Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Mission to Greece)

United Nations
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Manfred Nowak (Special Rapporteur)
March 4, 2011

This report presents the findings and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, on his mission to Greece, from 10 to 20 October 2010. He expresses his deep appreciation to the Government for the full cooperation extended by the authorities during the course of the mission.

The Special Rapporteur understands the particularly overwhelming situation faced by law enforcement officials in Greece, confronted with a major increase of irregular migrants and refugees coming, mostly, via the land border with Turkey. Hundreds of aliens enter the country irregularly every day and their systematic detention puts the border guard stations, police stations, and migration detention centres in a situation of crisis.

The Special Rapporteur received numerous reports of ill-treatment by police officers, in particular in premises of Criminal Investigation Departments (CID), some amounting to torture in the sense of the Convention Against Torture (CAT) but with only little forensic evidence corroborating the allegations. The lack of evidence may be explained by the non-functioning system of police investigation and complaint mechanisms. This creates an environment of powerlessness for victims of physical abuse and may perpetuate a system of impunity for police violence.

In the police stations visited, he almost exclusively found foreign nationals and it seemed that the stations operate as facilities for detention awaiting deportation contrary to their normal function. In all but one facility under the authority of the Ministry of Citizen’s Protection (police stations, border guard stations and migration detention centres) he found foreign nationals detained in overcrowded, dirty cells, with inadequate sanitary facilities, no or insufficient access to outdoor exercise and inadequate medical attention. He found such conditions to amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of Articles 7 and 10 ICCPR.

He is particularly concerned about the situation of unaccompanied minors who are often not properly registered and systematically detained, often together with adults.

Greek prisons are severely overcrowded, some having to host up to three times more prisoners than their capacity. The pre-trial rate is very high and pre-trial detainees are not separated from those convicted in violation of Article 10 ICCPR.

The Special Rapporteur calls upon the European Union and UN agencies to promptly assist the country with its migration burden. He also urges EU member States to suspend all returns under the Dublin II Regulation and to design a fairer system of burden sharing with respect to receiving irregular migrants and refugees, as well as granting access to refugee determination procedures

Read the Report