2003 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven


556. By letter dated 4 September 2002 sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information on the condition of detention of foreigners in Attica General Police Directorate on Alexandra Avenue in Athens. It was reported that although the centre had been designed to hold some 80 inmates, approximately 150 men were detained there. They were said to be distributed in 19 narrow rooms of approximately 12 square metres and some were also believed to actually spend their day time and sleep on the floors of the corridors. In particular, it was alleged that 12 detainees shared four single mattresses in one of the corridors. Reportedly, such overcrowding had led to unsanitary conditions that might threaten the detainees’ health. It was reported that the centre was infested with cockroaches. Soap, toilet and laundry were allegedly bought by the detainees themselves from police officers at high prices. As far as the food was concerned, detainees were reported to have complained about the amounts and type of food served as being nutritionally deficient. Detainees were also believed to be deprived of exercise, educational programs, fresh air and enough light after the sunset. Further, it was reported that they had no proper access to physicians or to their counsel and did not receive information regarding the reasons and length of their detention, their family members or the status of their asylum claims when such claims had been filed.

557. By the same letter, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had also received information on the Korydallos Prison in Athens, where a number of undocumented migrants were allegedly held. Although many of them had allegedly already served their sentence, they were reportedly housed in Korydallos prison as they could be deported in view of the situations in their respective countries. They were reported to live in severe overcrowding conditions. The prison, reportedly designed to house 640 inmates, was allegedly housing over 2,200 prisoners. It was reported that most of the foreigners detained in Korydallos Prison were not informed about their current legal status and about the length of their detention.

558. By letter dated 6 November 2002, the Government transmitted information regarding the conditions of detention in General Police Command of Attica and Korydallos Prison. The detention of aliens pending deportation is a major concern for Greek authorities and efforts are being done to minimize their prolonged periods of detention. Orders were given to police regional agencies to carry out inspections in all detention facilities; to give further strict orders and clear instructions to their existing services concerning the sanitary and equipment conditions of all detention facilities; and to monitor their implementation. In addition, a senior officer has been ordered to conduct a local inspection of all facilities where aliens are detained pending deportation. As far as the detainees’ meals are concerned, the board allowance was reportedly doubled in 2001 with a view to improving the quality and quantity of food. When a detainee falls ill and adequate health care is not possible in the place of detention, the detainee is transferred to the nearest hospital. According to the law, police officers are obliged to allow and facilitate detainees’ communication with their relatives and the consulate of their country. However, these rights are said to be restricted when the investigating work is compromised. The Government also informed that a program is being implemented to improve the building infrastructure of the Hellenic police. On the other hand, the jail located at the 7th floor of the Security Command of Attica at Alexandra Avenue will be decommissioned in the next future.

559. By letter dated 13 September 2002 sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on racism, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information on the following individual cases, to which the Government responded by letter dated 28 November 2002.

560. Lazaros Bekos and Eleftherios Kotropoulos, two Roma youths aged 17 and 18 respectively, were reportedly beaten during their detention in Mesolongi police station on 8 May 1998. A forensic report allegedly confirmed that they sustained injuries. It was also reported that, upon two Sworn Administrative Inquiries (SAI) conducted by the police, two police officers were placed on temporary suspension and two other officers were sanctioned with a fine. In addition, three police officers were reportedly indicted for bodily harm after the two youths pressed charges. The Director of the Security Service at the concerned police station, was allegedly tried for these alleged, although he was believed to have been acquitted for lack of evidence on 8 October 2001.

