Condemnation of Cyprus by the European Court of Human Rights for Inhumane and Degrading Treatment of a Foreign Prisoner

Cyprus was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in its judgment issued on the 26th March 2019 – in the case of Haghilo v. Cyprus which accepted the Appeal of an Iranian citizen who claimed his detention was illegal and that his detention conditions constituted inhumane treatment.

In particular, the applicant, Mr. Mustafa Haghilo, now a resident of Armenia, was detained in the Republic of Cyprus for the purpose of deportation for more than 18 months in three different police stations.

Mr. Haghilo had entered Cyprus illegally on the 21st of March 2011 and on the 28th of March 2011 was arrested at Larnaca Airport when he attempted to travel with a fake passport to London. He was then detained and in April 2011 a deportation decision was issued given that he was an illegal immigrant. In October 2012, he was released as he had not been deported within the 18 months period required by the relevant European Directive, as it has been incorporated into Cypriot legislation.

He had previously been briefly released after a Court hearing by the Supreme Court on the 22nd of December 2011 because it found that his detention had been unlawful as from October 2011. However, he was immediately rearrested when leaving the court and detained on the basis of new detention and deportation orders issued against him on the same grounds as those cited in respect of the first detention and deportation orders – that is to say under sections 6(1)(k) and (l) and 14(6) of the Aliens and Immigration Law.

Mr. Haghilo challenged the lawfulness of the new detention and deportation orders with the Supreme Court, but his recourse was dismissed in July 2012. On the 12th of September 2012 the applicant’s lawyer sent a fax to the Minister of the Interior complaining about the period of the applicant’s detention and about the failure of the Minister of the Interior to review the applicant’s detention order every two months, as provided by section 18 (4) of the Aliens and Immigration. The applicant submitted that no reply had been received from the authorities. Οn 18 October 2012 the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior decided to annul the deportation and detention orders of 22 December 2011, as the applicant’s deportation had not been effected within the above-mentioned eighteen-month time-limit.

The Supreme Court upheld that judgment in 2018 on appeal from Mr. Haguilo, noting that he had in the meantime left Cyprus for Armenia of his own free will and no longer had any legitimate interest in pursuing his appeal.

The applicant relied on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of inhumane and degrading treatment) claiming that he was held in inadequate conditions in facilities which were not designed for prolonged detention.

Also, relying on Article 5 (1) of the ECHR (right to liberty and security), he argued that his detention from April 2011 to October 2012 was illegal and that he did not have access to an effective remedy to appeal against the illegal detention.

Finally, on the 26 of March of 2019 the ECHR acknowledged that there had been a violation of Articles 3 and 5 (1) of the ECHR from the Republic of Cyprus and awarded €30,000 in compensation to Mr. Haguilo and €4,124 for legal costs.