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Cyprus justice subverted by corruption

Former ECHR judge has charged that corruption has crept into the Cyprus justice system casting doubt over certain decisions; the judiciary is lacking knowledge, impartiality, and self-awareness.

Cyprus justice subverted by corruption

Paphos District Court

CORRUPTION has crept into the island’s justice system, negatively affecting the level of court decisions, a former top judge has charged, casting more doubt over certain decisions, even those issued at the highest echelons of the justice system.

“The decline of Cypriot justice is also due to the decline in values and principles and proper dispensation of justice, which have been bent in recent years and have been displaced by corruption, part of which seems to have already touched the judicial family,” former ECHR judge Loukis Loukaides told a conference on the problems of Cypriot justice.

Loukaides said it was widely accepted that applied judicial justice was going through a crisis in the past decade and that its performance was largely inadequate.

He said the judiciary was lacking knowledge, impartiality, and self-awareness.

“These problems stem from the fact that judges are appointed without strict tests of their knowledge, experience, and personality,” he said.

Most of the legal minds in Cyprus were trained in Greece, whose system may be exceptional, but unrelated to what is in force in Cyprus, where English Common Law covers a substantive part.

“The unavoidable outcome is a drop in the quality of court decisions,” he said. “The lack of criticism and in general the lack of judge accountability certainly has an adverse effect on the quality of the judicial mission.”

Attorney Achilleas Emilianides spoke about the delays in the dispensation of justice by Cypriot courts where civil cases take on average five years to finish.

This, he said, encourages the operation of an extrajudicial system, where people resort to in a bid to collect what is owed to them.

“This is the reality,” he said. “When people come and you explain to them that it would take six years for a trial, they tell you, ‘It will take two minutes to get 60 per cent or 70 per cent and settle’.”

“There is no doubt this system encourages extrajudicial rings, it encourages corruption, it encourages a system that we cannot be proud of, and it all starts by the fact that there is no effective justice due to delays,” Emilianides said.

One high-profile case, which caused a stir, was that of former health minister Ntina Akkelidou.

Akkelidou was found guilty of interfering with the course of justice in 2004, but was later acquitted by a majority decision of the Supreme Court, prompting the resignation of then attorney-general Solon Nikitas.

Akkelidou had sent a letter to a district judge in connection with a drugs case the judge was trying at the time. She was fined £1,000 and resigned her post.

In April 2005, The Supreme Court overturned the decision by 9 to 3, with Nikitas, arguably one of the best attorney-generals this island has seen, saying there was no meaning in continuing.

“I have never commented on a Supreme Court decision. However, this case cannot go unnoticed. It is closely linked with the administration of justice, the principles of the rule of law and the democratic principle of separation of power. It also has to do with the existence, the maintenance, and the quality of institutions in a free and democratic society,” he had said in a written statement.

Readers' comments

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  • Peter Davis says:

    I gave evidence in Paphos Court regarding a road accident in my capacity as an ‘expert witness’ having been a police officers for over 32 years in both the counties and Met.

    I have given evidence before Coroner’s Courts, Magistrates and High Court including the Old Bailey.

    I was surprised at the incompetence when I criticized the level of professionalism of the police officers, the Court showed it was less than happy. Evidence went missing just weeks before the trial from the Police Yard, the witness list was nothing like the people called as witnesses, one witness that was essential wasn’t called as the prosecution didn’t want him giving evidence. A second ‘expert witness’ flown in from the UK to examine the vehicle (which had suddenly gone missing) and provide a second opinion on the scene wasn’t allowed to give evidence.

    No solicitor who would present a ‘not guilty plea’ in Paphos could be found. All were willing to represent the defendant to supply mitigating circumstances only.

    I keep an in carcam in both my vehicles, I wouldn’t drive in Cyprus without them, although they’re not used in court here (yet) they will provide evidence of what actually happened and not the police account of the accident. It was frightening what I saw and what passes for an EU country with regard to the law of the land.

  • john says:

    The Bankers, most of the Lawyers & Estate agents are corrupt!

    I even now have my doubts about the Cyprus Bar association being above board following recent personal experiences!

    I am sure they look after their own.

  • sky says:

    what a joke of a country…:D

  • Deanna says:

    Why should Cyprus be any different to the majority of countries in the world? They all have corruption in their midst, it’s just that some are better at ‘covering-up’ than others…

  • Richard says:

    Good it’s coming out – finally. I think this and the recent fine handed out to Alpha Bank (small as it was) are signs that there is a growing recognition corruption is epidemic and a huge clear-out process is necessary.

  • Whirlybird Rtd says:

    I agree that there is an element of corruption in the legal system. We are experiencing the same problems for which my wife who was knocked down and was found to be blameless of her demise, the person was given a paltry sentence of a fine and losing his license for a few days. We still can’t find out the actual sentence as a block put on its release.

    Our Advocate advises us to settle out of court as it will take too long to and costly to go through the courts.

    The person who knocked her down is part of a very influential family. Somehow our witnesses all either disappeared or changed their statements after a visit by unknown person, however the defendants lawyers called one into court, the prosecutor was not allowed to ask questions as she said that she had not called him in?

    Thankfully the judge believed our statements.

  • Campbell Findlay says:

    I admire this gentleman for having the cojones to speak out but has he JUST noticed this!

  • Curmudgen says:

    Surprise, surprise. I won’t hold my breath waiting for change.

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