CoE Commissioner in Cyprus for talks on human rights
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Niels Muznieks will head to Cyprus for a five-day visit to assess mainly how the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers, are upheld and how the economic crisis has impacted the enjoyment of human rights in particular by women and children.
In view of his visit, the Commissioner spoke to Cyprus News Agency about the various meetings he will be having and what will be the focus of his contacts.
“The visit to Cyprus takes place as part of my regular country visits to all members of the Council of Europe. So far, I have visited over 30 countries and as the last visit of a Commissioner to Cyprus followed by a report took place seven years ago I thought it was time to come,” he said.
Muiznieks will be in Cyprus from 7 to 11 December and he intends to meet various Ministers, national human rights structures and NGOs as well as to visit places of relevance for the visit, like reception centres for migrants.
The Commissioner will also give a speech at the University of Cyprus on the impact of the economic crisis on the enjoyment of human rights. We asked him whether this social issue was addressed in an adequate way by the governments.
There is no doubt, he points out, that austerity measures across Europe have undermined human rights.
“I have been dealing with this issue since the beginning of my mandate and already in 2013 I rang the alarm bell when I published a thematic report showing that many governments in Europe imposing austerity measures had forgotten about their human rights obligations, especially the social and economic rights of the most vulnerable, the need to ensure access to justice, and the right to equal treatment”, he said.
Muiznieks said that public service media have also been affected by budget cuts and unfortunately, little has been done to address these issues.
“My visit to Cyprus will be the occasion to assess whether effective measures have been put in place there to cushion the human rights impact of the economic crisis and budget cuts”, he said.
Muiznieks said that the CoE had made repeated calls to Turkey to implement resolutions and court decisions relating to refugees, missing persons, and general respect of human rights on the island.
He said that a lot remains to be done and that “there have been steps back and forth, but the situation is not ideal”.
“I am particularly interested in promoting joint work and progress in resolving the issue of missing persons, which should be a priority for all sides. One step that could help moving forward could be to support the encouraging initiatives carried out by experts and NGOs in this field,” he said.
Commissioner Muiznieks also said that many of these issues are addressed in the context of the UN-brokered negotiations in order to settle the “Cyprus question”.
“I welcome the reported progress of these negotiations and I am confident that an agreement between the parties will permit to overcome the remaining difficulties,” he stressed.
Replying to a question about the CoE’s observations on a number of other issues i.e. the situation at the Prisons and police tactics in Cyprus, the Commissioner explains that these topics will not be the focus of his visit.
“However I am aware of a number of problematic issues relating to prison conditions and police conduct in Cyprus. My role is not to judge member states but to help them identify the shortcomings and possible solutions to them,” he said.