Freedom in the World
Northern Cyprus *
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In February 2013, Greek Cypriots elected to the presidency Nicos Anastasiades, who supports a plan initially suggested in 2003 by then–UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to reunite the island of Cyprus by creating a single federation comprised of the Republic of Cyprus (Cyprus) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey. Anastasiades met with TRNC President Derviş Eroğlu in May, but reunification negotiations made no headway, in part because Cyprus was preoccupied with serious economic difficulties. Turkish Cypriots often suggest that any settlement must recognize “realities on the island,” and both Eroğlu and the Turkish government have suggested that a two-state solution may eventually become necessary. Cyprus and the TRNC have also been involved in disputes over rights to explore for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean.
The TRNC, which is generally dependent upon the Turkish government for both security and economic support, experienced its own economic problems in 2013. These problems were generated in part by cuts in Turkish financial assistance, as well as by the economic troubles in the Republic of Cyprus. In response, the TRNC government, led by the nationalist National Unity Party (UBP), enacted austerity measures, which were unpopular and seen as having been imposed by Turkey. The government lost a vote of confidence in May, prompting new parliamentary elections in late July. A coalition government, headed by Özkan Yorgancıoğlu of the center-left and prounification Republican Turkish Party (CTP), took office in September. The main priority of the government is economic revival, although it is also committed to solving the Cyprus dispute through the creation of a federation.
Political Rights: 32 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 11 / 12
Elections have been generally free and fair. The president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term, while members of the Assembly are elected to five-year terms through party-list voting. A party must win 5 percent of the vote in order to be seated in the legislature. While the prime minister is the head of the government, the president is the head of state, with the primary responsibility of representing the TRNC internationally.
Parliamentary elections were held in July, after the government of Prime Minister İrsen Küçük of the UBP lost a confidence vote. Five parties ran a list of candidates for the 50-seat Assembly, and four parties won seats. The CTP, which previously had been the main opposition party, won the most seats, taking 21. It formed a coalition with the Democratic Party (DP), which won 12 seats. Eroğlu of the UBP, who was elected in 2010 to a five-year term, remains president.
Minority Greek and Maronite residents of the TRNC are legally citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, and are thus not eligible to vote in TRNC elections.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 12 / 16
Turkish Cypriots are free to organize political parties, and elections are competitive. However, there is a widespread perception that Turkish officials wield most political power in the TRNC; elected TRNC governments have limited room to adopt policies over any objections from Ankara. In 2013, Turkish influence was seen mainly in the economic arena, with Ankara forcing the TRNC to adhere to an economic protocol that demanded austerity measures and privatization, and threatening to cut off funds if such measures were not implemented. Some reports also suggested that Turkey interfered in intraparty politics of the UBP, and later tried unsuccessfully to influence the formation of the new coalition government.
C. Functioning of Government: 9 / 12
Many observers suggest that the effective functioning of the TRNC government is hampered by interference from Turkey. Corruption among TRNC politicians is also a concern. The eight members of the Assembly who defected from the UBP in May and forced early elections accused Prime Minister Küçük of excessive tolerance of bribes, nepotism, and corruption. Serdar Denktaş, leader of the DP, complained in August of a lack of transparency in the €650-million ($873.5-million) privatization of the TRNC’s Ercan international airport. The new coalition government announced a variety of measures in September designed to combat corruption, including the end of parliamentary immunity and of temporary civil service jobs.
Civil Liberties: 47 / 60 (+1)
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 14 / 16 (+1)
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law, and some media outlets are openly critical of the government. However, in recent years some journalists who espouse antigovernment positions were physically attacked, apparently by members of nationalist groups, though there were no such incidents in 2013. Some journalists and editors in the TRNC have reportedly been summoned to the Turkish embassy and urged to tone down criticism of Ankara. In June, Channel T was sued by two DP Assembly members for airing an interview that suggested they had engaged in bribery.
A 1975 agreement with Republic of Cyprus authorities provides for freedom of worship, and the TRNC is a secular state. However, according to an April 2013 report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, religious activities of non-Muslims are subject to some regulations, and there are still disputes over the condition of Christian churches and access to religious sites. In January the United Nations Development Programme reached an agreement with TRNC authorities to restore the monastery of Apostolos Andreas. Academic freedom is generally respected, and there is open private discussion.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 9 / 12
Freedoms of assembly and association are generally upheld, though police have been criticized for disrupting protests and allegedly using excessive force. Nongovernmental organizations generally operate without restrictions. Workers may form independent unions, bargain collectively, and strike. Large protests and periodic strikes took place over government austerity measures in 2011 and 2012, but these were less pronounced in 2013. In June, some demonstrations in the TRNC expressed sympathy with the Gezi Park protesters in Turkey. Police briefly clashed with the demonstrators, but there were no injuries.
F. Rule of Law: 12 / 16
The judiciary is independent, and trials generally meet international standards of fairness. Turkish Cypriot police, who are under the control of the Turkish military, sometimes fail to respect due process rights, and there have been allegations of abuse of detainees. Lawyers’ associations and journalists have actively worked to remedy irregularities in the justice system.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 12 / 16
All European Union citizens, including Greek Cypriots, can now travel to the north by presenting identity cards and no longer require passports or visas. Most governments do not recognize TRNC travel documents, so thousands of Turkish Cypriots have obtained Republic of Cyprus passports since this option became available in 2004. However, in 2008, Turkey began forbidding Turkish Cypriots from leaving the TRNC through Turkey without TRNC passports. The only direct flights from the TRNC are to Turkey.
There is a right to private property. The TRNC formed a property commission in 2006 to resolve claims by Greek Cypriots who owned property in the north before the island’s division. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognized the commission in 2010 as an “accessible and effective” mechanism. As of September 2013, over 5,000 applications have been lodged with the commission, some 400 of which have been resolved.
A few hundred Greek Cypriots and Maronites continue to live in the TRNC. They reside primarily in their ancestral villages and face difficulties at border checkpoints, as well as alleged surveillance by TRNC authorities. There is some tension between native Turkish Cypriots and recent immigrants from Turkey, who, according to the 2011 census, make up 36 percent of the TRNC’s population.
According to Articles 171 and 173 of the criminal code, male homosexuality is punishable with jail time, although this law is rarely enforced. In July 2012, a case was filed with the ECHR against Turkey—deemed responsible for administering the TRNC—in an attempt to force the TRNC to decriminalize homosexuality. In April 2013 the TRNC government suggested it would change the law. However, as of the end of 2013, this had yet to occur.
Women have equal legal rights with men, but face discrimination. Women are underrepresented in politics, and no woman was named to the new government’s cabinet in August. This elicited protests from women’s organizations; subsequently, Sibel Siber, who had previously served as interim prime minister, was elected speaker of the Assembly. In 2011, the government adopted the Council of Europe’s Convention on Violence Against Women, but surveys suggest domestic violence is a major problem. The TRNC is a destination for trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution, and local officials have done little to address this problem. Abortion is legal, but married women must receive permission from their husbands.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year
See also the country report for Cyprus.