Cyprus: Police violence must be investigated, and protest ban lifted
Witness testimonies and video evidence show excessive use of force by police against protesters
‘The police were throwing stun grenades among the crowd. There were people on the ground, spitting blood, unable to breathe’ - Anastasia Demetriadou
Freedom of association also under attack as authorities attempt to shut down anti-racism organisation
Cypriot authorities must lift the unlawful and disproportionate blanket ban on demonstrations, Amnesty International said today, after reviewing disturbing testimony from protesters who were attacked by police.
During an anti-corruption protest in Nicosia on 13 February, police subjected peaceful protesters to beatings, water cannon, chemical irritants and stun grenades.
Amnesty interviewed protesters who were at the demonstration, during which one woman suffered a permanent injury to her sight, and reviewed audio-visual material that revealed violence against peaceful protesters.
Kondylia Gogou, Greece and Cyprus Researcher at Amnesty International, said:
“The violent actions used by the police highlight the lengths to which the Cypriot authorities will go. This is deeply worrying where human rights continue to come under attack in the country.
“Cypriot authorities must urgently ensure that human rights violations committed by police during the 13 February demonstration are promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated.
“We also urge that the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly be restored.”
Anastasia Demetriadou, a protester who was injured, told Amnesty:
“We were surrounded by police and people were asking them to let us pass. At that point they started the beatings with batons, using batons on the head, and we were scared.
“The police were throwing stun grenades among the crowd. There were people on the ground, spitting blood, unable to breathe.”
Anastasia was severely injured in her left eye towards the end of the demonstration, when a police water cannon hit her in the head.
Authorities in Cyprus introduced a blanket ban on all protests via a Ministerial Decree in June 2020, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequent decrees renewed the ban until the end of February.
The blanket ban on protests is disproportionate and unlawful. The disregard for human rights is part of a wider pattern in Cyprus, which tightened asylum and migration policies during the year.
Crackdown on civil society
Civil society organisations are also under attack, with the de-registration and threatened dissolution of KISA, an anti-racism organisation that has been supporting refugees and migrants for over 20 years. On 3 March, a court hearing will rule on the organisation’s appeal against the de-registration decision.
The Ministry of Interior deregistered the association for allegedly failing to comply with new administrative requirements introduced by a legislative change in August 2020.
The decision to de-register is a disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of association and raises serious concerns for civil society in Cyprus.
KISA’s staff and volunteers fulfil a crucial role in the defence and promotion of human rights in Cyprus, providing vital support to migrants and refugees.
Note to editors:
Amnesty’s report on Cyprus tightening migration policies is available here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur01/2511/2020/en/