Mopping-up operation threatens to harm human rights

Besides the dissolution of the November 17 organization that began on June 29 last year and the ongoing search for other terrorist formations, a number of less highly publicized police actions were set in motion which could be described as a mopping-up operation. That was the term used last summer by police chiefs, who stated, «We now have a good chance of getting to the bottom of things, and to get it through to the smaller groups – even to those who confine themselves to burning cars – that such behavior is not tolerable.» This policy seems to be very much in force. It is hardly fortuitous that these past few months have seen the near-disappearance of car arson and minor explosions caused by homemade gas-bomb devices. The world in which these groups operate has come under intense, asphyxiating pressure and it was soon made clear that the police knew everyone and everything. Moreover, they were determined to act in the event of a surge in such activities. Contributing to the eradication of violent activism is the new law on organized crime and terrorism, which stipulates that such acts are felonies and lays down much harsher penalties than previous laws. Facing down small groups like these was more closely linked to the elimination of domestic terrorism than it first appears, since a large number of such symbolic acts of destruction were undertaken to demonstrate support for arrested terrorism suspects, causing headaches all around. Turmoil Nevertheless, Greece’s six-month EU presidency and the overall security scheme for the Olympic Games appears to have sparked a number of actions by police which could be regarded as over the top, not to say extreme. During recent large anti-war marches, for example, as well as rallies related to Greece’s EU presidency, draconian measures were adopted, with large numbers of young people being taken in for questioning. Apart from those cases where arrests were actually made of people who had in fact committed crimes, it is estimated that many people were hauled off by the police both in a show of strength, and possibly to put people off participating in similar protests in the future. One other sign of this mentality is the way in which every kind of protest has been handled recently. Police forces slip over to using tear gas with alarming ease in order to break up groups of protesters. People view the police more favorably than they used to. The decisiveness shown in dealing with terrorism has reaped added points for the force. But images of clashes between police and citizens that have filled screens with ever-growing frequency undermine this relationship and might even result in destroying it again. At the same time, the dividing line between applying the law strictly and arbitrary behavior is a fine one. And the danger of arbitrariness on the part of the police is a particularly serious one, because it touches on the issue of human rights.

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