Commissioner Leda Koursoumba is speaking out on the failures of the state to protect children, just days after the shocking death of troubled young woman Elena Frantzi.
Koursoumba, who has been Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Cyprus since 2007, has weighed in on the tragic death of 29-year-old Elena, who had a troubled childhood and whose care came under the state at the age of 4.
The commissioner issued a statement on Thursday saying the state has failed to protect Elena, while also calling on officials to work harder in order to improve and modernise the Social Welfare Services.
“A fellow human being, just 29 years old, died alone and helpless. A young lady who had deep psychological wounds from a troubled childhood, during which she came to know abuse in every form,” said Koursoumba.
"A fellow human being, just 29 years old, died alone and helpless"
Shocking death a state failure
She attributed Elena’s personal story and tragic end to the failure of the Cypriot state to function as a guardian and defender of the rights of children.
Elena was found dead earlier this week at her home in Tseri, Nicosia, but the precise cause of death is still unknown. Her passing shocked public opinion in Cyprus when it emerged that she had reported abuse by her priest stepfather and his wife when she was young.
The priest served 18 months in prison but to this day maintains his innocence.
A cousin of Elena told the media that the young victim was telling the truth and that her cousin had confided in some people that she was suffering abuse. The step mother also admitted on live television that she remembered striking Elena on the hip using a wooden spoon because she got angry, after learning that her step daughter had stolen jewelry that belonged to a church.
The signs of a troubled childhood had been obvious according to experts who spoke in the media. However, the circumstances of the sexual abuse conviction of the step father in 2015 remain unclear. The Legal Services department had -at the time- decided not to prosecute the step mother, but it was announced on Wednesday that she would eventually face physical abuse charges as well.
When police examined the case more than two years ago, there were three suspects, the priest, his wife, and a third person reportedly an employee of the social welfare office.
The church has also come under criticism for the way it has handled the case of its own priest but there are differnet opinions within the clergy on the matter. The priest still receives support from some circles in teh church and even his community, in Ergates, some of whom do not believe justice was served with his conviction.
Koursoumba said in her statement that the state has an obligation to establish and support an institutional framework, infrastructure, those mechanisms and processes with which the protection of the rights of children can be achieved.