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Thursday 23 May 2013

Amnesty International: the situation of human rights in Greece is deteriorating

Posted by @IrateGreek

The Greek chapter of Amnesty International organized a press conference to present the organization's annual report in front of the Aliens' Department in Athens today. This symbolic choice reflects Amnesty's key findings about the situation of human rights in Greece in 2013:
"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."

Key points of the report include:

Persistent reports of excessive use of force by the police during demonstrations. 

See related stories 

Persistent allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the Hellenic Police and systemic problems leading to impunity

See related story: #rbnews international show 6 October 2012

Multiple, serious concerns related to immigration, xenophobia and racist violence

  • Little progress towards establishing a fair and effective system of asylum determination procedures, persistent obstacles to registration of asylum applications and concerns over refoulement of asylum-seekers. 
  • Routine detention for long periods of asylum-seekers and irregular migrants, including unaccompanied children, together with new legislative provisions allowing for the detention of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers on grounds such as suspicion of carrying infectious diseases such as HIV and for the extension of the maximum three- or six-month period that an asylum-seeker can be held by a further 12 months.
  • Concerns about discrimination against people because of their perceived ethnicity due to the police sweep operation "Xenios Zeus" which was launched in August against undocumented migrants.
  • Persistent reports of inhuman and degrading conditions in immigrant detention centres and police stations where asylum-seekers and irregular migrants are held together with multiple breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights due to poor detention conditions in prisons
  • A dramatic escalation of the number of racially motivated attacks in 2012, in particular of attacks connected with extremist right-wing groups that act in an organized and planned manner, while victims with no papers have no protection from arrest and deportation for the duration of criminal proceedings, which, in any case, are often not even engaged. 

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Serious concerns over the stigmatization of people living with HIV AIDS, in particular in the case of the 29 women arrested in April-May 2012, whose personal details including their HIV status and photographs were published by the police and who were charged with intentionally causing serious bodily harm.

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Segregation or exclusion of Romani children from education and eviction of Romani settlements.

See related story: The Greek news bulletin 08-14 December 2012

Multiple reports of homophobic violence in Athens, there again connected with extremist right-wing groups, allegedly including individuals belonging to the Golden Dawn party.

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Repeated prosecution of conscientious objectors.

Several threats to freedom of expression

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We further discussed at length the issue of human rights in Greece with radiobubble's resident lawyer @xasodikis on the #rbnews international show on 24 November 2012.

It is noteworthy that a majority of individual incidents listed in the Amnesty International report occurred after the June 2012 elections, highlighting the current government's failure to preserve and protect human rights in the country.

In addition to the report, Amnesty International published a special ‘People on the Move’ series, highlighting the human rights violations faced by migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in every part of the world. The case of a Turkish asylum seeker in Athens is most enlightening:
Deniz*, a 47-year-old Turkish national, settled in the Greek capital Athens after leaving her homeland last year to escape political persecution.
Back in Turkey, she had worked to support political prisoners who were on hunger strike – actions which earned her several arrests by the Turkish police, who subjected her to torture in custody.
Less than a year after her arrival in Greece, in February this year police in Athens arrested Deniz after the Turkish authorities issued an extradition request for her. She was soon released on bail.
Two months later, on 22 April, she and her lawyer reported to Athens’ Exarheia police station in accordance with her bail conditions. Upon arrival there, she was informed there was a warrant out for her arrest, and she was promptly detained.
After around three hours, police transferred her by car to General Attika Police Directorate (GADA as it’s known by its Greek initials) because there was no cell for female detainees at the station. Deniz was taken to a room, apparently to be searched. She described the ill-treatment she then received.
Initially there was only one policewoman in the room with her. Although Deniz cannot speak Greek, no translator was provided.
According to Deniz, the policewoman searched her initially with her hands. When the policewoman asked her to strip naked, she refused, saying she was a refugee and did not want to take her clothes off.
Two policemen in civilian clothes were then called in to the room. “One of the male police officers was pulling me and the other, I believe intended to tear my clothes off,” she explained.
“I understood that they were swearing at me. The female police officer was holding my hair…. One of the male officers punched me in my face…. My beating went on for approximately five minutes. Then the guard from the Exarheia police station heard my screams, entered the room and tried to take me away from [them]….. I was then transferred again to the Exarheia police station where I spent the night.”
After her ordeal, Deniz filed a criminal complaint and had her injuries treated in a hospital.
She had visible signs of bruising on her face and arm when she recounted the incident to Amnesty International two days later.
At the end of April, the Council of Appeal Judges in Athens rejected the Turkish extradition request, meaning Deniz can remain in Greece. During the same week, the country's Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a public prosecutor against a decision of the Council of Misdemeanor Judges which refused the extradition of two asylum-seekers of Turkish nationality.
* A pseudonym has been used in this case

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