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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-11-04

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, November 4, 1998


  • [01] Boat people: Cyprus 'violating international law'
  • [02] Weizman: we understand your concern about Turkish pact
  • [03] Yilmaz threats over EU talks
  • [04] Greek water could be shipped within three months
  • [05] House to continue Michaelides probe
  • [06] Parents lobby for recognition of children with special needs

  • [01] Boat people: Cyprus 'violating international law'

    By Anthony O. Miller

    CYPRUS is violating international law by denying schooling and recreation to children of the boat people in police detention, a lawyer for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said yesterday.

    And the government is in dubious compliance with other international requirements regarding the treatment of people claiming to be refugees, UNHCR lawyer Hugh Massey said.

    "Certainly the standards of detention of the juveniles is not in accordance with the international standards - the Beijing Rules regarding juveniles and the Convention on the Rights of the Child," Massey said.

    These conventions require "access to education, access to leisure. They do not have that full access. They have no access to education at all, as far as I am aware," Massey said. "The UNHCR has requested that the children be given access to education, and it hasn't happened."

    About 48 boat people - 10 of them children - are under virtual house-arrest in the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol. Another 41 have been moved from the Central Prison in Nicosia, back to their old cells in the former Famagusta detention centre in Larnaca, police confirmed yesterday.

    Pefkos Hotel personnel said yesterday there were 48 boat people there, 10 of them children between two months and 16 years of age. Five of these are of school age, between five and 16 years.

    "Once it's accepted that the person is detained, then there are international human rights standards governing detention," Massey said. "Obviously the detention has to be lawful - that is in accordance with the constitution and in accordance with international human rights standards."

    "Some of the applicable standards of international law are not being adhered to" by Cyprus, he said. "It's obviously detention. They're under police guard - I'm using detention," Massey emphasised: "They're under guard, they're not allowed freedom of movement. Visits have been restricted."

    "I've also received a report that even a lawyer who wanted to visit (those in the Larnaca cells) was also denied access. If that report is true, it is unacceptable," he said.

    The Larnaca facility is where 48 of the immigrants were beaten on October 23 by rapid reaction unit (MMAD) police. They were called in to quell a riot that began when the immigrants learned that some of them were to be deported the next day. Some of the rioters have been deported since the incident.

    "UNHCR is... concerned that the Republic did not manage to find alternatives to detention," especially for the minors at the Pefkos Hotel, Massey said. "UNHCR is also concerned that visiting rights became more restrictive than they were initially."

    Massey also deplored the fact "there were not guarantees of access to a legal representative in accordance with international human rights standards." (He noted that since that denial, "a lawyer representing some of the detainees was very recently granted access.")

    "I'm also concerned that the police guarding the detainees at the Pefkos (Hotel) asked the UNHCR to provide material assistance for the children - for example baby foods, nappies, etc. Of course it's a state responsibility to be providing that. It was (ultimately) provided by the Red Cross, but as I said, it should be a state responsibility."

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides has appointed six investigators to probe accusations of police brutality against the MMAD officers stemming from the October 23 riots. He was abroad yesterday and unavailable for comment.

    Diko deputy Marios Matsakis, who is a forensic pathologist, has examined 41 of the immigrants alleging police brutality. His report, still officially confidential, is reported to point to the excessive use of force by MMAD officers.

    At least one officer has said his orders allowed the use of maximum force - short of killing - to quell the rioting. Video footage of the October 23 incident clearly showed officers brutally beating the unarmed immigrants.

    The 89 boat people are all who remain of 113 rescued in June, sick and starving from the Syrian trawler Ridallah and originally taken to the Pefkos.

    At least one other incident of alleged police brutality against the boat people, at the Pefkos hotel in August, is also under investigation by Markides' office.

    Massey said the UNHCR has recognised 10 of the 113 boat people as genuine refugees, and rejected the claims of most of the rest, adding that some 15 cases "remain to be decided".

    Wednesday, November 4, 1998

    [02] Weizman: we understand your concern about Turkish pact

    By Jean Christou

    ISRAELI President Ezer Weizman admitted yesterday that he had failed fully to allay Cyprus' fears over his country's close military ties with Turkey.

    Speaking after a working breakfast with party leaders on day two of his official visit, Weizman acknowledged that the Cyprus government was still concerned.

    "They are very concerned and I can understand it," Weizman told reporters. "I was trying to tell them for the past 24 hours that our agreement with Turkey is not an agreement concerning a third party."

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday the government did not wish to meddle in another country's foreign policy, but stressed that there was concern in Nicosia about the Israel-Turkey link.

    Asked if Weizman had managed to allay these fears, Stylianides said that would depend on future developments.

    "Israel has taken note of the concerns we have expressed and President Weizman has replied in public statements," Stylianides said.

    The Israeli President repeated statements made on Monday that the agreement with Turkey was not a defence alliance.

