Statement made by Mario Felice, Head of the delegation carrying out the fourth periodic visit to Cyprus, to Cypriot senior officials on Friday, 17 December 2004

The CPT's delegation is grateful for the opportunity to give you some preliminary observations on the information gathered since the visit began on 8 December 2004. Let me start by informing you of the places visited:

I should add that, on the whole, cooperation in respect of those visits was very good. In particular, the delegation had rapid access to places of detention and, in general, to the information it requested.

However, I must also make reference at the outset to a part of the visit that has not yet been accomplished.

As you are aware, by letter of 12 October 2004, the CPT informed the Cypriot authorities that the programme for this visit would include places where persons are deprived of their liberty in the northern, occupied, part of Cyprus and invited the authorities to provide comments as to the modalities and practical arrangements for that part of the visit.

Despite this early notice, the Cypriot authorities reacted only a few days before the beginning of the visit. First the authorities requested that the CPT consider verbal comments transmitted to it. Subsequently, during talks with the delegation, they raised certain objections to the Committee visiting - in the context of this visit -places where persons are deprived of their liberty in the northern part of Cyprus.

The CPT does not share the views presented to it by Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials. However, in a spirit of cooperation and having regard to the Cypriot Government's point of view concerning the timing of the visit, the Committee has decided to postpone the part of the visit involving the northern part of Cyprus for a brief period.Consequently, the visit will be suspended following our meeting today. You are hereby notified that the visit will resume in the coming weeks with a view to visiting places where persons are deprived of their liberty in the northern part of Cyprus.

Let me now turn to the findings of the delegation in the places visited. I shall start with the police.

I regret to have to inform you that the delegation received many allegations, of ill-treatment by police officers; other information gathered in respect of some of the / cases examined by the delegation adds to the credibility of the allegations made by the persons in question and. in a few cases, the delegation also gathered medical evidence consistent with allegations of ill-treatment.

The allegations mostly related to the time of arrest, but some of them concerned subsequent periods of custody, and included allegations of physical assault (blows with batons or fists) during questioning by officers from Criminal investigation and Immigration departments. I should add that a significant proportion of these cases concerned foreign nationals.

Following the 2000 visit, the CPT concluded that the physical ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by the police remained a serious problem in Cyprus. The information gathered during the current visit shows that the problem persists.

Against this background, it has to be recognised that an increased effort is being made towards independent investigations into allegations of ill-treatment, and that there is now a legal presumption of ill-treatment when a detained person sustains injuries while in custody. However, it appears that detained persons are not always confident that complaints of ill-treatment would be independently and properly investigated. Further, no mechanisms designed to permit the application in practice of the above-mentioned presumption of ill-treatment appear to have been incorporated into the management of detention.

As regards the safeguardsagainst police iil-treatment advocated by the CPT - and which have been the subject of repeated recommendations by the Committee - the situation remains largely as observed when the CPT first started its work in Cyprus more than a decade ago.

The police, and more particularly the officers in charge of an investigation and responsible for a person's detention, continue to exercise considerable discretion as to the time when custody is notified to a detained person's relatives. Detained persons are often only informed of the possibility to be assisted by a lawyer after having spent some considerable time in detention, with free assistance, in practice, only being offered to them when they are brought before a judge for the first time.

The delegation was concerned to find a number of entries in registers indicating that visits by lawyers to specific detainees should not be allowed before informing Criminal Investigation Department officers.

Particular reference should be made to evidence found by the delegation of instructions to prevent contact between certain immigration detainees and third parties - in particular lawyers or relatives - in an attempt to prevent asylum applications from being made.This is an extremely serious matter. The delegation was in formed that an investigation into this incident has been initiated; it would like to receive details about the investigation being carried out and, in due course, of its outcome.

The potential contribution of medical examinations towards the prevention of ill-treatment is also far from being realised: at best, the message delivered to detained persons is that access to a doctor will be provided when the person in question needs medical Treatment. Further, it emerged from the interviews of both detained persons and police officers that the medical examination of detained persons remains a relatively rare occurrence and that such examinations usually take place in the presence of police officers.

