United Nations human rights expert Karima Bennoune on Thursday slammed the “unjustified” restriction facing religious services in ethnically-split Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriot authorities have restricted the number of visits allowed to Greek Orthodox churches in the north of the island, saying they could not cope with the frequency and demand of such services.
Churches were restricted to one service a year, but there are apparently moves to scrap this after the United Nations voiced concern last week.
“The current political situation in Cyprus creates many obstacles to the exercise of cultural rights,” said Bennoune, the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.
“I condemn unjustified restrictions on access to cultural heritage for religious ceremonies, including those that were announced by the Turkish Cypriot authorities during my visit” she said.
The Special Rapporteur said there are also issues of access to cultural sites in the government-controlled south of the country, not just the north.
“The government should make every effort to end de facto limitations on accessing cultural sites, including through clarifying opening hours, simplifying processes for accessing particular sites, and providing for essential facilities,” she said.
Bennoune made the remarks at the end of a fact-finding mission to Cyprus. She will present a report on her visit to Cyprus to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017.