561. The Government informed that while the minors had not filed a complaint during their detention, or at the prosecutor’s office, a medical report conducted at the State Hospital of Mesolongi stated that they were bruised. A second medical report, produced after the consultation of a private doctor indicated that they suatined ecchymoses. Following a written denunciation by a non-governmental organization, an administrative inquiry was conducted. No definite conclusions could be drawn as to when, how and by whom the minors’ moderate injuries had been inflicted. Nonetheless a disciplinary sanction was imposed to the Commander of the Security Department of Mesolongi for insufficient supervision and control of his subordinates, since their injuries had been probably inflicted during their detention, although the possibility that they had been caused during their arrest, in which citizens participated, cannot be ruled out. This sanction was revoked after the minors testified under oath that he had not participated in their questioning. Criminal proceedings were instituted against three police officers. The case was brought to the Judicial Council, which discharged two police officers and committed to trial the Commander of the Police Station. He was later acquitted by a three-judge court of appeal in Patras, because it was ascertained that the injuries documented by the coroner were most probably caused during their arrest, as they both engaged in a violent fight.

562. Andreas Kalamiotis, a Roma, was reportedly beaten with hands and truncheons and kicked in front of his wife and children by police officers on 15 June 2001 in Pefkakia, Agia Pefkakia region. He was allegedly taken to a police station where he was believed to have been insulted and threatened by a police officer. On the following day he was reportedly taken to the police headquarters in Athens and before a public prosecutor. He was allegedly accused of resisting arrest, insulting and threatening the police authorities. Reportedly, when he went to the forensic service in Aghias Anapafseos street, he was told that before being examined he had to submit a complaint to the Police Station of Agia Paraskevi, which he allegedly avoided for fear of retaliation.

563. The Government informed that he had been arrested after police had arrived at his home following a complaint by neighbours that he was disturbing their peace by playing loud music. As he opposed resistance, he was handcuffed and brought to the Police Station. A criminal case file was opened against him for resistance against the authorities, insult and threat and he was brought before the competent public prosecutor, who instituted criminal proceedings against him and committed him to trial. The administrative inquiry revealed that the two police officers who had participated in the arrest, detention and committal of Andreas Kalamiotis had acted legally, as he had used violence against them and refused to comply with their orders. According to the inquiry, the scratches he had suffered had been caused by the resistance he offered to avoid being handcuffed by the policemen and his fight with them. The Government further informed that during his detention and when he was brought before the public prosecutor he did not ask to file a complaint against police officers or to be examined by a doctor.

564. Theodore Stefanou, a 16-year-old Roma, was reportedly punched and slapped in the face during 15 minutes by a police officer and in presence of two other officers in a police station of Argostoli on 4 August 2001. Later on that day, he was allegedly beaten again while being interrogated and before being released. It was reported that according to a medical report, he was found to be suffering in particular from a head injury caused by beating. On 7 August 2001, he allegedly pressed charges against the Commander of the Argostoli Police Station. Reportedly, four other Roma relatives, Nikos Theodoropoulos, aged 18, Nikos Theodoropoulos, George Theodoropoulos and Vasilis Theodoropoulos were also arrested and taken to the same police station. Nikos Theodoropoulos was reportedly taken to a room where the police commander and another officer allegedly interrogated, beat, punched and slapped him and stepped with their boots on his almost naked feet. He was reported to have been kept in custody and to have been beaten again when he allegedly said that he would not sign anything without the presence of a lawyer. The other person named Nikos Theodoropoulos was reportedly beaten as well.

565. The Government informed that the SAI that was conducted to investigate the denunciations revealed that they were ungrounded, as the persons that were allegedly abused testified under oath that no one had mistreated them, except for minor Theodoros Stefanou, who claimed that a policeman had used violence against him, in the presence of the Commander, an allegation that was not corroborated by any other witness statement, although at least five more Romas were present in the Department during his stay there. According top the certificate issued by the Hospital of Argostoli, where Stefanos Theodorou went after leaving the Security Department of Argostoli, his examination showed that he was suffering from “a reported head injury, caused by beating 12 hours before. He complains about dizziness and strong headache”. According to testimonies by other witnesses and to his statement, when he went to the Security Department his arm was tied and he was in pain, which (in conjunction with the possible time of infliction of the injuries according to the hospital’s certificate) leads to the conclusion that they had been caused under unspecified circumstances before he voluntarily went to the Security Department that day.

566. By letter dated 17 September 2002 sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information on the following individual cases.

