ECtHR Finds Greece Guilty of Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of Two Romani Men

01 February 2006

On December 13 2005, the European Court of Human Rights (Court) issued a decision in the case of Bekos and Koutropoulos vs. Greece. The Court found the Greek state responsible for the inhuman and degrading treatment two Romani man suffered at the hands of police, as well as the subsequent failure to conduct an effective official investigation, in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment). The Court also found a violation of the procedural guarantee against racial discrimination contained in Article 14 (discrimination), taken together with Article 3. Mr. Lazaros Bekos and Mr. Eleftherios Koutropoulos ("the applicants") were represented by lawyers of the ERRC, together with the nongovernmental organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM).

The incident at issue took place in May 1998, when Mr Bekos and Mr Koutropoulos were arrested for allegedly attempting to break into a kiosk. The two men were taken to the Mesolonghi police station and interrogated. During the interrogation, both were severely beaten by the police. A forensics report issued the following day indicated that both young men had sustained "moderate bodily injuries caused in the past 24 hours by a blunt, heavy instrument."

An internal Sworn Administrative Inquiry concluded that two officers, Police Lieutenant Apostolos Tsikrikas (Chief Commander of the Security Department) and Lieutenant Andreas Avgheris (Deputy Commander of the Security Department) had treated the applicants "with particular cruelty during their detention." The report also established that Officer Tsikrikas physically abused both of the young men and that Officer Avgheris had struck one of the men with a truncheon intensely several times. Although the Sworn Administrative Inquiry recommended that both officers be suspended from service, this was never done.

At the conclusion of a criminal investigation into the matter two years later, the Misdemeanors Prosecutor of Mesolonghi recommended that three police officers be tried for causing bodily harm. Despite this recommendation, the three-judge Misdemeanor Judges Indictment Chamber dropped the criminal charges against two of the officers and indicted only Officer Tsikrikas. The Appeals Court of Patras, ignoring the testimony of the two Romani men, the findings of the Sworn Administrative Inquiry, and the results of the Mesolonghi Public Prosecutor's investigation, acquitted Officer Tsikrikas of all charges.

The applicants brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 13 (lack of an effective legal remedy), and Article 14 (discrimination), in conjunction with Articles 3 and 13.

Assessing the evidence, the Court noted serious flaws in investigating the possible existence of racist motives and therefore found Greece in violation of Article 14 of the Convention, taken together with Article 3. The Court awarded each applicant 10,000 Euro for non-pecuniary damages.



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