New Greek Government Must Address Routine Police Violence

Press Release
July 3, 2012

New Greek Government Must Address Routine Police Violence

In New Report, Human Rights Organization Examines 'Climate of Impunity' Surrounding Police Violations

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International today urged Greek authorities to address routine acts of police violence, including chemical sprays against largely peaceful demonstrators. In a new report, “Police violence in Greece: Not just “isolated incidents,” the human rights organization documents numerous accounts of people brutalized during arrest or detention.

Greek authorities refuse to acknowledge the extent of the problem. For far too long, they have brushed off such violations as 'isolated incidents,' creating a climate of impunity.

"The newly established Greek government must take the necessary steps to address the frequent failure by police and judicial authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia. "Failure to do this will lead to yet more violations going unpunished."

The severe austerity measures, introduced in the wake of the deepening economic crisis, have provoked largely peaceful demonstrations. Numerous allegations point to excessive force, including the use of chemical irritants and stun guns, used by police in response to the protests.

Demonstrators, especially those beaten or gassed by police, often cannot note the identification number of the offending officers, rendering them unable to report abuse. During arrest and detention, victims of police abuse have been denied access to a doctor or lawyer.

Manolis Kypreos, a journalist covering protests against the new austerity measures, told Amnesty International how on June 25, 2011, a police commander ordered an officer to throw a stun grenade at him. Kypreos had reportedly identified himself as a journalist before the attack. As a result, Kypreos suffered total loss of hearing in both ears, ending his career as a journalist.

This same ill-treatment is experienced by people accused of membership in domestic armed groups, and by members of vulnerable groups, such as migrants and asylum seekers.. Communities living on the margins of society, including many Roma, are at heightened risk of police violence.

Amnesty International knows of only a very small number of cases where law enforcement personnel have been charged with torture.Consequently, victims are losing confidence in the criminal justice system and becoming increasingly reluctant to report such incidents.

"Often officers responsible for criminal conduct remain unpunished and victims cannot receive effective remedy and reparation," added Diaz-Jogeix. "No one is above the law; least of all the very people empowered to uphold it."

Greek authorities must effectively address incidents of human rights violations by law enforcement officials and establish a truly effective and independent police complaints mechanism.

"Unless the Greek authorities make violations by law enforcement officials an absolute priority and address the systemic problems which permit them to happen, then impunity will prevail," concluded Diaz-Jogeix.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.