Greek Authorities Fail to Adequately Discipline and Prosecute Police Officers for Human Rights Violations against Roma
29 October 2003
In a letter dated April 24, 2003, Greek police informed the ERRC, in partnership with the Athens-based non-governmental organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) that Police Officer Tyllianakis who, on October 24, 2001, shot and killed Mr Marinos Christopoulos, a 21-year-old Romani man, in Zefyri, near Athens, was still on active duty, although he had been charged with reckless homicide in connection with the killing. The First Instance Disciplinary Council decided, on October 3, 2002, to dismiss Officer Tyllianakis. According to ERRC/GHM research, Officer Tyllanakis has since appealed the decision, but the case has not yet been brought before the Second Instance Disciplinary Council (for further details of the case, see: Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Visits Greece and Killing of Romani man by police in Greece). The letter further informed the ERRC/GHM, as legal representatives for the Christopoulos family in the criminal case against Officer Tyllianakis, of his history of violent behaviour. On July 9, 2001, Officer Tyllianakis was charged and fined for causing serious bodily injuries, while off-duty, which could have put a person's life in danger, when he started a fight with the driver of a vehicle that moved too close to the motorcycle he was driving. Officer Tyllianakis fatally shot Mr Christopoulos only one hundred and eight days after being fined for the violent behaviour.
Earlier, on February 26, 2003, the Greek Ombudsman's Office informed the ERRC/GHM that it had closed its investigation into complaints filed by the ERRC/GHM regarding police misconduct during the July 1, 2002 and the January 28, 2002 police raids in the Nea Zoe Romani settlement in Aspropyrgos, on the outskirts of Athens (information on the abusive raids can be found at: Police Abuse of Roma in Greece and Romani Woman Suffers Miscarriage after Being Beaten during Police Raid in Greece). The Ombudsman's Office stated that it was satisfied with the statement of the Greek Police that the Nea Zoe area is one of high criminality and that police raids are often the only means available for the police to gather the necessary evidence to prosecute offenders. In their letter to the Ombudsman, Greek police reported that the official investigation into the alleged ill-treatment of Ms Yannula Tsakiris that led to her suffering a miscarriage during the January 28, 2002 raid was suspended, pending completion of the main judicial investigation launched following the lodging of a criminal complaint by Ms Tsakiris, with the assistance of the ERRC/GHM.
In another case of inadequate investigation of alleged police crimes against Roma, on October 25, 2002, the Ombudsman's Office informed ERRC/GHM that, in accordance with the official investigation of the Greek Police, no disciplinary actions were taken against police officers involved in the August 4, 2001 ill-treatment of five Romani youths - Nikos Theodoropoulos, aged 19, Nikos Theodoropoulos, 18, Nikos Tsitsikos, 23, Vasileios Theodo-ropoulos, 17, and Theodore Ste-fanou, 16 - in Argostoli, on the island of Cephallonia (background information in the case is available at: Killing of Romani man by police in Greece). The official investigation was undertaken in connection with complaints filed by the Romani youths with the Ombudsman's Office. According to the findings of the official investigation determining whether disciplinary action would be taken against the officers involved, all of the Romani youths reportedly withdrew their complaints, with the exception of Theodore Stefanou. The case was closed due to a lack of evidence. However, the ERRC/GHM noted many inconsistencies between their information and that in the formal investigation file. According to the official investigation, Mr Nikos Theodoropoulos withdrew his complaint. However, Mr Nikos Theodoropoulos informed the ERRC/GHM on October 28, 2002, that he had never been invited to the police station to testify, so did not have the opportunity to withdraw his complaint. On December 8, 2002, the ERRC/GHM, as the legal representatives of Theodore Stefanou, sent a letter to the Greek Police requesting to be provided with copies of all depositions taken in the case. After not receiving a response within a reasonable time, on February 22, 2003, the ERRC/GHM filed a complaint with the Ombudsman's Office. The ERRC/GHM asked that the Ombudsman intercede to facilitate the forwarding of the relevant documents in a timely manner and called upon the competent authorities to launch an investigation into the possibility that the officers involved had manipulated the official investigation.
On May 5, 2003, Theodore Stephanou, Nikos Tsitsikos, Vasileios Theodoropoulos, Mr Nikos Theodoropoulos and Vassilis Tsitsikos, a witness to the event, all testified before both the investigating judge and the prosecutor of Cephallonia, and participated in a re-enactment of the incident in connection with Theodore Stefanou's pending criminal complaint. On August 25, 2003, the investigating judge ex officio extended the charges against the officers involved to include the ill-treatment of Nikos Theodoropoulos. As of September 17, the ERRC/GHM was unaware of the results of the investigation undertaken by the investigating judge and prosecutor, and had received no response from the Ombudsman's Office in response to its complaint.