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21st Jun 2021

Greek prisons accused of abusing detainees

  • Prison conditions in 2020 degraded due to budget cuts, says report (Photo: Jumilla)

Greek authorities have been accused of beating prison detainees, including allegations of asphyxiation whereby people are deprived of oxygen.

The charges were outlined in the annual overview report on Thursday (6 May) by the anti-torture committee at the human rights watchdog, Council of Europe.

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The committee said it had received credible allegations of abuse during detention or questioning, noting that detained Roma and foreign nationals were especially at high risk.

"These included some allegations involving baton blows to the soles of the feet (falaka) and the application of a plastic bag over the head of a suspect during police interview," stated the report.

The same committee had reached similar conclusions late last year, following an ad hoc visit in March to over a dozen police stations and migrant detention centres.

The visit coincided with Turkey shuffling thousands of potential asylum seekers to, and across, the Greek land border near Evros, amid widespread allegations of pushbacks.

At the time, it said detained migrants in the Evros region and on the island of Samos could amount to "inhuman and degrading treatment."

Thursday's probe also set out guidelines for the EU to help prevent such abuse.

The European Commission had proposed creating an "independent monitoring mechanism" to prevent illegal pushbacks at the border.

EU lawmakers and member states are currently formulating their own positions on the proposal.

Leading MEPs on the file previously said member states are unhappy with the idea, creating a possible deadlock between the co-legislators later on.

For it to be effective, the anti-torture committee says monitors will need to be allowed to carry out unannounced inspections and have access to all files.

It must also be free from any institutional connections with state authorities, it added.

The report had also looked at general population detainees, describing Greek prisons as overcrowded, understaffed, and prone to severe violence.

"Most cases of alleged police ill-treatment were not the subject of a criminal prosecution," it noted.

Aside from Greece, the committee had also visited prisons in a handful of other EU member states including Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

Countries like Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine were also probed.

An overall assessment by the committee found that budget cuts, along with the impact of the Covid-19, has degraded prison conditions in general.

It said standards like clean drinking water, adequate food, decent sleep conditions, are among the basic minimum requirements that prisoners need to be provided with.

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