Some of the existing gaps may be closed by the provisions of the law designed to strengthen the rights of detained persons which is currently being developed. The delegation trusts that, in this process, full account will be taken of the CPT's recommendations on the subject; in this connection, the delegation is concerned by the possible interpretation - and consequences - of certain provisions of the draft law - e.g. Sections 22 and 29, which may, for instance, unduly discourage detainees from requesting a medical examination. The visit report will provide further comments in this respect.

Some of the provisions envisaged by the new law could be brought into immediate effect by issuing appropriate instructions.

Considerable investment is being made to upgrade police pretention facilities; the delegation visited the new Aradippou Police Station, and noted work in progress or plans to upgrade other detention units. Further, in most of the detention facilities visited, cell doors remain open at least during daytime, allowing detained persons to move within the detention area and giving them ready access to toilet facilities.

However, despite their very recent construction, the cells at Aradippou are small for their designed capacity (two persons in 7 m2) and have very poor access to natural light (due to the fixed metal shutters covering the windows). Moreover, the delegation was told that the existing outdoor exercise area would be divided into two or even three smaller spaces to permit simultaneous but separate access to them by male, female and juvenile detainees; given the space available, this will render the resulting yards rather bleak.

The metal shutters covering cell windows remain a common feature of most of the facilities visited, despite the CPT having repeatedly recommended that they be removed. Many of the cells seen have very poor artificial lighting, and some of the detention facilities have no heating and the temperature in them was rather low (for example, at Paphos Central Police Station, the temperature in the cells was just over 16° C towards the end of the afternoon) and, clearly, could drop further at night.

The delegation also saw some dilapidated sanitary facilities, and the provision of products for personal hygiene was grossly inadequate.

Further, several of the detention facilities visited had no outdoor exercise area and. in most of the places visited, the delegation heard compiaints about both the quantity and variety of food provided to detainees. Shortcomings concerning food were remedied in the Larnaca district following a hunger strike by those detained at the former Famagusta Police Station; the food provided to persons detained by the police in other parts of Cyprus should also be improved.

The delegation also heard many complaints about difficulties for persons held in police custody for prolonged periods to receive visits and to use a telephone.

A further point of concern is the absence in some detention facilities of a call-system allowing detained persons to attract the attention of the police, while the officers in charge of the detention facility remain during long periods at some distance and outside hearing range of the detention area.

Nevertheless, subject to remedying the shortcomings ί have just mentioned - and in line with the CPPs findings during the 2000 visit - most of the existing police detention facilities in Cyprus are suitable for accommodating detained persons for a short period of time. However, even if the shortcomings of the establishments visited were to be remedied, police detention facilities will remain inadequate for holding persons for prolonged periods, whether they are criminal suspects remanded in custody by a judge or immigration detainees (cf. CPT/Inf (2003) 1, paragraph 27).

However, all of the facilities visited are being used to hold persons for up to several weeks and, as regards immigration detainees, for up to a few months. Moreover, many of the places visited were or had recently been overcrowded (for example, four persons in 6 m2 or up to 14 persons in a dormitory measuring less than 30 m2).Detained persons are offered no activities whatsoever, whether recreational, educational or otherwise. The situation could, in some cases, be regarded as degrading. It might be added that, in almost all of the detention facilities visited, immigration detainees are being held together with criminal suspects; this approach is undesirable.

Pursuant to Article 8, paragraph 5, of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the delegation calls upon the Cypriot authorities to take immediate steps significantly to improve the conditions of detention of persons held in police custody for prolonged periods; detention in existing facilities should be shortened to a maximum of a few days, and persons held for longer periods should be accommodated in suitable facilities and offered sufficient food, adequate products for personal hygiene and an appropriate range of activities (games, reading, watching television or listening to the radio, education, etc.). Steps must also be taken to comply with the fundamental requirement that persons held in custody for prolonged periods are offered at least one hour of outdoor exercise every day. The delegation would like to receive, within three months, information on action taken upon this immediate observation.

As regards Nicosia Central Prisons, most inmates interviewed by the delegation spoke positively of their relations with prison staff. Nonetheless, the delegation received a few allegations of physical ill-treatment by prison officers, supported by medical evidence in two cases. The delegation would emphasise that any allegation of ill-treatment must be properly investigated.

The delegation observed with satisfaction several positive developments at the prison since the 2000 visit. Reference should be made in this context to the refurbishment of blocks 5 and 8, to the new facilities for activities in block 3 (i.e. for female prisoners), and to improvement in staff training facilities. However, as a result of the significant increase in the prison population (267 in 2000 and 478 on the first day of the visit in 2004), these improvements have had little or no impact on the overall situation of prisoners. Pressure on all services to prisoners has greatly increased.

Steps should be taken to improve material conditions in certain other parts of the prison which have not been recently renovated, such as blocks 1 and 2; the cells in those units are dilapidated and the sanitary facilities inadequate. Moreover, living space per prisoner does not meet either the CPT's standards or domestic law.

As had been the case at the time of previous visits, out-of-cell time remains generous, and the range of activities has been increased. However, prisoners appeared to spend much of their time in an unconstructive fashion. Further efforts are required in this connection, with particular emphasis on providing all juveniles with a full programme of education, sport, vocational training, recreation and other purposeful activities.

The delegation has some misgivings about the manner in which administrative segregation is being applied. While the records kept are poor, resort to administrative segregation appears to be rather frequent and often for only minor matters. It might be added that the "special eight" segregation unit is being used for all types of segregation: medical, disciplinary and administrative. It would be more appropriate for these diverse groups to be accommodated in distinct units. Moreover, segregated prisoners are not offered outdoor exercise on a daily basis. This shortcoming should be remedied immediately.

As regards disciplinary procedures, the delegation was concerned to note that the register was discontinued since 15 December 2003, although entries in individual files indicate that several disciplinary hearings have taken place since that date.

On a more positive note, the delegation has observed the move towards mixed gender staffing. The delegation also noted the reduction in the level of staff absenteeism and the plans to introduce a personal officer scheme. Steps should be taken to ensure that as many staff as possible are actively engaged with prisoners throughout their period of duty.

The delegation observed shortcoming in the arrangements for prisoners' contacts with the outside world. Visiting facilities were inadequate, and the number of telephones and the time during which they are available to prisoners might usefully be increased. The complaints heard in this latter respect were especially numerous from foreign nationals held in the prison; the particular difficulties encountered by such prisoners in maintaining contacts with their relatives or friends should be taken into account when making arrangements for telephone calls. The question of the use of restrictions of contacts with the outside world (e.g. correspondence) as a disciplinary sanction will be dealt with in the report.

Turning to health-care services for prisoners, the delegation is pleased to note that the segregation of HIV positive prisoners has been discontinued, and that some information and education programmes concerning transmissible diseases are provided to prisoners and staff. Further, it appears that the informed consent of inmates is at present sought prior to screening for transmissible diseases.

However the overall staffing level of the prison's health-care service is still inadequate: a general practitioner only attends the prison three days per week, for a few hours on each occasion, and there is only one qualified nurse. The lack of communication within the health-care team continues to be a source of concern. Health-care staff should be reinforced, as regards both general practitioners and qualified nurses; it would be desirable for prison officers acting as medical orderlies to be replaced by nursing staff.

The delegation is concerned to note that there is often a delay of up to several weeks before a newly-arrived prisoner is medically examined. Further, medical examinations upon entry continue to be extremely superficial. Steps are still required to ensure the systematic recording of injuries in accordance with the CPT5s recommendations, including relevant statements made by the prisoner concerned, detailed medical observations and the doctor's conclusions. Medical confidentiality is not yet guaranteed: prison officers acting as medical orderlies are present during consultation and have access to medical files.

Since 2000, there have been some improvements in the provision of psychiatric care and psychological treatment. This provision is, however, still insufficient to meel needs. Most patients can only be seen by the psychiatrist (present two or three days each week) for less than 10 minutes every two months.

Further, there are a number of seriously ill mental patients in the prison who should be receiving hospital care. In this connection, the delegation was told of plans to open in 2005 a psychiatric unit, with some 10 beds, attached to the prison. The delegation was not able to obtain precise information on this unit. The delegation requests detailed information on this matter.

No allegations of ill-treatment of patients by staff were received at Alhalassa Psychiatric Hospital. The delegation observed staff dealing with difficult situations in a humane and effective manner.

The number of patients has continued to fall, thanks to the strengthening of community care. However, placement of psychiatric patients in homes for the elderly is problematic and a significant number of patients have had to return to the hospital It is therefore important that the policy should not be to discharge patients at all costs, but rather to do so only when appropriate community care is available. The significant rise in involuntary admissions in 2004 (of about 20%) may indicate that a further fall in the number of hospitalised patients is unlikely. Staffing levels at the hospital should therefore be maintained. The delegation was pleased to observe adequate staffing levels of nurses in all wards of the hospital; however, cover by psychiatrists was somewhat stretched.

The delegation has noted that the planned establishment of a mental health centre in place of the Athalassa psychiatric hospital has been further delayed. The management's current estimates of the opening date now range between 2007 and 2009. This is certainly a matter to which the Government should accord priority. The opening in 2005 of a modern, well-equipped general hospital immediately adjacent to the outdated mental, hospital will further underline the inequality of treatment between psychiatric patients and patients with somatic disorders.

Accommodation at Athalassa was clean, spacious, well-heated and well-ventiiated. However, the sleeping and living quarters were sparse and bleak, and noticeably lacking in personal belongings. In general, the sanitary facilities appeared to be in need of repairs; this observation is particularly true for wards 37 and 21.

Medication is used appropriately, with a wide range of drugs available. That said, ninety percent of patients in the hospital have a PRN prescription allowing nurses to administer a powerful tranquilliser by injection without consulting a doctor. This practice will be considered in the report on the visit. Meanwhile, it is essential that, when such treatments are given, they are recorded in the patient's personal file; this is often not the case at present.

The delegation is pleased to note that the recommendations made by the CPT in the report on the 2000 visit concerning the administration of ECT have been fully implemented. In particular, ECT is administered out of the view of other patients and in a room specially set aside for that purpose.

However, few patients have truly individualised treatment programmes, and only a minority benefits from occupational therapy. Further, there are few social, recreational and sports activities. Of particular concern is the fact that meaningful outdoor activities are practically nonexistent, except for ward 14, which has a well-equipped and pleasant garden area. Several patients in wards 23 and 24 do not benefit from any outdoor activities for long periods. The delegation would recall that all persons deprived of their liberty should benefit from daily outdoor exercise. This fundamental requirement is not being respected at Athalassa hospital.

Resort to physical restraints is infrequent and, when such means are used, they are applied in an appropriate and humane manner and are correctly recorded.

By contrast, the delegation is concerned about the night-time arrangements in place for a patient under continuous observation in ward 34. The room where the patient in question is placed during the night has a double padlocked metal door with a grill; it has a prison-like appearance. Until recently, the patient had to sleep on a mattress placed directly on the floor, but a bed has now been installed in the room; this is a most welcome development. For his toilet requirements in the night, the patient has to use an uncovered bucket, which is emptied in the morning. The delegation considers that, if the patient is to continue to be placed in such a secure room during the night, the room should be equipped with a proper flushing toilet or other arrangements be made to ensure that the patient has ready access to suitable facilities at all times.

Concerning safeguards for involuntary patients, the Supervisory Committee appears now to be functioning correctly and in an independent manner. The delegation is also pleased to note that the Supervisory Committee has carried out regular visits, including unannounced visits, to Athalassa Hospital; these activities should be pursued. That said, the Supervisory Committee does not yet have a fully independent and adequately resourced secretariat.

In other respects, progress appears to be slow. In particular, no regulations establishing clear procedures have been issued under the 1997 Law on Psychiatric Care. Moreover, patients are not properly informed of their rights and appear to have no real opportunity to give their view to the court during the procedure for the issuing or the renewal of an order for compulsory psychiatric care.

The Supervisory Committee has prepared a brochure and a leaflet setting out patients' rights. However, they are not given to patients in the hospital, and even staff on the wards are unaware of the existence of these documents and are inadequately informed about patients' rights. This could easily and rapidly be remedied. In a similar vein, an effective way for patients to communicate complaints to the Supervisory Committee must be found. At present, the only complaints reaching the Supervisory Committee come from patients' relatives and the system of letter-boxes on the wards does not work.

The two establishments visited for children taken into care by the Social Welfare Services call for very few comments at this stage, The atmosphere was relaxed and homely, and the delegation found no indication of severe discipline. Living conditions were found on the whole to be good, although more attention should be paid to repairing or replacing damaged cupboards and doors at the Nicosia hostel. Further, residents were offered education in the community and a suitable range of leisure activities. In short, the needs of the children concerned appeared to be suitably met.