567. Arjan Hodi, an Albanian national, was reportedly arrested by two police officers on 27 March 2001 in Mytilene and taken to Mytilene police station, where he was allegedly beaten with a truncheon by one police officer. He was reportedly released one hour later, severely injured. It was alleged that on his way home he lost consciousness and that he had to be subsequently hospitalized. Reportedly, on 29 March 2002, criminal proceedings were started against the officer allegedly responsible as well as against other police officers who were present when Arjan Hodi was allegedly being beaten. However, the alleged victim reportedly withdrew the criminal complaint he had filed after the above- mentioned police officer apologized and paid for his hospital fees. Although the withdrawal of the complaint did not halt criminal proceedings in this case, the investigation was said to have stagnated. In October 2001, the prosecuting authorities in Mytilene reportedly stated that this officer would probably not testify to the investigating judge before early 2002, due to many other pending cases. An administrative inquiry reportedly concluded that two officers had unlawfully arrested and tortured Arjan Hodi, referred the case to a Disciplinary Board, and recommended the dismissal of one of them from service, and a lesser sanction for the other officer.

568. Rangasamy Nadaraja, a Tamil from Sri Lanka, was reportedly arrested on 12 June 2001 at Venizelos airport in Athens where he was in transit from Bangkok to France. He was believed to have been subjected to torture by public officials in Sri Lanka. Reportedly, following his arrest in Greece, he was taken handcuffed to the airport police station where, out of fear, he signed documents that he could not understand since they were in Greek. On 15 June 2001, he was allegedly brought before a judge, who sentenced him to four months’ imprisonment or a fine (which he was unable to pay). It was reported that he had no legal representation and an interpreter who only spoke to him in English, a language which he understands only poorly. Reportedly, on 13 July 2002, as he refused to board the plane and be deported, he was kicked by one of the guards that escorted him. He was reportedly pushed and shoved by the other guards. It was further reported that he was eventually returned to the airport police station cells where he was kept until 9 August 2001 when he was allegedly transferred to the Hellenikon Holding Centre, at the former Athens airport. He was released in mid-September on the expiry of the maximum period - three months - allowed for detention pending deportation.

569. Ardal (also spelled Erdan) Akgun, aged 17, Ozgan Eshik (also spelled Isik Ozcan), aged 17, Hanafi Alton (also spelled Altun Hanifi), aged 36, Bülent Sahin, aged 27, Halil Gilgil, aged 20, Farhad Damir, aged 18, Gehad Korlalg, aged 26, Khalid Bagish, aged 29, Mehmet Nuri Aktay, aged 29, and Rahme (also spelled Rahmi) Tunc, aged 29, were among a number of foreign nationals, including women, children and asylum-seekers, that were reportedly beaten by coastguards in the old Academy of the Merchant Navy at Souda, Crete, in May-June 2001. On 6 June 2001, they were allegedly examined by local doctors, who allegedly observed injuries on at least 16 of them that were apparently consistent with their allegations. Five migrants were reportedly transferred to hospital for further medical check-ups and treatment. On 8 June 2001, the Chief of the Port Authority reportedly ordered an administrative inquiry after a non-governmental organization allegedly publicized its concerns about this incident. Reportedly, the group, allegedly composed of 164 persons, was subsequently moved to the premises of the old airport of Hania, where migrants were believed to be detained in a room of 100-150 square metres, with only three toilets, and no possibility of exercise in the open. It was alleged that women and children were held together with men and conditions were further aggravated by the high summer temperatures. By mid-June all members of the group were reported to have been transferred to Athens. Reportedly, the Ministry of the Merchant Navy stated that an administrative inquiry had been undertaken and that disciplinary proceedings had been started against one ranking officer and five coastguards for “irregular performance” of their duties. The Chief of the Port Authority was however reported to have concluded that the officer had used violence “in a non-preventative manner” and had concealed the incident, while five coastguards were guilty of physical or emotional abuse, homophobic denigration, and inflicting a “military-style punishment” (forcing one of the detainees to hop like a rabbit). It was reported that one officer and one coastguard had each been punished with 20 days’ confinement to barracks, and the other coastguards with 30 to 50 days’ jail.

