INTERIM REPORT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS IN RESPONSE TO THE REPORT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE FOR THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT (CPT) ON ITS VISIT TO CYPRUS FROM 22 TO 30 MAY 2000

3. Complaints

(i) Appropriate action to be taken to ensure direct access for prisoners to bodies, which are entirely independent of the prison system, including the Ombudsman.

Answer

According to the Prisons Law sec.115(6) "Letters addressed by prisoners to any official authority of the Republic or to Political persons or to any other official person or to the mass media shall always be sent through the Director". Prison authorities certainly enforced this Section without however delaying, altering or censoring the contents of the correspondence.

4. Staffing issues

(i) Steps to be taken to develop structured training programmes (both initial and ongoing) for prison staff.

Answer

It is the intention of the Prisons' Director as soon as he gets the new recruits to revisit the subject matter and in co-operation perhaps with the Cyprus Police Academy to improve the standard of training for prison staff.

(ii) The underlying reasons for the high level of absenteeism at Nicosia Central Prisons should be examined. In this connection, particular attention might be given to the efficacy of the current staff attendance system.

Answer

Regarding the high level of absenteeism by staff members, the Prisons' Director has already initiated an investigation in close consultation with the ministry of Justice and Public Order as well as with representatives from the Ministry of Health.

5. Health care services

(i) Urgent steps to be taken to ensure that the provision of medical cover by a doctor at Nicosia Central Prisons is in accordance with sections 63 and 79 of the Prison Regulations.

Answer

There is now a medical officer on a daily basis (i.e. weekdays), and steps are being taken in order to ensure compliance with Sections 63, 73, and 79 of the Prison Regulations, which, among other things, call for the doctor to carry out hygiene inspections of the prison premises, and to inform the director of the arrangements that have been made for his replacement when not at work.

(iv) Immediate steps to be taken to guarantee the confidentiality of medical information at Nicosia Central Prisons.

Answer

Instructions were given to the staff responsible for records to keep any medical information out of the prisoner's personal file. ιn short, medical info should be recorded only on the individuals' medical file.

(v) The health education programme in the prisons to be reviewed and a more comprehensive attempts made to ensure that both staff and inmates are provided with suitable information on transmissible diseases. The goal of that programme must be to ensure that the current segregation of prisoners who are hepatitis of HIV positive is brought to an end.

Answer

The Prison Authorities in Co-operation with the Ministry of Health and other NGO's are developing a more comprehensive programme of lectures and visits by qualified practitioners.

(vi) The informed consent of inmates to be sought prior to any screening for transmissible diseases.

Answer

The Prisons Regulations will be amended to provide for the consent of inmates prior to any screening for transmissible diseases.

C. Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital, 1. Preliminary remarks

(i) The transfer of mentally handicapped patients to centers within the community where they can receive appropriate care form properly trained personnel to be accorded a very high priority.

Answer

The Mental Health Services continue their efforts towards the promotion of a Mental Health Reform, targeting to the deinstitutionalization of patients hospitalized at the Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital and their integration in community facilities.

This involves two parallel processes:- a) Finding suitable premises in the community (in all cities) for the establishment of small housing units and b) promoting psychosocial rehabilitation programs for the long term inpatients. This process is already underway with the re-assessment of 90 of the patients in order to establish their level of function and the kind of rehabilitation needed in each case. This project was carried out by a multidisciplinary team (psychiatrist, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists and psychiatric nurses) with the guidance and supervision of an expert-consultant clinical psychologist form the U.K. The findings of this project will be used for the planning and implementation for individual psychosocial rehabilitation programmes. It's expected that, the first 9 patients will be ready to resume their life in the community, in a few moths.

In relation to the 54 mentally handicapped residing at the Athalassa Hospital, our Services are in the process of collaboration with the Social Wellfare Services for the establishment of suitable community facilities, 12 persons are expected to be moved soon. At the same time applications have been forwarded to a private residential institution for adult mentally handicapped persons; We are awaiting for the admission committee's reply.

(ii) Developments in respect of transforming Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital into a Mental Health Center by 2003.

Answer

The building of a New Mental Health center in the grounds of the existing Hospital has been programmed by the Ministry of Health. The first step taken in the contact with a consultant recommended by HOPE (Hospitals of Europe) who will consult on the preparation of the building project, according to contemporary standards in order ot facilitate the process of deinstitutionalization and psychosocial rehabilitation.

In this new framework, the patients' living conditions will greatly improve. At this stage the following changes/improvements have taken place:-Two of the Hospital wards (10 and 11), characterized by the committee as imp

(iii) Detailed information on the manner in which it is intended to apply the 1997 Law on Psychiatric Care and, in particular, whether any regulations governing its implementation have been adopted, or are envisaged.

Answer

The implementation of the new Psychiatric Treatment Law 1997 does not present any difficulties in relation to voluntary admissions. Regarding the functioning of the Supervisory Committee there still exist difficulties, due to the fact that the authorities have not yet satisfied the committee's requests. For the same reason the Regulations have not yet been prepared. The remark made by the CPT on the participation of the Director of Mental Health Services along with other professionals - in the Committee, will be seriously considered.

2. Patient's living conditions and treatment

(i) Appropriate steps to be undertaken to improve further patients' living conditions, having regard to the remarks of the Report.

Answer

See answer in Para C.1.(ii).

(ii) In the context of the above-mentioned transformation of Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital into a mental health center, efforts to be made to ensure that patients can be provided with accommodation structures based on small groups (paragraph 58);

Answer

See answer in Para C.1.(ii);

(iv) Practice concerning the provision of electro convulsive therapy (ECT) at Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital to be reviewed, in the light of the remarks in the Report.

Answer

The ECT recommendations have been adopted.

(v) The comments of the Cypriot authorities on the apparent over reliance on pharmacotherapy and over medication of some patients.

Answer

Pharmacotherapy has been limited following assessment of all patients. At present non-typical drugs are issued with positive results.

3. Safeguards

(i) An introductory brochure to be drawn up and systematically issued to patients and their relatives.

Answer

The brochure is under editing.