Annual Report: Greece 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Greece 2013

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HELLENIC REPUBLIC

Head of state Karolos Papoulias

Head of government Antonis Samaras (replaced Panagiotis Pikrammenos)

Allegations of human rights abuses by police, including torture and excessive use of force continued throughout the year. Migrants and asylum-seekers faced impediments in registering their asylum applications and were often detained in substandard conditions. Hate crime on the basis of race and ethnicity escalated dramatically.

Background

The economy was in crisis, and unemployment reached 26.8% in October. Further austerity measures were voted by Parliament in February and November, amid protests in Athens and other cities. In May, the European Committee on Social Rights found that austerity legislation relating to public sector workers violated various provisions of the European Social Charter.

Golden Dawn, a far right-wing party with an aggressive anti-migrant rhetoric, won 18 seats in the June parliamentary elections.

Excessive use of force

Allegations of the police using excessive force during demonstrations persisted.

  • In April, several journalists and photographers were attacked by riot police during protests held in Athens in memory of a 77-year-old retired pharmacist, who committed suicide. Marios Lolos, a photojournalist, suffered a serious skull fracture when a riot police officer beat him on the back of his head with a baton. No individual was arrested or charged for the attack.
  • On 5 August, riot police made excessive use of chemical irritants and reportedly fired rubber bullets and other impact rounds directly at peaceful protesters opposing gold mining operations in the Halkidiki region.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment against individuals including members of vulnerable groups such as migrants and asylum-seekers held in immigration detention persisted. Systemic problems leading to impunity remained, including the authorities' frequent failure to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations and to ensure the right to effective remedy. In January, the European Court of Human Rights held that the rape with a truncheon of an irregular migrant by a coastguard in May 2001 amounted to torture (Zontul v. Greece). In August, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Greece failed to investigate the complaint of ill-treatment and discrimination by the police of a Greek Romani man in 1999 (Katsaris v. Greece).

  • In March, a Mixed Jury Appeal Court in Athens acquitted two police officers of causing bodily harm under the provision against torture in the Criminal Code to two refugees at the Aghios Panteleimon police station, Athens, in December 2004. The officers had been found guilty at first instance.
  • In October, serious allegations of torture of 15 anti-fascist protesters by police at the General Police Directorate in Athens on 30 September came to light. Supporters of the protesters, arrested on 1 October, also alleged that they were subjected to treatment amounting to torture at the Directorate. The authorities denied the allegations, but an investigating judge requested that the Public Prosecutor bring criminal charges against the police officers involved in the human rights violations of the protesters.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

Despite reported improvements at the appeal level of asylum determination procedures, Greece made little progress towards establishing a fair and effective system. At the end of the year, the new Asylum Service had not yet started to process asylum applications, due to serious recruitment problems. The impediments faced by asylum-seekers when attempting to register applications persisted. For example, at the Attika Aliens' Police Directorate in Athens, only around 20 applications were registered by the authorities each week.

Individuals trying to enter Greece from Turkey across the River Evros reported that they had been pushed back to Turkey by the Greek authorities. A 10.5km fence along the land border with Turkey in the Evros region was completed in December. Concern remained that the fence would prevent people seeking international protection from reaching safety, and that it would lead them to attempt unsafe crossings.