Annual Report: Greece 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Greece 2011

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Head of state: Karolos Papoulias
Head of government: George Papandreou
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 11.2 million
Life expectancy: 79.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 5/4 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 97 per cent

Reports of excessive use of force and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued. Greece continued to lack a functioning asylum system. Substandard detention conditions at border guard stations and immigration detention centres remained a concern. Incidents of racial violence against migrants and asylum-seekers increased.

Background

The serious financial crisis in Greece led to the country requesting and agreeing a rescue package with the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The severe budget cuts adopted by the Parliament in May led to a series of demonstrations by trade unions before and after their adoption. On 5 May, three bank workers died during a demonstration in Athens against the austerity measures after some unidentified assailants threw a petrol bomb at the bank.

Armed opposition groups continued to carry out bomb attacks. In June, a parcel bomb explosion at the Ministry of Citizens' Protection in Athens killed the Minister's aide. Also in June, a Greek journalist was killed by armed attackers in Athens. In November, a series of parcel bombs, addressed to foreign embassies in Greece, the Parliament, international organizations and some heads of EU States were detected and destroyed by the authorities.

In March, new legislation entered into force which would allow migrant children to acquire citizenship if they met certain requirements.

Torture and other ill-treatment

There were reports of indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas and other chemicals and excessive use of force against protesters during demonstrations.

  • Excessive use of force against peaceful protesters was reported during the commemorative demonstration of the second anniversary of the death of Alexandros Gregoropoulos on 6 December. As a result, a number of protesters reportedly sought hospital treatment, including around 45 with head and other injuries, and around 30 as a result of the excessive use of tear gas and other chemicals. According to reports, some riot police officers beat and injured a photojournalist and a photographer covering the events.

Reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials persisted, including against members of vulnerable groups such as detained asylum-seekers and irregular migrants.

  • Allegations were made regarding the severe beating of several irregular migrants and asylum-seekers detained at the border guard station of Soufli on 16 August. The detainees had protested over their poor detention conditions. Two days later, three of them were allegedly beaten severely following a hunger strike started by the detainees on the day after the first incident of ill-treatment.
  • In October, a special guard was convicted of culpable homicide for shooting 15-year-old Alexandros Gregoropoulos dead in December 2008, and sentenced to life imprisonment. A second special guard was convicted of complicity in culpable homicide and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.

At the end of his visit in October, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture called for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and the establishment of an independent and effective police complaints mechanism. In December, a Draft Law provided for the establishment of a bureau dealing with incidents of arbitrary behaviour by law enforcement officials. Concerns remained over the independence and effectiveness of the proposed bureau.

Refugees and migrants

Substandard detention conditions in border guard stations and immigration detention centres remained a cause of concern, including overcrowding, prolonged detention in facilities not designed for long-term stay, lack of hygiene, lack of exercise and lack or limited access to medical care.