The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Cyprus in a case where a Vietnamese woman had complained about the conditions of her detention back in 2012.
The plaintiff, 38-year-old Thi Nguyen Khanh, was placed in a women’s detention facility in Limassol from 1 March 2012 until 25 July 2012.
Khanh said she had to share a single occupancy cell with another detainee while a mattress and a blanket was given to her and placed on a dirty floor, some 30 centimetres away from the bed. Two women would share the two blankets to stay warm, according to the allegations.
When she was in a double occupancy cell with two bunks, she alleged that she had to share the cell with up to four other detainees, all of whom had to share the two bunks. The state authorities were also accused of not providing proper food according to the dietary nutrition needs of the detainee, while another local visitor would often bring her food and female hygiene products.
She also complained that she wasn’t allowed sufficient courtyard time, saying she was only given 30 minutes each day but only on days when a guard was available to supervise her, essentially having half hour breaks every three days.
The state maintained that there were toilet and shower facilities at the detention centre and that blankets could have been provided upon request. It was also possible for detainees to go out in the courtyard several times a day, according to the state defense.
But an Ombudsman report dated 31 July 2012 had found that the station was overcrowded. While it was designed to house a maximum of thirty-seven men and ten women, on the day of the visit there had been forty-two men male detainees and nineteen women.
“The facilities were old and totally unsuitable for long-term detention and did not provide dignified conditions of detention,” it was also noted in the report.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou has also called on the Limassol police to find a way to move its detention facilities elsewhere, so that persons facing deportation proceedings could have a dedicated place and staff, similar to Larnaca’s Menogeia detention centre, adding that a police station was not suitable for this purpose.
The European Court of Human Rights based it ruling on “inadequate conditions of detention” while awarding Khanh roughly 10,500 euros in punitive damages and legal fees, to be paid by the Republic of Cyprus within three months.
She was originally seeking 40,000 euros for emotional distress, but the ECHR ordered Cyprus to pay 6,500 euros for emotional distress and 4,070 euros for legal fees.
Another case involving Limassol police was adjudicated during the summer, when the Republic of Cyprus was ordered to pay 25,000 euros to a Canadian citizen, following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights that found he was abused while in police custody. [Kathimerini Cyprus]