    "We are not going to help Turkey in case of war and they are not going to help us," he said.

    But Turkey is important to Israel, Weizman said, because it is the largest Islamic country that is secular and is fighting fanaticism, "which is in the interest of everyone, including Cyprus".

    Weizman also said that Turkey was not dependent on it for its military equipment, and that it could reinforce its military might from other countries, such as the United States and France.

    "I don't think that the alliance with us makes a difference in the strength of Turkey," he said.

    Weizman ruled out the possibility of any military agreement between Cyprus and Israel, and said that the issue had not been raised in official talks with President Glafcos Clerides on Monday.

    However, in response to questions, he did not rule out the possibility of Israel selling weapons to Cyprus, although he said this would depend on the type of weapon involved.

    For example, he said, Israel would not supply F-16 or Phantom fighter aircraft to Cyprus.

    The Israeli President also met yesterday with the President of the House of Representatives, Spyros Kyprianou.

    In response to questions after the meeting, Weizman repeated there could be no military co-operation between Cyprus and Israel.

    "The problem you have with Turkey is a problem, but nothing compared to the problem we have with Syria or with Iraq or with Iran or not yet solving the Palestinian problems."

    Israel will not become involved in the Cyprus problem, Weizman made clear during both days of his visit.

    "There are lots of people in the world who should do something about the situation (in Cyprus) before we do... there are big boys in the world."

    At a state banquet on Monday night, President Clerides said he was only expressing the feelings of the people of Cyprus when he said Israel's military co-operation with Turkey constituted "a source of anxiety and concern for our own security".

    "And I do hope that activities in this respect will not be allowed to evolve into developments detrimental to our good relationship," Clerides said.

    Weizman will leave Cyprus this morning after cutting short his visit due to commitments at home. He had been scheduled to leave this evening.

    Wednesday, November 4, 1998

    [03] Yilmaz threats over EU talks

    By Martin Hellicar

    TURKISH Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz arrived in the occupied areas yesterday threatening that divisions on the island would "deepen" should Cyprus join the EU.

    After seven months of laying the groundwork, Cyprus is due to begin substantive entry talks with the EU on November 10.

    "We want to warn EU member states that such an application is not acceptable unless the Cyprus problem is solved first," Reuters quoted Yilmaz as saying.

    Turkey has been excluded from the 15-nation block's expansion plans. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has set the cessation of Cyprus's accession talks as one of his preconditions for a return to settlement negotiations stalled since Summer 1997.

    According to yesterday's Turkish Cypriot press, Denktash on Monday threatened that unspecified "measures" would be taken by the Turkish Cypriot side should the government's talks with the EU begin as scheduled.

    "The Turkish Cypriot stance on November 10 will not be the same as on November 9," he said.

    Yilmaz, on a one-day visit to the north, reiterated Turkey's plans to push ahead with economic and political integration of the occupied areas with Turkey in response to Cyprus's efforts to join the EU.

    "Turkey will always be at the side of Turkish Cypriots," the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) quoted Yilmaz as saying.

    Welcoming Yilmaz, Denktash restated his position that there should be "two sovereign states" on the island.

    Yilmaz echoed Denktash, stating the "two states" on the island had to be equal and calling on the Greek side to accept Denktash's proposal for the establishment of a confederation of two states on the island.

    The proposal, tabled in August, has been rejected by the government and the UN. The UN is working to re-start settlement talks on the basis of a bi- zonal federation.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides described Yilmaz's visit as "illegal and provocative" and called on the Turkish Prime Minister to "put pressure on Denktash to return to the negotiating table instead of making moves simply to impress."

    He added that Turkish threats "cannot make the EU change its position" on the November 10 talks.

    The spokesman also commented on press reports that the occupation army was being reinforced with Chinese-made UUS-1 ground-to-ground missiles.

    The reports, quoting government security sources, suggested the Turkish side might use the mobile UUS-1s, which have a range of 80km, to strike the recently opened Paphos air base and the S-300 missiles that the government has ordered from Russia, should they be deployed by the National Guard.

    Though he did not directly confirm or deny the reports, Stylianides commented that any Turkish action to reinforce the 30,000-strong occupation army with more weaponry proved that Turkey was the aggressive party on the island.

    The government has been criticised by the international community for ordering the S-300s, while Turkey has threatened a military strike against the long-range ground-to-air missiles should they arrive on the island.

    "It is once again proved that Turkey, by bringing offensive weapons to occupied Cyprus is the superior power and the only power responsible for tension in the region," Stylianides said.

    Asked if he was confirming the Chinese missile reports, he said: "I do not completely confirm them as the Defence Ministry does not want to, but I will say that the possibility that exists for such movement of weapons systems proves the fact (of Turkey's aggression)."

    "The National Guard and Defence Ministry are in a position to know the situation concerning weapons in the north," the spokesman added.

