Cyprus: Sentencing of KISA, an NGO working for the rights of migrants

22/06/2020
Urgent Appeal

CYP 001 / 0620 / OBS 068
Sentencing /
Judicial harassment /
Obstacles to freedom of expression
Cyprus
June 22, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cyprus.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the sentencing of KISA, an NGO that works for the rights of migrants and denounces cases of racism and hate speech.

According to the information received, on June 5, 2020 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Cyprus sentenced KISA to pay a fine of EUR 10.000 for damages to Mr. Christos Clerides. The organisation was found guilty of the crimes of “defamation” and “harmful forgery” in relation to a document drafted in 2010 calling the Government of Cyprus to terminate the appointment of Mr. Christos Clerides and Mr. Xenis Xenofontos to the Management Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The decision of the Supreme Court has been appealed.

In the draft petition, KISA denounced that the blog “Christofias Watch” incited hatred and violence against Mr. Makarios Drousiotis, a prominent journalist that defends the peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem and documents the rise of right-wing extremism in the island. The organisation underlined that the administrator of the blog was Mr. Xenis Xenofontos and his lawyer, who gave an interview to “Christofias-Watch”, Mr. Christos Clerides. At the time, Mr. Xenis Xenofontos and Mr. Christos Clerides where the alternate member and member, respectively, of the Republic of Cyprus of the FRA Management Board. KISA underlined that individuals inciting violence against people with a different opinion than their own were not qualified to represent the Republic of Cyprus at the FRA and thus called the Government of Cyprus to replace them.

Even though the joint petition was not public and was never sent to the FRA, a journalist leaked the document to Mr. Clerides, who filed a libel suit against KISA together with Mr. Xenofontos. After his appointment as a judge, Mr. Xenofontos withdrew the complaint; however, the judicial proceedings against KISA remained opened for 10 years until the organisation was finally convicted on June 5, 2020.

The Observatory underlines that the conviction of KISA is not an isolated incident but is part of a series of attacks and acts of harassment against KISA for its work defending human rights, including the arbitrary detention of the Executive Director of KISA, Mr. Doros Polykarpou, on August 2, 2019 [1].

The Observatory expresses its deep concern over the conviction of KISA on charges of “defamation”, as it establishes an unjustified restriction to freedom of expression and sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the right to defend human rights in Cyprus. In that regard, the Observatory recalls that Cyprus has an international obligation to protect human rights defenders and particularly, their right to hold opinions without interference and to denounce human rights abuses.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cyprus to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstance the physical and psychological integrity of the members of KISA;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against KISA, its members, and all other human rights defenders in Cyprus and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Articles 1, and 12;

v. Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments to which Cyprus is a State party.

Addresses:

 · President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades Email: info@presidency.gov.cy Fax: +357 22 663799
· Minister of Justice Mr. George L. Savvides Email: registry@mjpo.gov.cy Fax: +357 22518356
· Police Service of Cyprus, Chief of Police Kypros Michaelides, Email: police@police.gov.cy Fax: +4122808598
· Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the EU, Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, Email: cy.perm.rep@mfa.gov.cy Fax: +32 2 7354552
· Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Ambassador George Kasoulides, Email: pm.geneva@mfa.gov.cy Fax:+41227910084
· Embassy of Cyprus in Brussels, Belgium, Ambassador Antonis Grivas Εmail: cyprusembassybe@mfa.gov.cy Fax +322650 06 20

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cyprus in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, June 22, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.  

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] See The Observatory Urgent Appeal CYP 001 / 0819 / OBS 067, published on August 19, 2019.

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