The abysmal cruelty exhibited by two police officers who assaulted a man in detention was followed by the resolute reluctance of the authorities to file charges against the perpetrators. As officials are blaming one another for the way the case was handled, there are currently different ”versions of the truth” circulating through mainstream media and among journalistic truth-seeking fervour a past criminal record is used to shame the victim publicly. Furthemore, the hidden reality of police repression in Cyprus’ jails, detention centres and prison goes beyond the media-produced narrative of ”isolated incidents” as victims’ reports are systematically ignored and certain categories of people are vehemently targeted.
Two Cypriot police officers are currently facing charges for excessive use of force and torture following the release of incriminating footage that depicts a scene of brutal assault against a detainee. It is truly reprehensible that the ”Independent Authority of Investigating Allegations and Complaints against the Police” as well as the criminal investigator who conducted the relevant probe had initially conceded that the violent assault did not constitute a crime and refused to file charges on the grounds of torture and excessive violence. Since the video from the security cameras was posted online by the victim’s lawyer, the Attoreny General revoked the decision and decided to prosecute the torturers.
The detainee, who was initially isolated his cell, became defenceless after being pepper-sprayed and cornered by the officers. He was kicked and beaten incessantly for several minutes while he was lying on the floor. The victim was not provided with medical care after the assault and was not permitted to contact his lawyer, in an effort to conceal the incident from outsiders and avoid a medical report that could have been used against the officers in court. The police refused to hand over the video from a security camera inside the cell, which was eventually given to the victim’s lawyer, Epaminondas Korakides, after a court order was issued.
Issues are being raised regarding the integrity of the independent authority that dismissed the victim’s allegations and failed to act according to domestic legislation and international treaties. Public bodies and officials offer protection and impunity to police officers committing violent crimes and since perpetrators are never held accountable, the lives and well-being of prisoners and detainees are facing imminent danger.
According to the ”U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, in the period between 2006-2010 128 cases of torture and ill-treatment were reported but only one ended in criminal conviction. Low conviction rate (0.78%), lack of transparency during investigation and insufficient protection to complainants are the main issues identified in a 2014 report. The report also revealed a trend in the way cases of torture are handled Cyprus: victims are usually portrayed as violent perpetrators and incidents of torture are made to look like self-defence, a tactic used by police officers to avoid prosecution. This tactic was also used in this case by mass media to slander the victim.
As police brutality is becoming part of a global social discource reinforced by campaigns seeking justice for race motivated murders committed by the police, the victim’s lawyer, Epaminondas Korakides, made an effort to raise awareness about this cruel violation of human rights that remains unnoticed by the vast majority of Cyprus denizens.
United Nations: Human rights (Cyprus)