    Tensions have risen on the island since the government's announcement of the deal to bring the S-300s. In the face of mounting international pressure, delivery of the Russian-made missiles, originally due in the Summer, has been put off until later this year.

    Wednesday, November 4, 1998

    [04] Greek water could be shipped within three months

    By Martin Hellicar

    SHIPMENTS of drinking water from Greece to Cyprus could start within three months, the visiting chief advisor of the Greek water supply department (Eydap), Dionisios Xenos, announced yesterday.

    "The water will be given as aid to Cyprus," Xenos said after discussing the proposal with Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous in Nicosia.

    But Themistocleous nevertheless remained cautious about the feasibility of the plan to ship 15 million cubic metres of water from the Megara area of Greece.

    He described the Greek government's offer of free drought relief as "significant", but repeated that overall costs might still be too high. "It is not the purchase price of the water but rather the transport cost that counts."

    "If this cost is lower than for other methods of securing water - such as desalination - then we will go ahead with implementation of the Greek offer, " the minister said.

    Faced with near empty reservoirs and a drought that shows no sign of ending, the government has already called for tenders to supply the island with two mobile desalination plants or imported water.

    Xenos said the infrastructure for pumping the water onto tankers was already in place in Greece and would allow for over 40,000 cubic metres of water to be shipped per day.

    The two mobile desalination plants for which the government has asked for tenders would supply 15,000 cubic metres of water a day each.

    The Greek Ambassador to Cyprus, Kyriacos Rodousakis, who also attended yesterday's meeting, said he was sure Cypriot shipowners would be willing to help out with the water shipments, thus reducing costs.

    "There are some very powerful Cypriot shipowners, with strong patriotic sentiments, and I am hopeful they will help out," he said.

    The government last considered importing water in 1991 - from Crete - but shelved the idea due to costs. But subsequent technological advances and the fact that, unless it rains, water reserves are set to run out by the end of the year, have made shipments an increasingly attractive proposition. The occupied areas are already supplied with water from Turkey by balloon.

    Wednesday, November 4, 1998

    [05] House to continue Michaelides probe

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE HOUSE Watchdog Committee will continue its probe into the Dinos Michaelides scandal tomorrow, despite the fact that the Auditor-general's findings on the case - apparently exonerating the minister - are still under examination.

    Committee chairman Christos Pourgourides - who brought the corruption allegations against the Interior Minister - says the result of any other investigation has no bearing on the House probe.

    Pourgourides says that, as far as he is concerned, Michaelides is politically responsible for his actions.

    By the minister's own admission - that he bought luxury flats on the cheap from wealthy businessmen and received a 150,000 bank loan on favourable terms to invest in a quick profit scheme - Michaelides is politically responsible, Pourgourides argues.

    With a majority of committee members apparently moving towards this conclusion, Michaelides is expected to be hauled before the House to answer the charges of political responsibility.

    With the Auditor-general Spyros Christou's report now in the hands of the Attorney-general Alecos Markides, it will be a few days yet before Michaelides discovers whether his position in the cabinet is safe.

    Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday that Markides' ruling on the report was not expected until after he returned from Strasbourg tomorrow.

    It is up to Markides to decide whether or not Michaelides has committed any criminal offence, and he will advise President Clerides accordingly.

    The conclusions he will bear heavily on any decision by Clerides on whether Michaelides has - if nothing else -violated the code of conduct expected from a cabinet member.

    "The president has the exclusive right to judge who is politically responsible, so let's wait a few days for the opinion of the Attorney- general," Stylianides said yesterday.

    Wednesday, November 4, 1998

    [06] Parents lobby for recognition of children with special needs

    By Athena Karsera

    THE PANCYPRIAN Federation of Associations for the Parents of Children with Special Needs are fighting for their children's education rights.

    The parents are calling for a change in the law so that their children can receive school leavers' certificates on finishing school.

    Draft legislation has been drawn up with input from experts, as well as parents of children with special needs.

    What the parents want, Federation representative Pavlos Toumazos told the Cyprus Mail yesterday, is for children attending a regular school to receive a regular school leavers' certificate.

    Additional notes would explain the inability of the child to take a particular class and more intensive work in another, highlighting the child's abilities.

    "Maybe a child is unable to do French, but is competent at computers," Toumazos said as an example. Such a child would therefore follow more, higher-level, computer classes in addition to the regular class, at the time when his classmates are doing French.

    Toumazos feels it must be noted that a child has accomplished something to his credit; if this ability is recognised, it may enable the disabled person to be employed later on, as he would in fact "perhaps be more proficient than a so-called 'normal' person".

    Toumazos said the integration of children with special needs into regular schools was currently not governed by any law. What parents want, are laws in line with those of the European Union. He believes that a committee, again made up of parents of children with special needs and other experts, should contribute their opinions to the drawing up of such laws.

    He concluded that the Federation would not accept a token piece of paper as recognition for their child's accomplishments.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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