570. Refat Tafili, a 16-year-old Albanian national who reportedly arrived irregularly to Greece in December 2000, was reportedly pushed to the ground and kicked, in particular on his stomach and legs, by three plainclothes police officers who allegedly raided a house in the Aghios Stephanos quarter of Athens on 8 February 2001. It was also reported that his eyes were dazzled with an electric torch. He was allegedly taken to the police station in Aghios Stephanos and turned out onto the street when he started being seek. Early the next morning, he was reportedly admitted to the intensive care unit of the General State Hospital of Athens, where he was diagnosed a double rupture of the spleen, and where he allegedly underwent an emergency operation for its removal. On 17 February 2001, he was reportedly rearrested while he was about to leave the hospital and taken to Papagos police station, Athens, to be detained pending deportation, and to Police Headquarters in Athens, where he allegedly filed a complaint against three officers. Reportedly transferred to Aghia Paraskevi police station, he was allegedly held in a cramped and unhygienic cell, together with five adult immigrants, denied food as well as his prescribed medication, and only allowed to leave the cell twice a day to go to the toilet. As a result of the serious deterioration of his health condition, he was reportedly taken in handcuffs and with a high fever and internal bleeding to the Sismanoglio Hospital, where he remained until 5 March 2001. On 26 February 2001, following the appeal filed by his lawyers against the deportation order issued by the Ministry of Public Order on 22 February, he was allegedly granted leave to remain in Greece for a further six months. It was reported that criminal proceedings were initiated by the police department and that an administrative inquiry had been opened.

571. Ferhat Çeka, a 67-year-old Albanian pensioner, was reportedly shot and wounded on 8 March 2002, when he was apprehended by soldiers close to the military outpost of Aghia Ioanna, shortly after crossing irregularly into Greece. It was reported that a dog caught him by his jacket and that a group of soldiers proceeded to search him, allegedly taking everything he had on him, including his passport. He was reportedly ordered to lie face down on the ground and subsequently kicked and beaten with rifle-butts on his side, back and shoulders. He was later reportedly ordered to stand up and walk and was then shot with a pistol while he was on his feet. Reportedly, he was left lying on the ground until a military doctor came and tried to bring him the first medical aid before he was transported to the hospital in Kastoria, where he underwent an operation. It was reported that while he was in the hospital, he was reportedly questioned without the assistance of a lawyer or of an interpreter and he was asked to sign a document he could not understand because it was written in Greek. A medical report issued by the hospital allegedly confirmed that he was admitted with a bullet wound and underwent an operation in which his right kidney was removed as well as part of the right lobe of the liver. It was believed that in March 2002 the Greek military authorities initiated an administrative inquiry into this incident. Without being made public, the results of this inquiry were reportedly forwarded to higher military authorities for review and subsequently to the Military Prosecutor of Thessaloniki. It was alleged that the latter had not yet decided whether to initiate criminal proceedings.

572. Afrim Salla, a 15-year-old Albanian, was reportedly wounded by border guards on the night of 7 June 2001 when a group of 12 Albanians crossed the border into Greece irregularly. It was alleged that the border guards fired at them, hitting Afrim Salla in the spine. The teenager was allegedly found some hours later by the border guards and taken to hospital in Kastoria, from where he was later transferred to the hospital in Thessaloniki, where he underwent an operation. His injuries were alleged to have left him permanently paralysed from the waist down. His family allegedly filed a civil claim on his behalf for compensation. The case file was reportedly forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office in Kastoria, which allegedly ruled that there were no grounds for bringing charges against any border guard. This decision was reportedly confirmed by the Appeals’ Prosecutor.

