Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture: Greece / June 2012

Committee against Torture
27 June 2012 / Document CAT/C/GRC/CO/5-6

Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention
Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture: Greece

Allegations of torture and ill-treatment, impunity
10. The Committee expresses its serious concern at persistent allegations of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials during arrest or detention, including in the premises of the Criminal Investigation Departments (CID). The Committee is also concerned at the limited number of such cases that have been prosecuted, the very limited number of final convictions, and the lack of sanctions due to mitigating circumstances etc, in cases where there have been convictions. The Committee notes that this does not correspond to recent decisions and rulings from international bodies, including the Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights, as well as persistent allegations and extensive documentation received from other sources. The Committee also reiterates its concern at the continued reluctance of prosecutors to institute criminal proceedings under article 137A of the Criminal Code and that only one case has resulted in a conviction under this article. In addition, the Committee shares the concern of the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture regarding the limited forensic evidence available to corroborate allegations of ill-treatment amounting to torture (arts. 1, 2, 4, 12 and 16).
Ill-treatment of undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, minorities and Roma
12. The Committee expresses its concern at repeated and consistent reports of ill-treatment of undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and Roma by law enforcement officials, including in detention facilities and in the context of regular police checks in the streets of urban settings, in violation of the Convention. The Committee is also concerned at information of widespread reluctance by victims to file complaints due to an absence of a safe complaints mechanism, insufficient number of interpreters, and a lack of trust in authorities. The Committee further regrets the increase in manifestations of xenophobic and racist attacks against foreign nationals, irrespective of their status, including by citizens’ groups and far-right groups, according to findings of the quasi-official Racist Violence Recording Network. Furthermore, the Committee notes with concern that the Muslim minority in Thrace is the only recognized minority group in the country (arts. 2, 12 and 16).
Prompt, impartial and effective investigations
13. While noting the establishment of an Office, within the Ministry of Citizen’s Protection, responsible for addressing allegations of arbitrariness against law enforcement personnel, the Committee expresses its concern at information that the Office is not yet operational, that its mandate is reportedly limited to ruling on the admissibility of complaints and that cases will be transferred to the relevant disciplinary bodies of the security forces for further investigation. The Committee thus remains concerned at the lack of an effective independent system to investigate complaints of torture, ill-treatment or excessive use of force and it is concerned at the deficiencies in according protection from ill-treatment or intimidation to victims as a consequence of filing a complaint or giving evidence (arts. 12 and 13).
Conditions of detention
14. The Committee reiterates its serious concern at the failure of the State party’s authorities to improve the conditions of detention in its police stations and prisons. The Committee is particularly concerned that the level of prison overcrowding, despite some improvements in certain facilities, remains alarming. The Committee also expresses its serious concern at the deplorable material and sanitary conditions in many police stations and prisons, insufficient staff levels, including medical professionals, and lack of basic supplies (arts. 2, 11 and 16).
Access to a fair and impartial individual asylum determination procedure
18. The Committee recognizes the challenges and burdens that the State party faces as the main entry point into Europe for many migrants and asylum seekers due to its geographic location, and it welcomes the efforts made to improve the asylum procedure in terms of quality and promptness. However, the Committee notes with concern that asylum seekers face serious obstacles in accessing the asylum procedure due to structural deficiencies and non-functioning screening mechanisms at the Greek border areas and at the Attika Aliens’ Police Directorate (Petrou Ralli). Such obstacles include the absence of procedural guarantees, including free legal aid, interpretation and sufficient information, as well as the requirement of a fixed address. The Committee notes that the State party has cleared some of the backlog of pending asylum cases and appeals, including through the establishment of the second instance Appeals Committees, but it regrets that thousands of cases are still pending. It also remains concerned at the low refugee recognition rates (art. 2).
19. The Committee notes with serious concern that individuals have frequently not been able to enjoy full protection under the relevant articles of the Convention in relation to expulsion, return or deportation to another country. The Committee reiterates its concern at the State party’s implementation of its forced return procedures, including through means of direct deportation and application of its readmission agreement with Turkey. It is also concerned that persons who are subjected to forced return do not enjoy effective procedural guarantees to access legal remedies or access to the asylum procedure and that they do not have free legal aid or effective information provided through interpretation services. Consequently, they are not able to effectively appeal against orders of deportation and/or consequent detention. The Committee is concerned that these individuals are at a heightened risk of refoulement, including chain refoulement (art. 3).
Administrative detention of asylum seekers and migrants
20. The Committee expresses its concern at the current detention policy applied to asylum seekers and migrants in an irregular situation, including reports that asylum seekers at border locations are routinely subjected to long periods of administrative detention. The length of detention, in combination with the deplorable conditions of detention, amounts to inhuman or degrading treatment and constitutes a serious hindrance for asylum seekers to apply for asylum. Furthermore, the Committee is seriously concerned at the appalling conditions in the detention facilities, including regular police and border guard stations throughout the country, and particularly in the Evros region, in terms of severe overcrowding, insufficient staff levels, lack of basic supplies, as well as inadequate medical, psychological, social and legal support (arts. 2, 11 and 16).
Detention on public health grounds
21. The Committee expresses its concern at a recent legislative amendment whereby a migrant or asylum-seeker can be detained if he or she represents a danger to public health when he or she suffers from an infectious disease or belongs to groups vulnerable to infectious diseases (arts. 2 and 16).
Unaccompanied asylum seeking minors
22. The Committee is particularly concerned that unaccompanied or separated asylum seeking minors are often not properly registered and are systematically detained, often in mixed immigration facilities with adults. The Committee is also concerned that the transitional Presidential Decree 114/2010 did not introduce a statutory prohibition regarding the detention of these minors and that the limited number of special reception centres for unaccompanied minors contributes to their prolonged detention. It is further concerned that many unaccompanied minors end up homeless and living in the streets where they are often exposed to heightened risks of exploitation and violence (arts. 2, 11 and 16).

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