The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), in its report for the implementation of its recommendations to Cyprus, which were published on 6 June 2019, expresses its “concern” over the inaction of the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights and the absence of any activities in support of vulnerable groups.
The Commissioner for Administration has rejected the conclusions of the Commission as wrong and unfounded, referring generally to her reports on violations of human rights. On the contrary, KISA considers that the conclusions of the Commission reflect the tragic course followed by the Office of the Commissioner for Administration during recent years, who evidently consciously refuses to exercise her responsibilities and powers especially as the authority against racism and discrimination, which constitute an obligation derived under Community law and particularly under Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC, as well as other responsibilities attributed to it either by law or by decision of the Council of Ministers.
KISA along with other civil society organisations had expressed serious concerns from the beginning regarding the choice of Mrs Stylianou-Lottidou, both in terms of her epistemological and technocratic proficiency in the field of human rights and discrimination, as well as concerning the political expediency behind her appointment by the president of the Republic, potentially due to a close family relationship with a major influencer in the media.
In spite of these concerns, following the Commissioner’s appointment, KISA continued to make substantial efforts for cooperation in order to continue the important work demonstrated by the institution up until then in safeguarding human rights as well as to retain cooperation with the civil society.
We continued to lodge complaints at the Commissioner’s Office concerning serious violations of human rights and discrimination against vulnerable groups. Regrettably, the Commissioner’s response has been deeply disappointing under the pretence of “the exhaustion of the margin for intervention”, among others, and has systematically failed to investigate and intervene.
Additionally, we have sought to continue the cooperation we had previously established with her predecessors in the field of implementation of European programmes, which she has refused, notwithstanding the fact that according to the Paris Principles -which provide the framework for the functioning of this institution and also the law governing it – her office is under an obligation to support and cooperate with NGOs.
Furthermore, KISA has invited the Commissioner to three public events and workshops, concerning integration, racism and discrimination as well as a recent one concerning hate speech. In all three events, not only did she refuse to participate but also failed to designate a representative from her staff. On the other hand, in the few events and meetings organised by her office, she not only failed to give KISA the opportunity to actively participate but in fact did not extend an invitation to the organisation at all.
At the same time, the Commissioner’s office currently faces serious problems in its operation, because of the perception and approach of the Commissioner concerning the powers and responsibilities assigned to her by legislation as well as the role and operation of the independent authorities under her mandate.
Converging all the powers and procedures under her control, she has rendered the institution even more intuit personae and has stamped out the autonomy and agency of the independent bodies placed within her mandate, such as the authority against racism and discrimination authority, causing their inertia and ineffectiveness. The same seems to have occurred in relation to the Office’s staff, where remarkable and experienced members have been side-lined and isolated.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the situation is the Commissioner’s interventionist and censoring approach towards the media, particularly in cases involving the publication of critical opinions about the incompetence and unwillingness to execute the important role assigned to her by the state, pressuring even for the withdrawal of articles that criticize her and her Office.
In conclusion, KISA wishes to highlight that ECRI’s conclusions must be studied thoroughly, first and foremost by the Commissioner herself and to be evaluated correctly in order to develop the appropriate measures and actions for a rational approach towards addressing the problems identified. Similarly, they must be evaluated thoroughly by the state and through a public dialogue that includes the participation of civil society in order to take action and restore the competence and efficiency of the institution.
Finally, in view of ECRI’s conclusions, KISA calls upon the relevant authorities to take all necessary measures for the implementation of the action plan for the integration of migrants and refugees as they have announced, in close cooperation with the relevant bodies of the UN, NGOs and migrant and refugee groups.
Steering Committee of KISA