Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports, however, that at times police mistreated and abused undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, demonstrators, and Roma (also see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons and section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).
On July 17, the Hellenic Police Directorate for Internal Affairs reported investigating 201 cases of police abusing their authority from 2009-17. In these cases 69 percent of victims were foreign nationals. One example in the report described police physically abusing a foreign national, using racist language against him, briefly detaining him without charges, and subsequently abandoning him in a deserted area without his mobile phone. In his annual report for 2017 the ombudsman, who is entrusted with the independent investigation of abuse of authority by law enforcement staff, described the behavior of law enforcement staff in 15 cases as torture.
On July 27, human rights activists reported on social media that four armed police officers surrounded two refugees of Kurdish and Afghan origin outside the Archeological Museum in the center of Athens. Police reportedly asked the refugees to lie on the ground to be searched and then severely beat both with their batons, shouted insults, kicked one in the head, and dragged both into a police car. Social media reports indicated police told the refugees, “We’re going to count to 10 and you have to disappear.” Photos on social media showed bruises on the face, head, chest, back, and shoulders of both refugees.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions, including holding cells, did not consistently meet national or international standards. Problems included severe overcrowding; insufficient security; lack of access to health care, especially mental, maternal, and reproductive healthcare; inadequate access to food and sanitation; inadequate supplies of resources such as blankets, clothing, and hygiene products; and lack of recreational activities. There were allegations of police mistreatment and physical and verbal abuse of migrants and refugees, including minors, at police stations and detention facilities throughout the year (also see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons).
Physical Conditions: According to government statistics published in June, prisons were slightly over capacity: nationwide, prisons can accommodate 9,935 individuals and in June they housed 10,198 inmates. In an annual report for 2017 published on March 26, the ombudsman noted that prisons did not have enough medical doctors, nurses, sociologists, and psychologists to provide 24-hour care. On February 7, media reported an investigation initiated by judicial authorities into the death of an inmate in a Larissa prison cell. The 26-year-old had reportedly died on February 2 due to a tooth infection that turned fatal. According to NGO “Solidarity Network for Prisoners,” the man did not receive proper and timely treatment.
Police detained undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in reception and identification centers (RICs) until they were registered, and these individuals continued to live in these RICs, but with freedom of movement on the island pending transfer to the mainland. Overcrowding continued to be a problem in detention and registration centers. According to some government and nongovernmental agencies–including parliamentarians, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Doctors without Borders, and Human Rights Watch (HRW)–overcrowding resulted in substandard and often precarious detention conditions, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and unaccompanied minors. The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights noted in a report issued November 6 that “serious overcrowding combined with poor hygiene conditions, insecurity and despair put the human rights of the … residents at high risk” in Moria RIC on Lesvos island. The commissioner also “observed with great concern that living conditions in reception camps present significant risks to people’s health, which are exacerbated by very difficult access to primary healthcare services.” On June 7, HRW issued a statement denouncing the authorities’ routine confinement of asylum-seeking women with nonrelated men in the Evros region, putting them at risk of sexual violence and harassment.
On September 29, a Syrian man was killed in the mainland camp of Malakasa by other residents of the camp during a fight.
Authorities assigned some underage asylum seekers to “protective custody” in the same quarters as adults or in overcrowded and under-resourced police stations with limited access to outdoor areas. Throughout the year, NGOs such as HRW reiterated findings from previous reports that unaccompanied minors under protective custody often lived in unsanitary conditions and faced problematic access to medical treatment, psychological counseling, or legal aid.
Police also detained rejected asylum applicants due to return to Turkey, some migrants waiting to return home under the International Organization for Migration’s Assisted Voluntary Return program, and migrants suspected of committing a crime in preremoval centers, which suffered from the same issues of overcrowding, limited access to outdoor areas, unsanitary conditions, and limited access to medical treatment, psychological counseling, and legal aid.
Administration: Independent authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights published bimonthly detention-related statistics on the occupancy rate and the design capacity per prison.
Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted independent authorities and nongovernmental observers to monitor prison and detention center conditions. The government controlled access to RICs and official migrant and asylum seeker camps for NGOs, diplomatic missions, and foreign and domestic journalists, requiring them to submit formal access requests with advance notice for each specific site. Authorities rarely denied or postponed access. From April 10 to 19, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) visited detention facilities across the country. Its report noted wide disparities in conditions across the country’s detention centers and raised particular concerns about conditions in RICs, preremoval centers, and holding cells in local police stations.
Improvements: The government made several administrative and legislative improvements to conditions in prisons, including access to education for convicts. On March 2, parliament passed legislation establishing K-12 education and vocational training centers in all prison facilities. On March 5, the Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights Secretariat General for Anticrime Policy instituted a telemedicine program in four prisons, in cooperation with three major hospitals in Athens and the Ministry of Health.
As of April 26, 40 inmates at 11 detention facilities around the country had been enrolled in distance learning programs on donated computers in cooperation with Hellenic Open University (HOU).
The government passed legislation on April 5 providing for the subsidization of 50 percent of tuition fees for a maximum of 20 prison employees per year to attend university distance courses on public administration, anticrime, and penitentiary policies via the HOU.
The Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights launched a new round of training seminars for 700 prison staff in seven cities on mental health issues, crisis management, and treatment and reintegration of inmates.
