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment. In February two inmates at the central prison were arrested for sodomy and pleaded guilty to the charge; however, their prison sentences were not extended. These arrests followed nine reported arrests under the sodomy “statute” in 2011, a number that represented a significant increase according to NGOs. These cases received considerable attention from the EU and the international LGBT community. No specific “law” prohibits discrimination against LGBT persons.

Homosexuality remained highly proscribed socially and was rarely discussed. Few LGBT persons were publicly open about their sexual orientation, although during the year the second-largest Turkish Cypriot daily, Havadis, ran two separate two-page interviews with Turkish LGBT activists and individuals who shared their experiences.

During the year there were no reports of either police or “government” representatives engaging in or condoning violence against the LGBT community.

While there were no recorded cases of official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, members of the LGBT community noted that an overwhelming majority of LGBT persons hid their sexual orientation to avoid such problems.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were no reports of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Section 7. Worker RightsShare    

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The “law” and related “regulations” and “statutory instruments” allow workers, except members of police and “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 the right to strike. The “law” does not permit essential service workers, including “judges” and members of the police force and “Turkish Cypriot security forces,” to strike. Authorities have the power to curtail strikes in essential services. The “law” provides for collective bargaining but does not prohibit antiunion discrimination.

Workers formed and joined independent unions in practice. Authorities generally protected the right of unions to conduct their activities in practice. While workers may legally strike, employers are allowed to hire replacement workers in the event of a strike, which limited the effectiveness of this right in practice.

On January 19, the union for the “Electricity Authority” and the union of the “Telecommunications Department” went on strike. The “government” banned both strikes for 60 days claiming both “departments” provided essential services. Following the strike ban, union representatives stopped working, claiming to be exercising their right not to work, but not actually on strike. Both unions had gone on strike to protest the “government’s” decision to privatize the “departments.”

Similarly, on May 15, the “government” determined that municipal workers were not conducting a substantial slowdown of work as they claimed, due to lack of payment of salaries and benefits, but were actually on strike. As a result the “government” banned municipal workers, all sectors of which were on strike, from striking for 60 days by declaring the need to maintain essential services.

Some unions complained that certain companies pressured workers to join unions that were led or approved by the company. Officials of independent unions claimed that authorities created rival public sector unions to weaken the independent unions.

Workers exercised the right to bargain collectively in practice. Public and semipublic employees who made up approximately 30 percent of the work force benefited from collective bargaining agreements. Semipublic employees work for companies run jointly by public and private enterprises where, for example, the “government” handled administration while the company’s budget was provided privately.

Union leaders claimed that private-sector employers were able to discourage union activity because the enforcement of labor “regulations” was sporadic and penalties for antiunion practices were nominal.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Authorities prohibited all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The “government” generally enforced the law effectively, although there were reports of forced labor during the year. Migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages and nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threats of deportation. The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation asserted that there were cases of forced labor in the agricultural and domestic service sectors.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment is 15, the last year for which education is compulsory, and children may be employed in apprentice positions between the ages of 15 and 18 under a special status. Children over the age of 15 can work, although they are restricted to not more than six hours a day and 30 hours a week. Children between the ages of 15 and 18 are prohibited from working during mealtimes, at night, and under dangerous conditions; and are prohibited from engaging in heavy physical labor. The “law” also states that every six months the employer must prove, with medical certification, that the physical work the child is doing is suitable for children. In addition written parental consent is required, and children retain the right to the wage of a full-time employee, even though the children can work a maximum of six hours.

The “law” generally provides protection for children from exploitation in the workplace. NGOs alleged that authorities did not always effectively enforce these “laws,” and children, mainly from Turkey, were used for labor, primarily in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors and at industrial areas working in the automotive and construction sectors with their families. The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation reported that children worked in dangerous conditions, such as on construction sites, and subjected to heavy physical work despite “laws” to the contrary.

According to accounts by the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, child labor in the urban informal economy was also a problem, albeit to a lesser extent than in the agriculture and in manufacturing sectors. The sight of children selling paper towels or other small items on the street became more commonplace, particularly in neighborhoods in Nicosia with large immigrant populations.

Labor inspectors generally enforced the “law” effectively. However, it was common in family-run shops for children to work after school and for young children to work on their family farms.

The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing child labor “laws” and policies and generally enforced them in practice. During the year the “minister of labor and social security” established a hotline for reporting child labor and launched projects aimed at preventing child neglect and abuse, and protecting children’s rights. A private company also financed and published a booklet to raise public awareness of the problem of child abuse.

d. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage was 1,300 Turkish lira ($728) per month. The official poverty line was 9,632 Turkish lira ($5,393) per year for each household member in a family of four. Migrant workers were often provided substandard accommodations as part of their compensation or made to pay for accommodations. The “law” prohibits compulsory overtime and provides for paid annual holidays. The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage. However, observers widely reported that undocumented migrant workers were paid below the minimum wage.

Authorities sporadically enforced occupational safety and health regulations. During the year there were 178 workplace accidents, in which three persons were killed.

Limited information was available on conditions of work. According to information received from a civil servants union, working hours for the public sector were 38 hours a week from December through February and 39 hours a week for the rest of the year. There was premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Standard working hours for the private sector were 40 hours a week. Premium pay for overtime was also required, but frequently not paid, in the private sector.

Enforcement and labor inspections, including of working conditions, were reportedly almost nonexistent, and standards were not sufficiently and effectively enforced in all sectors. While labor authorities conducted regular inspections, little was done to improve working conditions, particularly for hazardous sectors and vulnerable groups. The “government” has not established social protections for workers in the informal economy.