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Is the Cyprus justice system broken?

Recent court cases have raised questions about the Cyprus justice system with a recent survey among Limassol-based lawyers highlighting their views on a number of key questions.

Is the Cyprus justice system broken? FOLLOWERS of the news in Cyprus will not have missed the many questions being raised about the Cyprus justice system, including allegations of cronyism, impartiality, complicity and corruption.

Just over a year ago lawyer Nicos Clerides remarked on Facebook “Our courts are controlled by the Polyviou and Chrysafinis law firm. There is not a single Supreme Court judge who does not have a child at the law office that promotes the banks’ interests.” His remarks were in connection with three criminal cases judged in favour of the Bank of Cyprus following appeals to the island’s Supreme Court.

In a lengthy statement Attorney-General Costas Clerides stressed that his brother’s views were his own, and that there had been no collusion between them in terms of coordinating their public remarks.

Referring to the Supreme Court’s final judgment in the market manipulation case filed against the Bank of Cyprus, the Attorney-General noted that “three of the five judges on the appeals court have children or a spouse who are employed at the law firm representing the Bank and its officer in the appeals process.”

(A full report on the above is available in the Cyprus Mail.)

We understand that following these ‘incidents’ Greco (the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body) took the unprecedented step of visiting Cyprus to investigate and make recommendations designed to improve the system.

Speaking to Kathimerini in February 2019 Attorney-General Costas Clerides said that the proposed reforms to the Cypriot Justice system should be implemented immediately and that: ”No one has said that children or other relatives of judges should not work in law firms. No one has said that they should not work in influential firms or in any particular firm. However, when the time comes for a judge to hear a major case and before him appears the employer of his child, then the judge, if not ex-officio, should apply rigorously the principles laid down by the ECHR in the relevant decisions.”

Recent cases involving foreigners have also raised questions about the Cyprus justice system. Most notably the British teenager convicted of lying over being gang raped in Ayia Napa last July and, more recently, British man Conor O’Dwyer and his 15-year quest for justice whose appeal was heard by the Supreme Court several days ago. The former case received huge publicity in both the Cyprus and UK media with protests and demonstrations supporting the teenager organised in both countries.

Just two days ago Maria Hadjisavva of the law firm Elias Neocleous & Co LLC in an article entitled Justice delayed is justice denied referred to cases where the human rights of victims had been violated and a case that took the police 15 years to investigate. The latter resulted in the wrath of the European Court of Human Rights, which condemned Cyprus for breaching of Articles 2, 4 and 5 of the Human Rights Convention.

Reforms

Although the Cyprus justice system is undergoing reform, but these focus mainly on the speed at which cases are dealt with by the courts rather than addressing the fundamental reforms to do away with the alleged cronyism, impartiality, complicity and corruption.

Damning indictment of the Cyprus justice system

Recently, lawyers in Limassol were asked to give their honest opinions on the quality of the justice system on a questionnaire.

  • 95% believed that the rule of law did not apply in Cyprus.
  • 96% believed that the Cyprus justice system is in need of radical reform.
  • 97% believed that Supreme Court judges need to be trained.
  • 93% believed that some lawyers are treated by the Supreme Court in a privileged manner.
  • 90% believed that there are some Supreme court judges who are not law-abiding, professional or ethical.

The answers given by the 138 of the 139 lawyers who completed and returned the questionnaire (below) present a devastating indictment of the state of the Cyprus justice system.

