Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Greece

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its most recent visit to Greece (14 to 23 April 2015), together with the Greek authorities’ response. The ad hoc visit focussed notably on combating police ill-treatment, prison conditions and the treatment of juveniles deprived of their liberty.
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The CPT’s findings from the 2015 visit illustrate once again the widespread and deep-rooted problem of police ill-treatment in Greece and the report makes specific reference to the excessive use of force employed by the Delta motorcycle police unit in Athens. The CPT urges the authorities to fully acknowledge the phenomenon of police ill-treatment and calls for a comprehensive strategy and determined action to address it. The findings detailed in the report also demonstrate that the current system of investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials is characterised by a number of systemic failings by the police and judicial authorities. The result is that investigations often remain ineffective and the report is notably critical of the lack of action taken by prosecutorial authorities. Further, there has been no progress as regards the practical implementation of formal safeguards against ill-treatment, notably the rights of notification of custody, access to a lawyer and access to a doctor as from the very outset of deprivation of liberty.

In their response, the Greek authorities refer to their zero tolerance policy towards human rights violations. However, no concrete information is provided regarding the effectiveness of investigations into police ill-treatment allegations.

As regards prisons, the report highlights that the main problems of overcrowding and chronic shortage of staff persist. These problems compound other serious shortcomings, notably the insufficient and inadequate provision of health-care services and the widespread problem of inter-prisoner violence and intimidation. The CPT concludes that the Greek prison system is reaching breaking point and recommends that urgent steps need to be taken for its recovery in order to move away from the current situation whereby prisons in Greece are merely acting as warehouses. In addition to the development of a strategic plan for prisons, the CPT also recommends that the Ministries of Justice and Health review the state of prison health-care services. The situation in Korydallos Prison Hospital was such that the report compared the place to a dumping ground for sick prisoners who are subsequently neglected and not provided with the care required. The CPT recommends that urgent steps are taken to resurrect the prison hospital as a place of care.

The CPT welcomes the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to devise a strategic plan for the prison system and the clear statement of political will to tackle the systemic deficiencies, including as regards the provision of health-care services. The response of the Greek authorities confirms this approach, acknowledging most of the CPT’s findings with respect to the situation in prisons and outlining a range of recent or planned actions, which include both emergency measures taken and planned structural reforms.

The report also points out various shortcomings observed by the CPT concerning the situation of juveniles in detention, their exposure to ill-treatment by the police, the poor prison conditions in which they are held and the unacceptable conditions in which unaccompanied minors are placed. Further, a number of recommendations are made to improve the situation of foreign nationals held under aliens legislation.

In their response, the Greek authorities refer to a number of measures being taken to address the CPT’s recommendations.

The main findings of the CPT are set out in the Executive Summary of the report (also available in Greek).

The CPT’s report and the Greek authorities’ response have been made public at the request of the Greek Government and are available on the Committee’s website: