Photos: Reuters/ Yannis Behrakis
Greek police routinely exercise excessive violence, reads a new report by Amnesty International, which is the third in a row over the last ten years.
Despite the numerous cases of beaten people during detention or arrest, the Greek authorities are refusing to acknowledge how serious the problem is and create a climate of impunity, members of the international organization warned in the report entitled "Police violence in Greece: Not just "isolated instances." Victims are increasingly complaining of excessive use of chemicals and stun grenades, mostly against civilian participants in social protests.
In the past ten years, the European Court of Human Rights has found out that the Greek police have put at risk the lives of victims and tortured them in eleven cases. According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in two cases, Greece violated several provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The most frequent victims of police violence are demonstrators, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, and members of marginal communities such as Roma. Illegal immigrants do keep quiet for fear of revealing their illegal residence.
Many citizens caught during protests were beaten and then, the police did not allow them to seek medical and legal assistance.
According to the report, in most cases, the victims are unable to lodge a complaint against the attackers, because police officers do not carry the identification signs in order not to be recognized. The investigation of the case is assigned to the police, i.e. the victims have to give evidence to the same people who attacked them.
Recently, authorities have made media representatives the butt of their attacks. According to the Hellenic Association of Photographers, police have beaten 48% of them at least once. In 21% of these cases, a group of police officers carried out the attack and in 25%, the attacker was alone. The statistics do not include insults and sexist remarks to female photographers.
At least five journalists and photographers were victims of police violence last year alone. Three of the attacked media representatives had to undergo major surgery after being hit on the head. Journalist Manolis Kypreos suffered a total loss of hearing after a police officer threw a stun grenade at him during the demonstrations in June last year, although he had identified himself as a journalist.
The most tragic conclusion of the report is that the cases of police violence remain unpunished. In its recommendations to the new Greek government, Amnesty International notes that there is an urgent need for establishing an independent body to investigate victims’ complaints in an objective manner.
Amnesty International's Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia David Diaz-Jogeix also proposed the installation of video surveillance systems in police stations following the example of Great Britain, Spain and other European countries. "The government must ensure that during demonstrations, chemicals and stun grenades should only be used in accordance with international standards. Investigations of complaints should be conducted under the supervision of a judge or a prosecutor in order to ensure a neutral assessment of events and to sentence the culprits," he said.