Abusive police raids on Romani communities in Greece

03 October 2000

On July 6, 2000, at about 6:00 AM, a special unit of the Thessaloniki General Security raided the Romani settlement by the Gallikos river in Thessaloniki, searching for drugs, weapons, and suspects. About one hundred Roma were taken into police custody. It was later ascertained that a few of the detainees had prior offences for unpaid trading taxes or driving without a license. No weapons or drugs were reportedly found during the operation and no one was charged with any crimes. On July 7, the Prefectorial Authority of Thessaloniki issued a statement denouncing the absence of a public prosecutor during the July 6 raid and defining it as an "unmitigated violation of the sanctuary of the family." In a letter to the Thessaloniki police on August 11, the Greek Ombudsman's Office called the raid "a possible indication of the stereotypical view that links Romani people to serious criminal offences." The Gallikos Romani Association Aghia Sofia, with the assistance of the ERRC and the Greek Helsinki Monitor, submitted a complaint to the Greek Ombudsman's Office. As of October 10, there had reportedly been no disciplinary action or criminal proceedings against any of the police officers who took part in the raid.

On June 27, 2000, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released a report on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, antisemitism and related intolerance in Greece. Among other Roma-related concerns, ECRI mentioned the frequents reports that Roma are victims of police misbehaviour in Greece. "In particular, Roma/Gypsies are often reported to be victims of excessive use of force - in some cases resulting in death - ill-treatment and verbal abuse on the part of the police. Discriminatory checks involving members of these groups are widespread. In most cases there is reported to be little investigation of these cases, and little transparency on the results of these investigations. Although most of these incidents do not generally result in a complaint being filed by the victim, when charges have been pressed the victims have reportedly in some cases been subjected to pressure to drop such charges." ECRI stresses the urgent need to improve the response to complaints by members of minority groups of police misbehaviour in Greece. ECRI also suggests that Greek authorities increase human rights and anti-discrimination training for police.

(ECRI, ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor)

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