573. Kreshnik Shenaj, a 17-year-old Albanian from Fier district, was reportedly beaten by soldiers of a border patrol shortly after he irregularly entered in Greece in November 2000 along with three other Albanians. Allegedly, the four migrants were taken to a small barrack, where they were kicked and beaten again. Kreshnik Shenaj was reportedly forced to run in the direction of a nearby wood by a soldier who allegedly fired close to the teenager’s feet. Reportedly, he was chased by a police dog that bit his left leg, releasing him only upon the order of a soldier. On 18 November, the four Albanians were reportedly transported to Kakavija border post. From there, Kresnik Shenaj was reportedly taken to the hospital in Gjirokastra (Albania), where he was interviewed two days later still in state of shock.

Urgent appeals

574. On 4 July 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants on behalf of Joseph Emeka Okeke, a Nigerian deportee detained at the General Police Directorate of Attica (GADA). On 25 June 2002, he was allegedly kicked and beaten with a large rectangular black object that had two claw-like extensions that reportedly transmitted electric shocks. He was then reportedly taken to Eleftherios Veniyelos Airport, where he was put on an Alitalia flight. Due to protests by the Alitalia stewardesses, notably concerning the fact that his feet and hands were tied and handcuffed respectively and that the police tried to tape his mouth shut, he was reportedly taken off the aircraft. He was then taken to the Pallini Police Department, where he was told to face the wall and kneel down. A policeman reportedly kicked him hard in the ribs and continued to beat him. He was eventually transferred to the General Police Directorate of Attica (GADA) detention centre. He reportedly filed a complaint against the treatment he had received. The Minister of Public Order has reportedly ordered a SAI be carried out by a high-ranking officer to investigate these allegations and that a medical examination of Joseph Emka Okeke would be carried out by two forensic surgeons on 27 June 2002. Police officers allegedly responsible reportedly threatened Joseph Emeka Okeke who was subjected to several hours of interrogation and intimidation, without the presence of his lawyer. Rotimi Alakia, an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone who witnessed the alleged treatment of Joseph Okeke had also reportedly been threatened and harassed by police officers, in order to ensure that he would not testify during the SAI or in court.

575. By letters dated 14 and 26 August 2002, the Government responded that Okeke Joseph-Emeka had resisted three deportation attempts. The police involved in the deportation procedure had acted within the law to bend his resistance. The violence exerted was absolutely necessary for the execution of the deportation. Two forensic doctors attested superficial scratches resulting from the physical fight between the officers and Okeke Joseph in putting handcuffs around his wrists. There was no indication of the use of electroshocks, a method unknown in Greece, at least for the last few decades. Furthermore, Okeke Joseph stated that he did not intend to press charges.

576. On 17 April 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal on behalf of Ömer Berber and Mehmet Genç who had allegedly been conditionally released from prisons in Turkey for six months on health grounds, after they took part in a hunger strike in protest against a new prison system for political prisoners. They had reportedly been convicted of membership of an armed opposition group. At the time the Special Rapporteur sent this urgent appeal, they were reportedly detained in Dimartiko police station awaiting their forcible return to Turkey, where they were alleged to be at risk of being arrested for illegally leaving Turkey and of being subjected to torture or other ill- treatment, in view of the fact that detainees seen as pro-Kurdish or belonging to extreme groups are said to be at particular risk of illtreatment.


577. The Special Rapporteur acknowledges the detailed information provided by the Government. The Special Rapporteur notes the concerns of the Committee against Torture expressed in May 2001 after its consideration of the third periodic report of Greece under the Convention against Torture as follows: “[a]lthough the domestic legislation provides a satisfactory framework for protecting human rights in general and of certain Convention rights in particular, difficulties in effective implementation, which may amount to a breach of the Convention remain, including the following: (a) Evidence that the police sometimes use excessive or unjustifiable force in carrying out their duties, particularly when dealing with ethnic and national minorities and foreigners; (b) The harsh conditions of detention in general and, in particular, the long-term detent ion of undocumented migrants and/or asylum-seekers awaiting deportation in police stations without adequate facilities.” (A/56/44, para. 87)

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small logo   This report has been published by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights on August 2, 2005.