Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Media Watch 2005

28 May 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou.
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 28 May 2005.
Government hits back at Amnesty criticism of referendum campaign
"THE GOVERNMENT yesterday hit back at Amnesty International’s latest report on Cyprus, which suggested that freedom of expression had been suppressed in the run-up to last year’s referendum on the Annan plan... Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides denied the accusation yesterday, saying there had been complete freedom of discussion on the Annan plan. He said there was no evidence that the situation as described in the Amnesty report had actually occurred... He said Amnesty was merely reporting on the basis of articles in the press in Cyprus and abroad, not reporting proven incidents based on first-hand information... “There was complete freedom of expression and discussion on the Annan plan in all sectors,” Chrysostomides said."

THE GOVERNMENT yesterday hit back at Amnesty International’s latest report on Cyprus, which suggested that freedom of expression had been suppressed in the run-up to last year’s referendum on the Annan plan.

Amnesty’s report said: “During the pre-referendum period in the south, the government was accused of failing to show due diligence in carrying out its duty to protect the rights to freedom of expression, and there were allegations of attempts to intimidate individuals into rejecting the plan,” the report said.

The international human rights organisation was referring to the fact that UN envoy Alvaro de Soto and then EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugn had been refused television air time.

Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides denied the accusation yesterday, saying there had been complete freedom of discussion on the Annan plan. He said there was no evidence that the situation as described in the Amnesty report had actually occurred.

He said Amnesty was merely reporting on the basis of articles in the press in Cyprus and abroad, not reporting proven incidents based on first-hand information.

“There was complete freedom of expression and discussion on the Annan plan in all sectors,” Chrysostomides said.

On Cyprus in general, the Amnesty report said there were continuing concerns about conditions of detention at the overcrowded at the Nicosia central prisons, discrimination against Roma and the provisions covering conscientious objection to military service in Cyprus during 2004.

The report referred to a Palestinian couple who feared persecution in the Israeli Occupied Territories but were sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment last October for possession of false identification documents.

“They had been arrested earlier in the month while trying to board a plane to another European country where they allegedly planned to seek asylum. They subsequently applied for protection in Cyprus and their applications were under review when they were tried and convicted. The couple were reportedly not given access to adequate translation services during their trial,” said the report.

It also cited a June 30 report by the Ombudswoman on the living conditions in the Roma settlement of Makounta village.

“The report expressed concerns about the failure of the authorities to implement policies decided in March 2000 that were designed to tackle homelessness and unemployment among Roma. The report also noted that Roma had problems accessing medical and education services in Makounta,” Amnesty said.

The report criticised the authorities’ refusal to grant Roma the rights that they should enjoy as Cypriot citizens. One example given was the policy of detaining Roma in prison without a court order, a practice applied to undocumented migrants.

Concerning conscientious objectors, Amnesty said the length of alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors to military service remained punitive at 42 months. It was also concerned that the determination of conscientious objector status fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence, “which breaches international standards that stipulate that the entire institution of alternative service should have a civilian character”."