CYPRUS: Human rights organisation KISA targeted by a bomb attack

Article written for the Civic Space Watch by Alexia Ozeel, ECFpublished on 10/01/2024.

In the early morning of January 5th, KISA, an organisation based in Nicosia, Cyprus, which works on anti-racism, migration, asylum, racism, discrimination, and human rights, was the target of a bomb attack, which completely destroyed their computers, photocopiers, archives, and the glass panels of their office.

According to KISA, the culprits remain unknown. However, they have said that the attack should not be considered a surprise to state authorities as they have been continually targeted by far-right, anti-migrant, and ultra-nationalist groups with threats, verbal attacks, and smear campaigns for “ fighting racism and advocating for the rights of displaced people for decades”.

Moreover, KISA expressed that state authorities “used all administrative and police measures at their disposal to create the conditions for the attack and to silence KISA”, such as removing KISA from the register of associations in 2020 and not allowing them to re-register, spreading false news and misinformation to demonise them, and more.

Although these incidents were reported to police and state authorities, no action or investigation has taken place.  

KISA has urged the authorities to condemn the attack and take precautions to prevent possible future attack on the organisation and its members. 

Civil society organisations and experts have reacted to this attack by showing solidarity to KISA, urging the government to start an investigation, and condemning the act as a serious concern for the safety of human rights defenders in the country.

ENAR (The European Network Against Racism) has released a statement condemning the attack. They shared their concerns with the lack of responses and coverage from key entities in Cyprus, including the government, Parliament, and mainstream media, in addition to the police’s refusal to issue an information note, which breaks away from its standard practices. Moreover, they emphasised the need for a “strong public condemnation at EU level” and called out the targeted smear campaigns and the judicial and adminstrative harassment by the authorities against KISA and its staff in the past years. Examples of this include when KISA President Mr. Doros Polykarpou was “arrested and prosecuted in 2019 for interfering in police business when he tried to help a minor in a stop and search incident by the police” and in March 2022 when he was “attacked by guards at the Pounara camp and subsequently indicted for the incident”.

Read KISA’s press statement here.