MPs condemn face-to-face identification of abuse suspects

An underage victim of sexual abuse was made to physically go through a police line-up of suspects and point out the perpetrator without any measures to conceal the victim’s identity, MPs said on Monday.

The complaint had been made to the House human rights committee, which immediately tabled the matter for discussion.

From a cursory investigation, it emerged that this is common practice by the police.

According to the account of the incident, also present at the line-up were officers of the Social Welfare Services.

Lawmakers were particularly irked on discovering that the face-to-face identification of suspects is specifically provided for in a police regulation, which was news to everyone.

MPs complained that the existence of this regulation never came up during the lengthy discussions held to formulate the national strategy for combating sexual abuse.

It also transpired that in some instances victims are required to tap suspects on the shoulder.

“We have received assurances that this process will not be used in the future,” said Anastasia Papadopoulou, Special Advisor on Child Protection.

According to committee chair Stella Kyriakidou, this is an unacceptable practice as not only can it re-traumatise victims, it also fails to protect their anonymity.

MPs have since addressed a letter to the justice ministry – responsible for the police – asking that the practice be immediately terminated, whether it concerns underage or adult victims.

Instead, said Kyriakidou, the identification of perpetrators should be done using a one-way reflecting mirror, where the victim can see the suspect but not vice versa.

For her part, Akel deputy Skevi Koukouma said the incident demonstrates that authorities in Cyprus have yet to grasp the meaning of sexual abuse victims’ rights or how such individuals should be treated.

She said the whole debacle might have been avoided had a single police officer trained in these matters been present at the line-up.

MPs expressed the…

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