Cyprus: Call for action following conviction of human rights organisation for “defamation” and “harmful forgery”

KISA, a human rights organisation based in Cyprus, was recently convicted by the Supreme Court of “defamation” and “harmful forgery” over a 2010 document calling on the government to rescind the appointment of Christos Clerides and Xenis Xenofontos to the Management Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

"The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cyprus.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the sentencing of KISA, an NGO that works for the rights of migrants and denounces cases of racism and hate speech.

According to the information received, on June 5, 2020 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Cyprus sentenced KISA to pay a fine of EUR 10.000 for damages to Mr. Christos Clerides. The organisation was found guilty of the crimes of “defamation” and “harmful forgery” in relation to a document drafted in 2010 calling the Government of Cyprus to terminate the appointment of Mr. Christos Clerides and Mr. Xenis Xenofontos to the Management Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The decision of the Supreme Court has been appealed.

In the draft petition, KISA denounced that the blog “Christofias Watch” incited hatred and violence against Mr. Makarios Drousiotis, a prominent journalist that defends the peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem and documents the rise of right-wing extremism in the island. The organisation underlined that the administrator of the blog was Mr. Xenis Xenofontos and his lawyer, who gave an interview to “Christofias-Watch”, Mr. Christos Clerides. At the time, Mr. Xenis Xenofontos and Mr. Christos Clerides where the alternate member and member, respectively, of the Republic of Cyprus of the FRA Management Board. KISA underlined that individuals inciting violence against people with a different opinion than their own were not qualified to represent the Republic of Cyprus at the FRA and thus called the Government of Cyprus to replace them.

Even though the joint petition was not public and was never sent to the FRA, a journalist leaked the document to Mr. Clerides, who filed a libel suit against KISA together with Mr. Xenofontos. After his appointment as a judge, Mr. Xenofontos withdrew the complaint; however, the judicial proceedings against KISA remained opened for 10 years until the organisation was finally convicted on June 5, 2020."

FIDH and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders are calling for people to write to the government of Cyprus. More information here: Cyprus: Sentencing of KISA, an NGO working for the rights of migrants (FIDH, link)


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