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Greece: New report exposes alleged police brutality

A report published on Monday 30 March by Amnesty International reveals a pattern of serious human rights violations by Greek police and other law enforcement officials. The report highlights allegations of excessive use of force and firearms, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and denial of prompt access to lawyers.

Allegations in Amnesty’s report, Greece: Alleged abuses in the policing of demonstrations , include:

  • Two Amnesty International members beaten with truncheons during a peaceful protest;
  • A 23-year-old man beaten, kicked and punched by riot police, sustaining multiple facial injuries;
  • Lawyers detained and ill-treated by police, including being dragged along the ground and thrown into a police van;
  • Detainees prevented from speaking to their lawyers.

Amnesty is calling on the Greek authorities to launch a commission of inquiry to investigate recent incidents and more systemic issues such as police training, safeguards to prevent ill-treatment and access to lawyers for detainees. The call coincides with police and judicial investigations into the violent demonstrations that rocked Greece in December and January, sparked by the killing of 15-year-old Alexis Gregoropoulos by an officer serving as a special guard.

Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, said:

“Time and again police officers in Greece have been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators or denying them their rights when in detention.

“The police response to the recent unrest is the culmination of an entrenched pattern of serious human rights violations by law enforcement officials.

“These incidents should be used as a catalyst by the government to launch a wide-ranging commission of inquiry that would investigate not only recent events but also systemic issues, including training of police on the use of firearms and of force.

“The people of Greece have the right to proper policing in accordance with the government’s national and international obligations.” Since the end of the demonstrations last January, Amnesty International has been receiving mounting allegations of violations by police. The organisation has brought a number of cases from December 2008 and January 2009 to the attention of the Minister of the Interior, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, in which police officers were said to have arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated and detained peaceful demonstrators and prevented detainees, including minors, from promptly contacting their lawyers.

Amnesty International notes that the Greek authorities have both a responsibility and an obligation under international law to ensure the safety and security of people and property and acknowledges the difficulties faced by law enforcement officials while policing violent demonstrations. It is also the duty of the authorities under international law to ensure that the policing of demonstrations is carried out in a manner that complies with international standards, including those on the use of force.

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