Greek law enforcement forces use excess force against protesters and ill-treat migrants and refugees, Amnesty International said in a report published on Thursday.
In the study, titled “A law unto themselves: A culture of abuse and impunity in the Greek police,” the human right organization accused Greek police of entrenched racism and endemic violence. The report was conducted following an official investigation probing police ties to ultranationalist party Golden Dawn.
“Our investigation shows that the Golden Dawn debacle is only the tip of the iceberg. Entrenched racism, excessive use of force and deep-rooted impunity are a blight on the Greek police. Successive Greek governments have so far failed to acknowledge, let alone tackle, these human rights violations by police and on-going impunity,“ said Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International. “There is an urgent need for a comprehensive structural reform of law enforcement including the creation of an independent police complaint mechanism to investigate allegations of unlawful police conduct.”
The human rights watchdog’s study found that over the past three years there had been an escalation in attacks against refugees and migrants, as well as crimes against the Roma community and the LGBTI community. The report noted that members of the Greek police force had reportedly failed to prevent attacks and had failed to investigate the motives behind them.
The study cited the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas on September 2013 by a member of Golden Dawn which subsequently led to a crackdown on the party.
The study also referred to Xenios Zeus, a police operation for controlling undocumented migrants that led to over 120,000 foreign nationals being stopped for identity checks between April 2012 and June 2013. In the report a Syrian refugee described being hit by policemen at the Corinth immigration detention center last year.
The report also referred to the fatal stabbing of Pakistani national Luqman Shahzad in Athens in January 2013, a crime that was allegedly racially motivated.
“With their actions Greek police pander to xenophobic far-right groups who are intent on attacking anyone who does not conform to their idea of mainstream society,” said Tigani.
“Police have been used as an indiscriminate tool by the authorities. Instead of maintaining law and order, all too often they have been tasked with stifling dissent and persecuting members of vulnerable groups. Their actions have been left without independent scrutiny and their transgressions unpunished. This has to change.”