κείμενο παρουσίασης πριν τη συζητηση στρογγυλής τραπέζης:
Unavoidably the safety of human right defenders should become the first principle, whilst knowing that the recovery from any harassment is a far reached goal.
Since our last participation in the Human Right Defender’s Seminar of the Human Right Commissioner of CoE in November 2006, when we had reported about the conditions of working in an environment hostile towards human rights, especially given the human rights approach the organization is applies in matters related to women’s and immigrants’ rights, we faced further challenges.
Apanemi, both as an organization itself, its individual activists as well as -to a great extend- its service users have experienced harassment, especially by the Police and Ministry of Justice. This harassment was in the form of an arbitrary and prolonged investigation procedure, withholding of operational resources and/or means, withholding of EU funds owed to Apanemi following the completion and evaluation of EU co-funded programs, continuous defamation and immense personal pressure expressed in various ways.
During this period, Apanemi downscaled its operations as it has to rely exclusively on volunteers. Lack of funding forced it to close 3 centres, a woman’s shelter (twice), and a help line for victims of domestic violence. Yet it continues to advocate on behalf of gender-violence victims and victims of social exclusion. It offers support and services free of charge to individuals whenever possible, whilst organizing information campaigns and marches. It participates in regional and international forums, produces shadow reports, press announcements, blogs and after prioritizing it advocates for specific legal changes at the National level and regional and international level following the complain procedures available.
Some of the characteristic of the harassment
-The prolonged [2 years] arbitrary Police investigation against Apanemi and its officials on the ground of “how Apanemi administrated state funding” has been by itself a form of harassment. So far, no charges have been made nor has the case been dropped.
-Police officers attempted to pressure witnesses to take legal action against Apanemi – still without success
-Although neither Apanemi nor any of its representatives was ever charged of any illegal activity, the Police, through Mr. Costas Veis, the officer appointed head of the Department for the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence, at the Police Head Quarters, intentionally gave misleading, false and distorted information to the Press [specifically to the Cyprus Mail newspaper, in February 2008]
-The police maintains an open proceeding without informing the Prosecutor’s Office [In a letter addressed by the Attorney General dated 17/10/2008 to the Police, A.G asked to be briefed on the outcome of the “investigation” after a petition by Apanemi’s Lawyers Alecos Markides]
-Withholding of funds for completed projects [an amount of 90.000euro paid by or invoiced to the organization for the completion of two co-funded EU projects]
-Exclusion from the National Machinery of the Woman’s Right and related state funding [under the Ministry of Justice]
-Personal threats and accusations towards Apanemi’s board members or volunteers.
-A press release attacking Apanemi at the official website of the Police, full of insinuations in an attempt to defame Apanemi as a “for profit enterprise”.
-Indications of illegal phone tapping of .
In its effort to find the necessary remedies, Apanemi embarked on a prolonged recovery process involving:
-An appeal to the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament regarding the Police and Ministry’s of Justice’s harassment. The appeal was deemed admissible in ___2007/8.
-Having access only one parliamentary committee [the Legal Affairs Committee] is advocating in Law changes [it is excluded by the Human right and by the Equality Committee]
-Continuous advocacy activity in cases related to domestic violence, sexual abuse of minors, or immigrants’ rights.
-Filing a lawsuit by Apanemi against the Government of the Republic of Cyprus in an attempt to recover funds withheld at the Ministry of Interior, owed for the completion of a co-financed European Refugee Fund project.
-Filing a lawsuit by Apanemi against the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the semi-governmental (state funded and controlled) Youth Board of Cyprus following the arbitrary withholding of funds owed for the completion of an EU EQUAL-initiative project to promote youth employability
-Minister of Interior Neoklis Silikiotis on the 26th of May 2008 requested an opinion from Attorney General whether the funds owed for the completion of the European Refugee Fund project should be paid to Apanemi in the context of a settlement out of court. The Attorney General has not yet opined.
7/11/2008 Participation in the meeting of Minister of Justice and Minister of Finance regarding the inclusion of a gender approach in the State Budget
30/11/2008 Apanemi march [to the Presidential House]