The Cyprus Judicial System


  • Andrew Demetriou, Attorney at law
    Partner at Ioannides Demetriou LLC


Cyprus is a common law jurisdiction, the legal system being a remnant of the island’s British colonial heritage. Cypriot law is reliant on precedent extracted from the English common law for stability and finality. To this effect Article 29 of the Courts Law of 1960 (Law no.14/1960) was enacted incorporating the English common law as well as the English principles of equity into the Cypriot legal system.  Cyprus employs a two tier Court system. The first tier is constituted by the District Court as the Court of first instance for civil matters and the Criminal Court as the Court of first instance for criminal matters. The second tier is the Supreme Court where leave to appeal resides as of right.

Civil Jurisdiction

In the District Court cases are heard by a single District Court Judge sitting alone unless the Supreme Court directs otherwise. District Courts, with the power vested under Article 21 of the Courts Law of 1960 (Reference no. 14/60), have jurisdiction to hear cases in the following circumstances:

  • To hear cases arising within the geographical boundaries of their district or if the defendant or one of the defendants in an action resides or conducts business within those boundaries.
  • To hear cases arising, wholly or partly, within the British Sovereign Bases area if any party to the action is Cypriot.
  • In motor vehicle cases within the British Sovereign Bases area if any person involved was or should have been insured under the Motor Vehicle Law
  • To hear cases if the action lies, wholly or partly, within the British Sovereign Bases area and arises out of an accident or illness plaguing an employee which occurred at a time or period of work during which his/her employer should have had him insured.
  • In cases of marital affairs, to hear a case in the Court of the district in which the parties reside or had their last known address in. If there is no firm residence then any District Court can try the claim.
  • In cases of land disputes, if the dispute concerns chattel situated in their own district.


Criminal Jurisdiction

The District Court can also try criminal cases if the Attorney General so directs. If a District Court is acting in its criminal capacity it can only try cases which warrant a prison sentence of 5 years or less or a fine of €100.000,00 or less. In some circumstances the Supreme Court can also directs a District Court to try admiralty claims. The Criminal Court, when in session is constituted by one president of the District Court and two Senior District Judges or two District Judges appointed by the Supreme Court. The Court is always presided over by a president of the District Court. Judges sitting in the Criminal Court when not hearing criminal cases, act as Judges in the District Court as well. The Criminal Court, through Article 20 of the Courts Law of 1960 (Reference no. 14/60), has jurisdiction to hear cases in the following circumstances:

  • When the wrong has been committed within the boundaries of the Republic of Cyprus.
  • When the wrong has been committed within the British Sovereign Bases area and the plaintiff or the defendant is Cypriot.
  • When the wrong has been committed by a Cypriot who is at the service of the Republic of Cyprus in any other country.
  • When the wrong has been committed on a plane or ship which is registered in the Republic of Cyprus.
  • In any other circumstance permitted under Cypriot law.



When the decision of a Court of first instance is appealed to the Supreme Court the hearing at the Supreme Court is a complete retrial at which the appellate Court can ignore any findings of fact from the Court below it, allow the admittance of new evidence and finally make any orders or decisions it sees fit to make.

Limitation of Actions

The latest piece of legislation to influence this field of law in Cyprus is the new Limitation Act of 2012 (Reference no. 66(1)/2012). This law came into force on the 1st of July 2012. Under this statute for the purposes of limitation time starts running from when the basis of the action is constituted. The constitution of the basis of the action can be an elusive concept to grasp at time and is subject to change and modification according to the circumstances. In cases of fraud committed against the claimant so as to prevent him from discovering that a cause of action is available to him time starts running from the date on which the claimant could have discovered, with reasonable diligence, that he had a claim against the defendant. Time for this purpose will also start running if a representative of the claimant, with reasonable diligence, could have discovered the cause of action. In cases where the claimant is incapacitated and considered incapable in the eyes of the law time does not start running until he is once again capable. Within the act an incapable person is one who is under 18 or is suffering from a mental or physical impediment which renders him unable to take command of his own property and conduct his own affairs. In the case of civil wrongs the general rule is that no action may be brought after a period of six years has elapsed from the date on which the basis of the claim came to be. If the claim concerns compensation for negligence, annoyance or breach of institutional duty no claim may be brought after a period of three years has elapsed from the date on which the bases of the claim was formulated unless the person who was wrong did not have knowledge of the wrongdoing at the time. In such a case time starts running from the time which the claimant received knowledge of the claim. In cases of personal injury or death brought about by committing a civil wrong the Court is vested with a discretionary power to extend the limitation period after it has taken into consideration the time of delay in filing the claim along with the period of incapacity of the claimant, or the deceased accordingly. Within the act the Court is also granted a general discretion independent of all sections of the act under which it can extend the limitation period for a further two years from the date on which it expired if it considers it just and reasonable to do so under the particular circumstance of each case. 

Transitional Provisions relating to Limitation of Actions

Owing to the fact that these provisions were enacted very recently a provision was inserted into the act that allows for a transitional period in order to bridge the chasm between the old order regarding limitations and the new developments in the law. As far as this transitional period is concerned all claims may be brought within a year of enactment of the act, that is until the 1st of July 2013, even if previously they would have been statute barred.

