CYPRUS: Judicial harassment against an anti-racism activist continues

Urgent Appeal

Paris-Geneva, May 7, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), deplores the prolonged judicial harassment against anti-racism human rights defender Mr. Doros Polykarpou, Executive Director of Action for Support, Equality and Antiracism (KISA), an NGO working against xenophobia and racism in Cyprus.

On May 9, 2012, a court in Lanarca will resume the trial of Mr. Doros Polykarpou on charges of “rioting and participating in an illegal assembly”, charges punishable with imprisonment for up to three years. The judicial harassment, which has been going on for several months, has significantly weighed on the capacity of the NGO and its members to conduct their human rights activities and thus constitutes a blatant violation of European and international human rights standards pertaining to fundamental freedoms and the prohibition of discrimination and racism.

The charges were pressed on March 23, 2011 against Mr. Doros Polykarpou following the Rainbow Festival, an annual anti-racism multicultural event held on November 5, 2010 in Larnaca and co-organised by KISA. Though KISA had secured all relevant authorisations for the holding of the festival, participants were attacked by individuals who had gathered for a march organised by the Greek Resistance Movement. Some of the individuals participating in the latter event reportedly made racist insults along with threats against KISA members.

Initially due to open in April 2011, the trial only begun on July 22, 2011 and was postponed on several occasions due to dysfunction in the judicial proceedings: lack of information regarding criminal charges, not enough time to address witness statements, etc. Therefore, the proceedings have been going on for more than one year and are not closed yet. On April 30, 2012, the judge in charge affirmed that there was a prima facie case for rioting and that the defence should bring up its witnesses and arguments at the next hearing.

This case is the most recent in a series of cases against KISA and its members. Actually, KISA was subjected to five other prosecutions since its establishment in 1998. The Observatory firmly denounces this judicial harassment against Mr. Polykarpou and, more generally, against his organisation as it seems to only aim at stifling their human rights activities.

“The authorities must drop all charges held against Mr. Polykarpou in compliance with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other European and international human rights instruments ratified by Cyprus”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. Besides, the Observatory urges its EU counterparts to ensure that the Cypriot authorities grant an effective and complete respect rights and freedoms, as provided for by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, to the human rights defenders.

“The authorities must take all necessary steps with sufficient political will to put an end to the repression against human rights defenders, to protect them, rather than trying to paralyse their legitimate and necessary activities”, concluded Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

For further information, please contact:

· FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39

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