Immigration code shouldn’t deter reporting police abuse, says human rights agency

The Greek government should drop plans that would deter migrants from reporting abuse by law enforcement agents, the Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. The administration should also put forward measures protecting undocumented migrants and witnesses of crimes, including racist violence, the agency noted.

A contentious provision that would see immigrants who make false claims against police officers being deported from Greece could be brought to Greek Parliament as the House debated a new draft immigration code this week. The measure was withdrawn twice last week following complaints from opposition parties as well as coalition partner socialist PASOK, whose chief and deputy premier, Evangelos Venizelos, intervened to have the provision removed.

The human rights agency argues that the provision would violate the principle of nondiscrimination by limiting access to justice for migrant victims of law enforcement abuse and would also reverse the presumption of innocence at the expense of victims and witnesses of law enforcement abuse, by creating a statutory presumption of the guilt of the person filing the complaint if the prosecutor decides to not press charges against a law enforcement officer.

“It’s in everyone’s interest in Greece to hold anyone responsible for a violent crime accountable – and that should include law enforcement officers,” said Eva Cosse, Greece specialist at the human rights organization. “The government should encourage reporting, not threaten victims with arrest, detention, and deportation.”