Police killing and abuses in Greece

10 September 1998

During a field mission conducted by the ERRC with the assistance of the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) in May 1998, numerous recent instances of police abuse against Roma in Greece were documented. In one such incident, on May 8, 1998, 17-year-old Lazaros Bekos and 18-year-old Lefteris Kotropoulos were arrested by police in Mesolonghi, western Greece, for attempting to break into an ice-cream kiosk. Bekos alleges that a plainclothes officer struck him on the back of the head with a gun at the time of the arrest. Both youths were then taken to the police station where additional abuse is alleged to have taken place. According to Bekos, officers struck him on the head, stomach and all over his body with a truncheon. An officer then took an iron bar and held it to his throat saying that he would asphyxiate him if he did not tell the truth. Bekos said that he pushed the officer back and was then struck on the back with the iron bar and kicked on the neck. Both young men were kept in custody overnight. The youths allege that police further abused them next morning. During the entire period of their detention neither of the two youths were allowed to telephone their relatives.

Bekos stated that next morning the interrogations began again. First, he was interrogated by the station's deputy commissioner. Bekos stated that the deputy commissioner repeatedly tried to force him to tell him the whereabouts of a drug dealer. Later he was interrogated by two plainclothes officers. He said, "One after the other, they beat me, slapped me, and hit me with truncheons on the legs, neck and shoulders." Bekos stated that when the station commander arrived, he told the officers to stop the beatings but that they continued until he returned and told them to stop a second time. Mr Kotropoulos confirmed Mr Bekos's allegations and stated that he was similarly treated.

On the following day a medical doctor examined the youths. The doctor certified the presence of injuries consistent with the allegations. The medical certificate reports that the injuries were "inflicted with a 'blunt instrument'" about 24 hours before the victim's examination. The two youths have filed a complaint against the police with the help of the Greek Helsinki Monitor.

Police abuse cases were reported in the Raxa area of Trikala, central Greece. Roma testified to the ERRC that local police had conducted a night invasion of the Gypsy settlement there. Residents told the ERRC that the police invaded the homes, waking up small children and holding guns to people's heads. The justification for this invasion was to search for drugs. Searches in Romani settlements such as Trikala take place very often under the pretext of searching for drugs, for persons with unpaid fines or working without a permit. The police raid in question was performed with a district attorney present. The ERRC field research established that raids of this type are common. In some cases, male police officers have performed body search on women in early morning hours, when women are not yet dressed.

The Trikala settlement faces a range of typical problems other than police abuse. On May 8, 1998, the date of the ERRC and GHM visit to Trikala, residents said that they had been without water and electricity for twenty days and that no one had shown up to fix the problem. One week prior to the ERRC and GHM visit, a group of locals had reportedly shown up on tractors and tried to tear down the Gypsies' shanties but were prevented and turned away by local Roma.

The ERRC further documented instances of police abuse against the Roma in Tyrnavos, central Greece. Roma in Tyrnavos said that they are beaten up in police stations because police believe that since they are Gypsies, they are inclined to crime. Eleftherotypia reported on June 11 that an 11-year-old Romani boy had been beaten in the central market in Mytilini, Lesvos Island of the northern Aegean region. Roma all around Greece report that they are targets of violent police abuse.

(ERRC, GHM)

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