Cyprus: bombing of the offices of KISA and previous intimidation and attacks against the NGO and its staff (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Cyprus on 14 February 2024. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. The Government replied on 18 April 2024.

Since the sending of the communication, no information as to advances in the investigation into the bombing at the KISA offices has been shared with the organisation. While a response from the Government to the communication was received, the authorities did not adequately address the questions included in the communication. The attack on the office of the NGO remains in impunity. The State must ensure that the perpetrators of the attack are brought to justice. 

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication Read the Government's response


Topic: the bombing of the office of the human rights organization KISA and previous intimidation and attacks against the organization and its staff.

KISA – Action for Support, Equality and Antiracism is a non-governmental organization established in 1998 to provide support to migrants, asylum-seekers, victims and potential victims of human trafficking in Cyprus, while also working to combat racial discrimination and xenophobia in the country.


On 5 January 2024, at 2.30 am, a bomb exploded at the offices of KISA in Nicosia, breaking the windows along the face of the office and seriously damaging equipment inside. None of the workers of the organization were present at the time of the explosion. A CCTV camera on the street in front of the office, which may otherwise have recorded the planting of the bomb, was subsequently found not to have been working for at least five hours before the explosion. In the aftermath of the bombing, there was no public reaction from the Government condemning the attack and no information note was issued by the police. One member of the organization’s staff was interviewed by the police on the day of the bombing, and others in the following days. However, no measures have been put in place to ensure their safety.

The attack on the KISA offices was not an isolated act, with at least one member of the organization receiving direct threats connected to their work, and the organization itself being targeted with smears by officials of the Republic of Cyprus and far-right groups, in particular since 2020.

On 24 February 2020, the then Minister of Interior of the Republic of Cyprus accused KISA of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood and of supporting Türkiye. This false accusation was then picked up by the media and far-right groups in Cyprus, who used the narrative created by the Republic of Cyprus to portray the human rights organization and its staff as enemies of the state, with physical attacks following.

On 24 July 2020, Mr. Polykarpou, the Executive Director of KISA, was attacked by a member of a far-right group during a demonstration organised by far-right activists against the opening of an accommodation centre for asylum-seekers in Aglantzia, a suburb of Nicosia. Despite the presence of police during the attack, they did not intervene to prevent it or to arrest the perpetrator. Although Mr. Polykarpou filed a complaint against the aggressor following the incident, court hearings in relation to his complaint have since been repeatedly postponed. Mr. Polykarpou has also received death threats, sent by far-right figures via direct messages over Facebook.

As detailed in the previous communication CYP 2/2019, in August 2019 Mr. Polykarpou was arrested and charged with obstruction of police work after peacefully intervening during the interrogation of an adolescent foreign national near KISA’s office, by a police officer against whom the organization had previously submitted a complaint for discriminatory behaviour. On 21 December 2023, Mr. Polykarpou was found guilty on the basis of the testimony provided by the police officer in question. On 23 January 2024, he was sentenced, with the court imposing a fine of €750 and €200 for court expenses. Mr. Polykarpou submitted an appeal against the judgement on 23 January 2024.

Mr. Polykarpou is also accused in a second case, concerning a visit he made to the Pournara refugee camp on 12 March 2022 to verify reports of inhumane conditions for asylum-seekers hosted there. During the visit, Mr. Polykarpou was violently pushed, manhandled, tripped, and threatened with more serious physical violence by a uniformed guard from the camp. Mr. Polykarpou immediately lodged a complaint against the guard at a local police station, only to be called back there the next day – 13 March 2022 – and informed that he was being prosecuted for crimes including illegal entry, common attack, disturbance and public insult, in relation to his visit to the Pournara camp.

At the time of writing, KISA remains excluded from the Registry of Associations, with its appeal challenging the decision of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Cyprus to exclude it following the introduction of new rules in 2017 and 2022 currently pending (see CYP 1/2021).


In the communication, we express grave concern regarding the attack on the offices of KISA, which we fear to have been carried out in direct retaliation for their human rights work and in particular their work in support of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Cyprus.

We express our serious concern for the safety of KISA’s staff and underline our worry and dismay at the alleged failure of the authorities to speak out in support of the human rights defenders in the aftermath of the attack.

We underline our fear that this attack appears to be the culmination of mounting intimidation and threats against KISA and its staff, in the context of the creation of a hostile environment for their work to see that the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are upheld in Cyprus.


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