“The significance of the verdict stretches beyond the acquittal of Doros Polykarpou. This is a victory for all human rights defenders in Cyprus, and sends out a clear message that KISA and other NGOs have a legitimate right to defend the rights of migrants and asylum seekers” – Anthoula Papadopoulou, KISA
“The protection of human rights is neither a discretionary matter, nor a matter of luxury, but is a necessary element of the rule of law” – Costas Gkazis, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Yesterday’s press conference at the EU House in Nicosia was as much a triumphant announcement that charges had been dropped against KISA‘s Executive Director Doros Polykarpou, as it was a relief that a process which started 18 months ago had reached a favourable conclusion. “If only we could reclaim the 6000 Euro in court expenses!”, joked Polykarpou.
The verdict issued by the Larnaca District Court pointed out that the prosecution had failed to prove that any criminal offense had been committed by Polykarpou in relation to the violent events which marred the celebration of diversity and multiculturalism at the Rainbow Festival in Larnaca back in November 2010. In its decision, the Court did not accept the testimony of the police officers – who were witnesses of the prosecution – pointing to inconsistencies and unreliability. Moreover, the Court found Doros Polykarpou’s testimony to be both reliable and consistent with the video recordings shown as evidence in Court.
This verdict definitely does not draw a line in the sand, but marks a new chapter in the defence of human rights in Cyprus, and of standing to racist and xenophobic behaviour. CCMC witnessed first hand the terrible events of 5 November 2010, with a number of staff suffering verbal and physical abuse at the hands of groups whose ideology has no place in modern society. The Centre will continue to steadfastly support the work of KISA and its associates in pursuit of a more just and fair treatment of vulnerable groups in our society.