CYPRUS : PERSECUTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER POLYCARPOU AND BREACH OF MIGRANTS’ RIGHTS QUESTION CYPRUS’S SUITABILITY TO TAKE OVER EU CHAIRMANSHIP

Mr Doros Polycarpou, Executive Director of KISA, is being prosecuted on charges of rioting, following tragic events at the Rainbow Festival on 5 November 2010, in Larnaca, Cyprus. Participants of a racist and extreme nationalist demonstration against migrants and refugees attacked the multicultural festival which KISA had organised with the support of local and European authorities. The police did not take the necessary measures to avoid the foreseeable clash and several festival-goers were seriously injured as a result, one of whom was stabbed. More than a year has passed and no independent investigation into the conduct of police officers and into the serious crimes committed has been carried out. Instead, much to our concern, the police have started legal proceedings against Mr Polycarpou, falsely accusing him of provoking violence while he was trying to protect peaceful festival-goers.

We believe this trial is yet another hostile attempt to prevent KISA from upholding the fundamental rights of migrants. Moreover, this trial demonstrates the failure of the Cypriot authorities to fully respect international human rights principles [1], EU law [2]and casts doubts on Cyprus’s suitability to take over the EU presidency in July 2012.

Despite exchanges with Cypriot officials, serious concerns regarding the biased nature of evidence brought to the Attorney General, and the unfairness of the trial as a whole, remain [3] . Moreover, the persecution faced by KISA has strongly affected the organisation’s capacity to provide support to migrants in critical situations. Migrants in Cyprus are faced with restrictions to access basic human rights and services, an absence of effective legal remedy in asylum procedures, illegal deprivation of liberty, overt exploitation in the workplace, and deportation despite risks of persecution.

In view of the forthcoming Cypriot Presidency of the EU, beginning in July 2012, it is crucial that Cypriot authorities respect international and European law and ensure that effective measures are taken to sanction all expressions of racism. It is also of utmost importance that Cyprus takes urgent steps to amend its immigration and asylum law, and abandons all practices that violate the rights of migrants, and of migrants’ rights defenders.

We, the undersigned organisations and individuals, call on the authorities to :

. Drop all charges against Doros Polycarpou ;

. Immediately end the criminalisation of KISA ;

. Guarantee migrants’ access to their rights as enshrined in EU law ;

. Ensure that NGOs in Cyprus can support migrants in upholding their fundamental rights by enabling them to access adequate resources.

Signatories :

Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)

Plateform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)

European Network Against Racism (ENAR)

Migreurop

Press contact : Nicola Flamigni, nicola.flamigni@picum.org / Tel : +32(0)22101780