No.QuestionYesNoDon’t know/
No reply
1Do you believe that we live in a country where the rule of law applies?61311
2Do you think that the way in which justice is delivered in Cyprus requires radical reforms?1335
3Do you think that the appointment of judges is fair and transparent?31294
4Do you think that the Cyprus courts decide on cases brought before them strictly on the basis of the issues in question and the law?101205
5Do you think there are judges who decide the cases brought before them beforehand?123210
6Do you believe that the decisions taken by judges are influenced by extrinsic factors?126210
7Do you believe that the Supreme Court has sufficient jurisdiction over the lower courts?181146
8Do you believe that the decisions of the Supreme Court are influenced by the relationships maintained by Supreme Court judges with lower court judges?1111017
9Do you think that Supreme Court judges are all law-abiding, professional and ethical?412410
10Do you think there are judges of the Supreme Court who should be removed from their position?77936
11Do you think the manner in which Supreme Court judges are appointed and dismissed is correct?212510
12Do you think that lawyers should have a say in the appointment and removal of the judges of the Supreme Court and of the lower courts?903610
13Do you think that the judges of the Supreme Court need training themselves?13412
14Do you think that the Supreme Court’s status according to which their decisions are not subject to review leads to arbitrariness?13223
15Do you think Cyprus needs at least a Higher Court?111148
16Do you believe that the High Court should be staffed by the present judges of the Supreme Court?910820
17Do you think the promotions given to lower judges is based on merit?412310
18Do you think there are lawyers who are treated by the Supreme Court in a privileged manner?12926
19Do you think that the Cyprus Bar Association and local law associations are effectively assisting in tackling the problems faced by the justice system?31313
20Do you think that lawyers are respected by judges?1311310
21Do you believe that the exercise of good law practice affects the outcome of cases?636112
22Do you believe that mitigating factors are properly taken into consideration by the courts?228527
23Do you think that Cyprus courts are effectively enforcing and safeguarding the human rights of citizens?711911
24Do you think that the Supreme Court takes due account of lawyers’ suggestions and pleadings?412013
25Do you believe that as things stand today, it is possible to effect substantial changes in the manner in which the courts are operating?407918

I have spoken with the lawyer referred to in the originating article published in the Greek language ‘Politis‘ on 26th January, London-born Evangelos Pourgourides.

Mr Pourgourides collated the replies and wrote to President Nicos Anastasiades and the president of the Supreme Court advising them both of the analysis of the questionnaire responses, but has yet to receive a reply.

From the answers given, it is clear that problems with the Cyprus justice systems are deep-rooted and intractable and cannot easily be resolved without radical reforms.

Of course, it’s quite possible that lawyers in Nicosia, Paphos, Larnaca and Famagusta have a different opinion of the justice system, but it seems unlikely.

Readers' comments

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  • Yioryos Nardis says:

    Thanks for your work and writing about this important topic! However, you should really be citing your sources. Not giving proper credit to those who conducted the survey and the newspaper your translated it from is quite unprofessional.

    Ed: I will update that article and I have posted a link to the original article in Politis in reply to Stan who commented earlier.

  • Stan says:

    Well done, yet again Nigel – what would we do without you!

    The words pot, kettle and black come to mind regarding this survey. However,it does reinforce the fact that the Supreme Court is just as corrupt as anything else in the so-called Cyprus justice system.

    Interested to know whether any of the local newspapers have also had the guts to reveal these findings?

    Ed: The survey was published in the Greek language ‘Politis’ on 26th January Limassol lawyers referendum on justice system. (I had the findings translated professionally.)

  • UCostas Afortune says:

    There are hundreds of cases going through the Cyprus courts involving a £500 million property scheme in Paphos involving Alpha Bank & Alpha Panareti (https://youtu.be/g7vUITRIR2U. Please watch this). A local certifying officer illegally signed documents saying he was present when signing POAs , he was lying! People have proof that they were not with him and therefore everything signed using this POA should be void! Contracts used by the bank were heavily weighted in the bank’s favour and numerous other banking legislation broke. There’s no chance of title deeds because Panareti had loans on the land etc etc but are the Cypriot courts bothered? No. They tell you the Cypriot legal system is based on the Uk , don’t believe them . One word of warning to any would be buyers “ Do Not Buy In Cyprus”!

  • Richard says:

    Yes – it is broken. This is all no surprise to anyone who has sought redress and justice from the corrupt banks and their even more corrupt products and ‘services’.

    The key questions are:

    i) Will it really change anything?
    ii) Is Cyprus capable of being any different?
    iii) Who will lead from the front?

    Now – there’s something for the weekend….

  • Jill says:

    If the lawyers know all this, then why haven’t they done something about it?

    And back to that old chestnut – why aren’t they fighting on behalf of all of us who STILL after 16 years, haven’t got Title Deeds.

    I can’t believe they’ve answered these questions as they have, knowing how much damage their interpretation of the law has caused……do they honestly think it’s not their fault, at least partly, that the justice system is as it is!!!!

  • Belinda Salthouse says:

    He is not the only one, Conor is a great guy. All he wants is justice. Like myself the land registry is just as corrupt as the court. They refused to give me my boundary. Soon you will hear me. Because I’m not going anywhere.

  • pantheman says:

    Given the answers above it seems the lawyers are all operating under false pretences, i.e. taking monies from clients knowing there is no justices to be had. Sounds somewhat hypocritical to me.

  • The views expressed in readers' comments are not necessarily shared by the Cyprus Property News.

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