The legal system in Cyprus is modelled on the British system known as Common law. In addition, being an EU member, Cyprus has harmonised its laws and regulations with the acquis communautaire. Cyprus, being a British colony until 1960, has inherited many elements of its legal system from the United Kingdom, including the rule of law, the adversarial system, the presumption of innocence, the right to fair trial and the right to appeal. Also Cyprus being an EU member state and a member of the Council of Europe, guarantees the observance of human rights and privileges based on the European Convention of Human Rights which are also part of the Cypriot Constitution, which is the supreme law of the country. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial, to be represented by counsel at public expense for those who cannot afford this, to confront witnesses and to present evidence in their own defence.
This includes various first instance Courts and the Supreme Court.
First Instance Courts which deal with civil procedures include the District Courts, the Administrative Court, the Rent Control Tribunal, the Industrial Dispute Tribunal, the Family Court and the Military Court. Each of the six districts of Cyprus has its own District Court. A new Commercial Court formation bill is expected soon to be approved so that the Commercial Court is created and commences its operation in 2018.
Each District Court has civil jurisdiction to hear and determine all civil actions, where the cause of action has arisen wholly or in part within the limits of the district where the Court is established, or where the Defendant, at the time when the action was filed, resides or conducts his business within the boundaries of the specific district e.g. civil disputes arising over land, contracts, trusts, negligence, libel, and other torts, EU law, human rights, etc etc.
The Administrative Courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine all in the whole of Cyprus i.e. they can adjudicate administrative recourses concerting any complaint that a decision, act or omission of any body, authority or person exercising any executive or administrative authority is contrary to any provisions of the Constitution or of any law, or has been issued in excess or abuse of powers vested in the body, authority or person concerned. Such jurisdiction covers the whole realm of governmental and administrative action in the public sphere, but excludes acts, decisions or omissions by public authorities relating to the private rights of individuals.
Each Family Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine all family matters that arise within the limits of the district where the Court is established, e.g. to take up petitions concerning the dissolution of marriage and matters relating to parental support, maintenance, adoption and property relations between spouses etc, provided that the parties reside in the Republic.
Each Rent Control Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear and determine all rental matters that arise within the limits of the district where the Court is established i.e. to try any disputes arising from the application of the Rent Control Laws.
Each Industrial Dispute Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear and determine all employment matters that arise within the limits of the district where the Court is established e.g. applications by employees for unjustified dismissal and redundancy payments etc.
A First Instance Court is also a Military Court that has jurisdiction to try military offences under the Military Criminal Code and any other offence committed by members of the armed forces within the limits of its district.
This includes first instance courts and the Supreme Court.
First Instance Courts which deal with criminal procedures include the District Courts (single judge) and the Assize Courts (three judges). All first instance criminal courts have jurisdiction to try cases that have arisen anywhere in Cyprus. No special courts exist for any offences and all offences are to be tried in one or the other of these courts according to the maximum sentence provided by law for the particular offence to be tried. Each District Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine all criminal matters where the maximum sentence provided by law is up to five years imprisonment. They can also try cases that incur higher penalties if the Attorney General gives his/her consent, but at any rate they can only impose a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. Each Assize Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine all criminal matters no matter what the maximum sentence is.
Appeals from all courts are made to the Supreme Court. No special Appellate courts exist, and the Supreme Court is unified in its competence. However, the Supreme Court allocates work in various internal divisions of itself. The Supreme Court is at the top of the pyramid of judicial power and all other courts of first instance are subordinate to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine all appeals from all inferior courts in civil (including civil, family, military, employment, rental, administrative, etc) and criminal matters. The Court can uphold, vary, set aside or order the retrial of a case as it sees fit. The Court can draw its own inferences from the facts outlined by the trial Court and in certain exceptional cases, it may receive further evidence.
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