Amnesty International Report 2000 - Greece
|Publication Date||1 June 2000|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2000 - Greece , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0f5c.html [accessed 24 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Head of state: Konstandinos Stephanopoulos
Head of government: Konstandinos Simitis
Population: 10.5 million
Official language: Greek
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Legal proceedings continued against a member of the Turkish minority, Mehmet Emin Aga, for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of religion and expression. Conscientious objectors who refused to perform alternative civilian service of punitive length continued to face trial. There were further allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers. Conditions in some detention centres and prisons amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Lengthy investigation procedures into past human rights abuses raised serious concerns about impunity.
Freedom of religion and expression
Legal proceedings continued against Mehmet Emin Aga for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of religion and expression. The Supreme Court upheld sentences totalling 28 months' imprisonment imposed following four separate convictions for "usurpation of the function of a Minister of a known religion". Mehmet Emin Aga was allowed to pay a sum of money in lieu of terms of imprisonment. Appeals relating to additional cases remained pending at the end of 1999. Moreover, Mehmet Emin Aga had been charged in 1998 with four similar counts of the same offence, for which he was due to stand trial in 2000. The charges related to Mehmet Emin Aga carrying out "duties which by their nature apply exclusively to the legitimate Mufti" by "sending out to the Muslims of Xanthi written messages of a religious content" to mark religious festivals and signing them as "Mufti of Xanthi, Mehmet Emin Aga". AI takes no position on the procedures to be followed for choosing religious leaders and has no view on who is, or should be, the legitimate Mufti of Xanthi. AI's concern in this case is based solely on its belief that Mehmet Emin Aga was exercising his right to freedom of religion and expression and that if he were imprisoned he would be a prisoner of conscience.
Provisions of the law on conscription fell short of international standards, for example, the length of alternative civilian service remained punitive, and its application was discriminatory. Applications for conscientious objector status were rejected in cases where the applicants alleged they were unable to submit their documents in time because the relevant authorities refused to provide them with the certificate requested or because applicants were given unreasonably short deadlines. Applicants were subsequently charged with insubordination, which carries a sentence of up to four years' imprisonment. In at least 25 cases, conscientious objectors who performed alternative civilian service in health institutions were subjected to punitive measures which included working up to 68 hours a week, no right of leave and threats of revocation of their right to alternative service if they refused to comply with such conditions.
- Conscientious objector Lazaros Petromelidis wrote to the Navy Conscription Office in October 1997 stating that he was prepared to perform alternative civilian service. In May 1998, he was arrested for draft evasion while he was trying to obtain the necessary documents to complete his application to carry out civilian service. He was released on bail after five days and summoned to perform alternative civilian service for 30 months. However, Lazaros Petromelidis refused to perform a civilian alternative service which was punitive in length and did not start work at a health institution in Kilkis until January 1999. He subsequently lost his right to perform civilian service and was called up for military service. He refused to respond to the summons and was charged with draft evasion. In April Lazaros Petromelidis was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for insubordination, of which he served about two months before being released pending the outcome of his appeal against the sentence which was still pending at the end of 1999.
Torture and ill-treatment
There were allegations of ill-treatment by police; members of ethnic minority groups such as the Romani community were among the victims.
- In September, Nikos Katsaris, a 23-year-old Rom, his father, his 16-year-old brother and his 17-year-old cousin were ill-treated by police in Nafplio. Their car was reportedly stopped by three police officers for a routine check of papers. They were all ordered to get out of the car with their hands up. While they were being searched, Nikos Katsaris and his cousin were reportedly kicked and punched. When the father asked the officers why they were hitting them for no reason, one of the officers grabbed him by the hair and punched him repeatedly. Concerns about the case were raised with the authorities by Network DROM for the Social Rights of Roma and Greek Helsinki Monitor; no response had been received by the end of the year.
- In August, two British citizens were arrested by police on Crete. At the police station, they were kicked, punched, slapped, insulted and told in English "you sign and go to jail or you die" by the police, after they had refused to sign statements written in Greek, a language they could neither read nor understand. According to reports, no lawyer was present during their interrogation. One of the men was released on bail four days after his arrest. However, Michael Tonge was transferred to Neapoli prison where he was stripped naked and searched and forced to sleep on a blanket in the corridor. He was also told by a prison guard that he would be killed and would have his throat cut while asleep. The following day, he was taken to a cell six-metres square which he shared with 16 other detainees. Michael Tonge was then transferred to Korydallos prison, near Athens. He claimed that he remained handcuffed to his seat in the "crucifix position" during the 13-hour journey from Irakleio to Piraeus. While on the boat a police officer started to whip the legs of the prisoners with a rope covered in rubber. Michael Tonge was released pending trial in November.
Twenty months after the incident, no progress had been made by the authorities in bringing to justice the police officers suspected of the shooting and killing of Angelos Celal in Partheni in April 1998. In September the authorities stated that the investigation initiated in 1998 was still under way and was under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Order. Charges of manslaughter, attempted murder and illegally carrying and using weapons had also been brought against the police officers by the prosecutor in 1998. At the end of 1999 a date had still to be set for the examination of the police officers on these charges.
Conditions in some prisons and detention centres were so poor as to amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
- A prisoner in Iannena complained that overcrowding was so severe that some detainees were forced to sleep in corridors. He also alleged that the prison had only two toilets and no running water; that the food was insufficient; that prisoners had only restricted access to the exercise yard; and that reported cases of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS were left without adequate medical care.
- In April, 32 detainees went on hunger strike in protest at conditions of detention in Drapetsona where they were held pending deportation to their country of origin. Conditions reported at the centre which was allegedly used only for non-EU nationals included severe overcrowding; lack of natural daylight; insufficient sanitary facilities; lack of adequate exercise; restriction on visits; inadequate food; very poor ventilation; severely limited access to doctors or medical treatment; and no access to social services.
AI country report
- Greece: No satisfaction the failures of alternative civilian service (AI Index: EUR 25/003/99)