Pre -Trial Procedure

The Cypriot legal system has extensive regulations regarding pre trial procedure. Actions in civil matters are commenced using to forms, the so called O2.6 and O2.1 forms. The O2.6 form allows for the serving of the summons with the statement of claim attached. The O2.1 form permits a party to serve the summons and also stipulate a later period on which the statement of claim will be filed. This period is usually 15 days. Any summons or notice to be served or given to any person may be served or given at his address for service if he has furnished one, and if he has not then at his last known or usual place of residence or, if this is impossible, with the leave of the Court or Judge obtained ex parte, in any one of the ways in which service or notice of a writ of summons may be effected or given. And everything done on any proceeding whereof notice has been served or given according to Civil Procedure Rules shall be binding on a person so served or notified, whether he attends on the proceeding or not. If the furnish address contains instantaneous means of communication such as a fax machine number then service may be effect through such means as well. If a party ordered to make discovery of documents fails so to do, he shall not afterwards be at liberty to put in evidence on his behalf in the action any document he failed to discover or to allow to be inspected, unless the Court is satisfied that he had sufficient excuse for so failing, in which case the Court may allow such document to be put in evidence on such terms as it may think fit.  An application for an order to inspect documents except such as are disclosed in the pleadings, particulars or affidavits of the party against whom the application is made, shall be founded upon an affidavit showing of:

  • What documents inspection is sought,
  • That the party applying is entitled to inspect them,
  • And that they are in the possession or power of the other party. When it comes to witnesses any party in a cause or matter who desires the issue of a summons requiring any witness or person to attend for examination, or to produce any document, shall deposit a written application for the issue thereof with the Registrar of the Court.


Interlocutory Relief

Section 32 of the Courts of Justice Law L.14/60 confers power on the Court to grant an injunction “in all cases in which it appears to the Court just or convenient so to do”. However, no such injunction is granted unless the pre-conditions laid down by the Courts are satisfied (see below). It is well established the doctrines of equity are applicable in Cyprus in virtue of section 29 of Law 14/60. The interlocutory injunction, like all other injunctions is the offspring of equity.

When is a mandatory injunction granted by the Courts?

Where the injury done to the plaintiff cannot be estimated and sufficiently compensated for by damages, or is so serious and material that the restoration of things to their former condition is the only method whereby justice can be adequately done, or where the injury complained of is in breach of an express agreement, the Court will exercise its discretion and grant a mandatory injunction. It is well-settled that the granting of an injunction, of this nature, is a matter of judicial discretion. The jurisdiction to grant a mandatory injunction is exercised with caution and is strictly confined to cases as explained above.

What are the pre-conditions to be satisfied in order for the Court to grant an interlocutory injunction?

By virtue of section 32 the Court has the power to grant an injunction of a temporary nature, perpetual or mandatory in proper cases. However, as already stated no such injunction should be granted unless the following pre-conditions are satisfied:

  • A serious question arises to be tried at the hearing.
  • There appears to be “a probability” that plaintiff is entitled to relief and lastly,
  • Unless it shall be difficult or impossible to do complete justice at a later stage


without granting an interlocutory injunction. In such claims the Applicant must satisfy the Court that all three pre-conditions of the aforementioned article are fulfilled in order for the Court to exercise its discretion and decide whether to grant an injunction.

Mareva Injunction

By virtue of article 32(1) of the Courts of Justice Law, the Court may under its discretion make a Mareva Injunction. This type of injunction prohibits the defendant to move his assets outside the jurisdiction of the Court. All the pre-conditions laid down in the aforementioned article are still applicable and must be fulfilled. However, the discretion of the Court to make a Mareva Injunction is exercised with circumspection and always with due regard with specific aims of the law, notably an aid to the process of execution designed to forestall action likely to undermine the efficacy of the judicial process. However, until 1987 there was no precedent to support the view that any such injunction could be made for the assets of the defendant outside the jurisdiction. After 1987, English case law was changed to give power to the Court to order Mareva injunction for assets outside its jurisdiction but only in special circumstances. This modern approach was adopted by the Courts of Cyprus taking into account the fact that there was nothing in article 32 of Law14/60 to indicate that this type of Mareva injunction could not be expanded to include also assets outside the jurisdiction.

Trial – Evidence

I. What is the applicable law of evidence?

The Evidence law in Cyprus is enshrined in the Evidence Law, Cap. 11. Additionally, the Courts of Justice Law L.14/60, section 29 (1)(b) states that the Courts of Cyprus, in all civil and criminal proceedings shall apply the following:t

  • The Constitution of Cyprus
  • The Law that are still applicable under section 188 of the Constitution
  • The Common Law and the principles of Equity Law
  • All applicable law in Cyprus before 1960


The Criminal Code 154, article 3, and the Interpretation Law, Cap.1, also influence the reception of evidence in Cypriot proceedings.

II. What language is used by the Courts?

According to paragraphs 1 and 4 of Article 3 of the Constitution, the official languages of the Republic are Greek and Turkish. In the case that the parties are Greek all proceedings are conducted and judgments are drawn up in the Greek language and in the case of Turkish parties in the Turkish language. However, in the event that the parties are both Greek and Turkish, the language used is both in Greek and Turkish.

III. What are the minimum rights according to the Constitution?

By virtue of article 12 of the Constitution every person charged with an offence has the following minimum rights:

  • To be informed promptly and in a language which he understand and in detail of the nature and grounds of the charge preferred against him;
  • To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
  • To defend himself in person or through a lawyer of his own choosing or if he has no sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given free legal assistance when the interests of justice so require;
  • To examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
  • To have free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.


IV. What are the general rules for the examination of witnesses?

Generally, the witnesses at the trial of any action or at any assessment of damages are examined viva voce and in open Court, but the Court or a Judge may at any time for sufficient reason order that any particular fact or facts may be proved by affidavit, or that the affidavit of any witness may be read at the hearing or trial, on such conditions as the Court or Judge may think reasonable.




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