Supreme Court Cyprus

Cyprus' Legal Landscape: Historic Restructuring of the Judiciary

On Tuesday 4th July 2023, the Cyprus Bar Association hailed the groundbreaking restructure of the island’s top tier of justice as “historic.” After six decades of unwavering operation, the judicial system is undergoing significant changes with the introduction of three new courts. The Bar Association is hopeful that this substantial shift will “strengthen law and order and further ensure compliance with fundamental principles such as accountability, transparency, independence, specialisation, and integrity of the judiciary’s work,” thereby enhancing people’s trust in the justice system.

However, Christos Clerides, the head of the Bar Association, noted that the reformation does not stop here. He emphasised that decentralisation and the acceleration of justice administration remain pressing challenges. As the Cypriot judicial landscape evolves, it becomes clear that the process of modernising the legal system is continuous and comprehensive.

The restructure involves the establishment of a Supreme Constitutional Court, a Court of Appeal, and a new Supreme Court Cyprus. Previously, the Supreme Court comprised 13 justices; this body has now been split into the Supreme Constitutional Court (with nine judges) and the ‘new’ Supreme Court Cyprus (with seven justices). This increased number of judges in the highest courts, now totalling 16, aims to de-concentrate the system, spreading functions and responsibilities that were once unified under one judicial body.

The new Supreme Court justices will primarily handle civil and criminal matters, enabling further specialisation. Meanwhile, their colleagues in the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) will focus on constitutional and administrative matters. This division of labour underscores the priority of enhancing specialisation within the judicial system.

Despite these positive strides, the Bar Association urges further reform, particularly within the lower courts. Additionally, the lawyers have called upon the state to increase funding for the courts to bolster the newly implemented changes and guarantee their effectiveness.

Under the new structure, the SCC will handle cases related to the constitution, as well as situations where the president vetoes a bill and refers it to the courts. The Court of Appeal will be responsible for hearing appeals against judgments from all courts, with the exception of the Supreme Court and the SCC rulings.

Starting in September, two additional courts will commence operation: an Admiralty Court and a Commercial Court. These additions represent a further step in the broad-based reform process that has characterised the Cypriot legal landscape.

The House passed the amendment for judicial reform last year, after years of deliberation and consultation. This change to the constitution permitted the reopening of the two supreme courts provided for in the Republic’s constitution—the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Justice. It also granted third-degree jurisdiction to these two courts for the first time.

These powers were previously merged into one due to the law of necessity following the withdrawal of Turkish Cypriots from the government in 1963. The current restructuring represents a significant milestone in the development of Cyprus’s legal framework, aiming to strengthen its judiciary and ensure the effective administration of justice for all citizens.


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