Beware Greeks bearing truncheons

As our office is situated just up the road from Liverpool Street, I’ve been following reports predicting that it’s going to ‘kick off’ in the City during this week’s G20 meeting with considerable (self) interest. And if the Met really has warned protest groups that officers would be “up for it” on Wednesday when protests will be “very violent”, I think they may have a self-fulfilling prophesy on their hands. Not good. Thankfully I resemble a banker about as closely as my bank balance resembles Fred Goodwin’s.

If things do get nasty, the police have a difficult job to do. I’m not anti-police – they have a duty to protect the public and people’s property, and if things get out of hand this week, that job isn’t going to be easy. But policing a demo, even if it does turn violent, mustn’t be seen as an opportunity for officers to let off some steam and break some heads. There are UN guidelines on the use of force and they must be stuck to.

We’ve brought out a report today that might give the Met some guidance on how not to do it. Violent demonstrations flared up in Greece in December and January, sparked by the killing of a 15-year-old boy by an officer serving as a special guard.

The report, “Greece: Alleged abuses in the policing of demonstrations”, looks at allegations that the Greek police responded with excessive force. It also highlights reports of excessive use of firearms, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and denial of prompt access to lawyers. Here's what the BBC had to say about it.

In one case, 23-year-old Giorgos Gregoriades was arrested while walking
in central Athens with two friends long after the end of a demonstration in the area. Giorgos Gregoriades’ lawyer told Amnesty that as four to five riot police units confronted the dispersing crowd, some of whom had thrown stones, officers pounced on Giorgos and began to beat, kick, and punch him. As a result he received several injuries to his face. He was reportedly not allowed medical treatment for three hours after his detention and was initially refused contact with his lawyer and family.

We’re calling on the Greek authorities to launch an inquiry to into recent incidents and more systemic issues such as police training, safeguards to prevent ill-treatment and access to lawyers for detainees. Look out for another report on policing in France later this week.

I hope we won’t be needing a similar report on the UK in the coming months.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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