Cyprus ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture by adopting Laws 235/90, 35(ΙΙΙ)/90 and 36(ΙΙΙ)/2002. Subsequently, Cyprus ratified the Optional Protocol to the aforementioned Convention by adopting Law 2(III)/2009, which entered into force upon its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cyprus on 27 March 2009.
The objective of the Optional Protocol is to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people
are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. To this end, the Optional Protocol, acceded to by Cyprus, provides for the following:
- The establishment of a ten-member Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture as an international body to which each State Party shall allow access to places of deprivation of liberty and provide all necessary information. The Subcommittee shall advise and assist, when necessary, the national preventive bodies in their establishment under the Protocol.
- The establishment of a national body on the prevention of torture. The body designated as the NPM by the aforementioned ratifying law was the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights (Ombudsman). The main provisions of the Ratifying Law concerning the Commissioner for Administration and the Protection of Human Rights are the following:
· The Commissioner is designated as the national visiting body as laid down in the Optional Protocol and shall act in accordance with article 3 of the Protocol.
· In order to fulfil her mandate, the Commissioner shall be authorised to undertake regular visits to places of detention in order to carry out inspections and ensure compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
· During these visits, the Commissioner shall be granted unrestricted access to all the premises of places of detention and shall be entitled to have private interviews with any person the Commissioner deems appropriate. The state competent authorities are obliged to provide the Commissioner with all the information set out in the Protocol.
· After each visit, the Commissioner shall draw up a report with her findings, recommendations and any other advice. Then, each authority in charge of the place of detention is obliged to submit a report on the measure taken on the basis of the Commissioner's report or recommendations.
· The Commissioner shall make recommendations for improving the current legislation and express her views to the House of Representatives on relevant proposed legislations under consideration.
· The Commissioner is required to inform the Attorney General of the Republic of Cyprus and/or the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints against the Police of any incidents of human rights violations reported by detainees.
· According to the provisions of the Commissioner for Administration Law, the Commissioner shall have at her disposal all the staff and/or any other additional staff necessary for the fulfilment of her duties. The
qualifications and terms of service are set out in the Regulations approved by the Ministry of Council and the House of Representatives.
It is worth mentioning that the provision in article 5 of the Law for the prior written notification of the management of the detention centre for the forthcoming visit of the NPM, which did not comply with OPCAT and the recommendations of the CPT in its periodic visit to Cyprus in 2017, has been deleted after an initiative and actions of the Commissioner.
Specifically, on February 5, 2021, the amending Law L. 3(III)/2021 was published in the Official Gazette and the abovementioned provision of the principle Law is substituted by the provision that “the Commissioner may conduct freely, unhinderedly and unexpectedly visits to any detention place or places of his/her choice”.