Former ECHR judge Loukis Loucaides says police abuse and corruption are part of a systemic problem in Cyprus that cannot change until those at the top who hold political office stand up and follow the letter of the law.
The well known Cypriot attorney pointed fingers at the establishment in an interview with Kathimerini on Sunday, in the wake of a recent decision against the Republic of Cyprus for ill-treatment of a Canadian detainee.
Loucaides, who served on the bench in Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights from 1998 until 2008, recently defended Hani Abdul Khani Kabbara, who filed a case with ECHR against Cyprus regarding his arrest in 2011 in Limassol and subsequent treatment by authorities.
The court sided with the plaintiff, ruling that the defendant did not carry out an effective investigation into an abuse complaint that Khani Kabbara had filed during his detention.
'If the investigators could use as much judgment as they use force, we wouldn’t have these unfortunate incidents'
Khani Kabbara alleged that “he was ill-treated by police officers during his detention at the police station and that no effective investigation was carried out by the national authorities into his complaint,” an ECHR statement said, fining the Republic €25,000 plus attorney fees.
But Loucaides says this type of behaviour has been allowed to go on within Cyprus police for many years.
“The mistreatment of citizens by the Police is an established tactic that took root since the British colonial rule and has continued uninterrupted ever since,” Loucaides told Kathimerini’s Andreas Paraschos.
Loucaides also said that this topic was the subject of a 1995 report which found police abuse against detainees to be systemic, especially in Limassol, but the study was not taken seriously he said.
In the most recent case, the former judge pointed fingers at the police leadership and Attorney General Costas Clerides, blaming them for the lack of an effective investigation into the incident.
“The detainee was in very good health when he was arrested but he ended up in hospital due to abuse and torture by police during his detention,” Loucaides said.
The former judge also said that senior officials and supervisors working for the state or in the government have been tolerating criminal behaviour by police.
He described a conversation that he had with a former interior minister.
“Listen Loukis. If you want them to question detainees without the use of force, then you go to question them,” Loucaides told Kathimerini, adding his response to the minister saying “if the investigators could use as much judgment as they use force, we wouldn’t have these unfortunate incidents.”
While the government did not deny physical injuries against Khani Kabbara, Clerides contacted Kathimerini on Monday to say that the Supreme Court dismissed the claim due to omissions by the defence and not “without basis” as Loucaides had argued, the attorney general said.
Clerides said the plaintiff did not call either the doctor or the Canadian Consul to the witness stand to corroborate either medical or other physical signs of abuse. It is understood that both of them had seen the detainee in person.
He also dismissed the claim by Loucaides who said the attorney general did not provide an opportunity to the defence to request a police lineup of officers so that the plaintiff could positively identify his abusers.
But Loucaides says police abuse has been going on in Cypriot prisons for a very long time and “there have been no attorney general, minister, or president to show their teeth to these disgraced cops who undermine instead of upholding the law.
“We need [people] in political positions who can uphold the law and apply it to police officers as well,” Loucaides said.