On July 4, media reported a ministerial decision by the secretary general for penitentiary policy to require that protective isolation cells for inmates with mental disorders have natural lighting, a bed and toilet, and camera monitoring. At year’s end, the government was in the process of making the necessary changes to the isolation cells. In cooperation with the Hellenic Psychiatrist Society and the Special Monitoring Committee for the Protection of the Rights of People with Mental Disorders, the government also announced training for prison staff on how to treat inmates with self-destructive behavior.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Police are responsible for law enforcement, border security, and the maintenance of order and are under the authority of the minister for citizen protection. The Coast Guard is responsible for law and border enforcement in territorial waters and reports to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Island Policy. Police and the armed forces, the latter of which are under the authority of the Ministry of Defense, jointly share law enforcement duties in certain border areas. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, Coast Guard, and armed forces, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse.
NGOs reported incidents of security forces committing racially and hate-motivated violence. In a March 28 report, the most recent available, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN), a group of NGOs coordinated by UNHCR and the National Commission for Human Rights, reported that law enforcement officials committed 10 of the 102 incidents of racist violence recorded in 2017. Victims in these incidents included, among others, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, a refugee, a UNHCR employee, and a male member of the Roma community. Police statistics were higher, reporting 184 potentially racially motivated incidents in 2017, 24 of which involved law enforcement officials as perpetrators. No further data on internal investigation results or penalties for offenders were available.
In a 2017 report, the ombudsman reported 117 allegations of law enforcement officials abusing their authority in nine different detention facilities. Charges included, inter alia, 15 cases of alleged torture, 15 cases of gun use, and 53 incidents related to the endangerment of human life and bodily integrity.
NGOs, universities, international organizations, and service academies provided police training on safeguarding human rights and combatting hate crimes and human trafficking.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and requires judicial warrants for arrests, except during the commission of a crime. The law requires police to bring detainees before a magistrate, who then must issue a detention warrant or order the detainee’s release within 24 hours of detention. Detainees are promptly informed of charges against them. Pretrial detention may last up to 18 months, depending on the severity of the crime, or 30 months in exceptional circumstances. A panel of judges may release detainees pending trial. Expedited procedures may be applied to individuals accused of misdemeanors. Individuals are entitled to state compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. There were no reports that police violated these laws.
Detainees may contact a close relative or third party, consult with a lawyer of their choice, and obtain medical services. Since police are required to bring detainees before an examining magistrate within 24 hours of detention, the short time period may limit detainees’ ability to present an adequate defense in some instances. Defendants may request a delay to prepare a defense. Bail and restriction orders are available for defendants unless a judicial officer deems the defendant a flight risk.
Rights activists and media reported instances in which foreign detainees had limited access to court-provided interpretation or were unaware of their right to legal assistance. Indigent defendants facing felony charges received legal representation from the bar association. NGOs and international organizations provided limited legal aid to detained migrants and asylum seekers.
Arbitrary Arrest: The government placed some unaccompanied minors into “protective custody” in local police stations (see section 1, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, Physical Conditions).
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention resulting from courts being over-burdened and understaffed remained a problem. The court authorized pretrial detention under certain conditions, including when there was a flight risk or when the court was concerned that the suspect could commit additional crimes. Pretrial detention was only used for felony charges and negligent homicide cases. In the case of acquittal through a final court decision, the affected individual may seek compensation for time spent in pretrial detention. Some legal experts criticized what they considered excessive use of this measure. In addition, compensation procedures were time-consuming and the amounts offered were relatively low (9-10 euros ($10.35-$11.50) per day of imprisonment). Based on Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights statistics, approximately 30 percent of those with pending cases were in pretrial detention in January 2017.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Observers reported the judiciary was at times inefficient and sometimes subject to influence and corruption. Authorities respected court orders.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law grants defendants a presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to be informed promptly and thoroughly of all charges. Delays were mostly due to backlogs of pending trials and understaffing. Trials are public in most instances. Defendants have the right to communicate and consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner and they are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Lawyers, whether chosen by the defendant or appointed by the state, are given adequate time and space inside prison facilities to consult with their clients and prepare a defense. The government provides attorneys to indigent defendants facing felony charges. Defendants may be present at trial, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and question prosecution witnesses. Defendants have the right of appeal. Defendants who do not speak Greek have the right to free interpretation through a court-appointed interpreter, although some NGOs criticized the quality and lack of availability of interpretation.
A new law enacted October 11 limits the use of sharia (Islamic law) to only family and civil cases in which all parties actively consent to its use.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The judiciary was generally independent and impartial in civil matters. The law provides citizens with the ability to sue the government for compensation for alleged violations of rights. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies including the European Court of Human Rights.
The law addresses property restitution, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported the government made progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. Many Holocaust-era property claims have been resolved, but several issues remained open. The Jewish community of Thessaloniki had a pending case against the Russian government for its retention of the community’s prewar archives. Additionally, the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw held a number of religious artifacts allegedly stolen from the Jewish community of Thessaloniki in 1941; the community requested the return of these items. The Organization for the Relief and Rehabilitation of Jews in Greece (OPAIE) also claimed more than 100 properties owned by Jews before the war, but now occupied by government facilities. The Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of OPAIE for one of the properties, and the Jewish community has proposed the formation of a committee to discuss the disposition of the other properties.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.