Dozens of bystanders in Nicosia witnessed a police officer using excessive force against Sylvain Somé, from the Ivory Coast. They took photos, videos and complained to the local anti-racism NGO ‘Kisa’
as an officer broke his leg. From his hospital bed, the victim described it as a “racist attack".
In mid-afternoon on Wednesday November 27th, three police officers stopped an Ivorian on a busy road in the Greek Cypriot capital’s historic centre to ask for his identity documents. They checked his documents in their electronic system, and found he resides in Cyprus lawfully. Klitos Papastylianou, who works at Kisa
, told FRANCE 24 “racial profiling in Cyprus is illegal, but the police do it all the time. We get at least one complaint about it a week.”
below was published by Kisa, complete with Greek subtitles where the audio is poor. The video shows two officers and one African witness the officer breaking Sylvain Somé’s leg. Around one minute into the footage, an officer exclaims: “you broke his leg”, while the other shouts at his colleague “stop, are you an asshole?”.
Video published by Kisa showing a Cypriot police officer break Sylvain Somé's leg. At 1 minute 40, the footage shows passers-by complain at the police officer’s treatment of Sylvain Somé.
"The police here stop Africans, try to find something wrong, and then fine us"
Sylvain Somé has lived in Cyprus for seven years. He is married to a Cypriot woman.
I asked the police officers: “why have you stopped me like this?” One officer replied, the one who later broke my leg: “this is Cyprus! If you don’t like it, you can go back to your country, where you can teach the police how to behave.” I told him he hadn’t answered my question, and that I knew he had a job to do but that I had a right to speak freely. I didn’t want to end up handcuffed and taken to the police station, I just wanted to ask a question. The officer warned if I kept talking he’d arrest me, I replied saying I hadn’t done anything to be arrested for.
That’s when he threw me to the ground, and broke my leg. And then he started saying he would take me to the hospital in his car, and he was trying to handcuff me. I wasn’t going to get in his car with a broken leg, I wanted to wait for an ambulance! I didn’t trust him, he might have taken me to a detention centre and done worse things to me. I waited for an ambulance, which took me to Nicosia General Hospital.
I was stopped like a criminal. Imagine if I’d been with my daughter, who’s only a little girl. The police here are racist. It’s by no means the first time I’ve been stopped in the street: it’s happened to me dozens of times. The police here stop Africans, try to find something wrong, and then fine us. That’s what they do.
When FRANCE 24 spoke to Sylvain Somé two days after the incident, he was in hospital waiting to hear if he would need an operation.
According to Kisa, the local police department initially refused to accept Sylvain Somé’s complaint against the police officer who broke his leg. After Kisa intervened, the department agreed to receive the complaint but Sylvain Somé has still been charged with resisting arrest. It is not yet clear whether the officer will be investigated. France 24 has contacted the local and national police
to obtain a reaction to the case. We will publish their response if and when we receive one.
This article was written in collaboration with FRANCE 24 journalist Claire Williams (@clairewf24