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Greece

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

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.

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