The Republic of Cyprus fully respects the constitutional right to privacy of communications expressed by the explicit provisions of the constitution and legislation, Attorney General George Savvides said on Wednesday, when asked about a meeting he had earlier on Wednesday with a delegation of the European Parliament’s PEGA committee. For his part, Deputy Research Minister Kyriakos Kokkinos, who met separately with MEPs, referred to the revision of the legislative framework for the supervision of surveillance companies.
Answering questions from journalists on the sidelines of the e-Law project launch ceremony held in Nicosia on Wednesday, Savvides said that “the van case is closed” and that “there is no question of new criminal charges”.
“What I told the committee is that as a country and as Attorney General I am fully aware of the importance of preserving the right to private communication. If at any time I find that there is any evidence that could reasonably lead to the initiation of criminal investigations or even criminal prosecutions I am at their disposal and we will be in touch wherever we need to talk and if there is such information, we will take those steps that are required,” he continued.
He also stressed that the Republic of Cyprus fully respects the constitutional right to privacy of communications expressed by the explicit provisions of the constitution and legislation, as well as the many safeguards required by the constitutional legislator in order to allow for the interception of private conversations.
Referring to the meeting with the PEGA committee, Savvides said that “I had the opportunity to receive the large group of MEPs, I gave them an analysis of both the work of the Attorney General” and the constitutional and legislative framework “which determines how interception works, that is, under what strict conditions the right to private conversation can be violated”.
“I explained to them about the investigations we conducted in relation to the van and answered a series of questions from MEPs within the legislative framework that binds me” and also based on “the legislative framework that defines their own competences,” he noted.
The Attorney General also clarified that a distinction must be made between a criminal investigation and an inquiry committee. “Investigative committees are by law given evidence of what the investigative committee did. A criminal inquiry is something completely different, the legal framework completely separates it by saying that (the report from a criminal inquiry) is fully protected by its holder, which in this case is the Attorney General,” he said.
Review of legislative framework by March-April 2023, said the Deputy Minister of Research and Innovation
According to Deputy Minister of Research and Innovation Kyriakos Kokkinos, PEGA committee has shown understanding that Cyprus “has these companies, but there is a legal framework of operation and a supervisory mechanism for these companies and we have explained this framework”.
In remarks on the sidelines of the e-Law project implementation event, he said that “at the same time we have emphasised and they have welcomed the fact that these two frameworks are under review and a bill will soon be in Parliament to further strengthen the legal framework”.
He further clarified that the legal framework is fully compatible with the European acquis, adding that “we are just going to make it even stronger”. He said that the new legislative framework will be ready in March-April 2023.
During the meeting with the committee, he said PEGA has raised a number of questions and they have all been answered, in their own words, adequately and “they are satisfied”.
He said that there have been countries that have not accepted the committee and finally said that “they have praised the fact that they have been accepted by the Attorney General and also have stressed their satisfaction that Cyprus is the only country that answered the questionnaire that they sent two months ago.
Police began investigating the case of the “spy van” in November 2019. February 2022, Larnaca criminal court imposed a 76,000 euro fine on WiSpear Systems Limited, a company selling surveillance systems, over the “spy van” case. In November 2021 the data protection authority had imposed an administrative fine of 925,000 euro on WiSpear for GDPR violations. In the same year, the attorney-general dropped all charges against three individuals in connection with the case.
Source: Cyprus News Agency