NEWS

Amnesty raps Greece over alleged police misconduct

Greek security services were responsible for widespread misconduct and violence – particularly against illegal immigrants and demonstrators – in 2003, Amnesty International charged in its annual report which was made public yesterday. The report highlighted the apparently unlawful killing of an Albanian illegal immigrant who tried to cross the border into Greece last September and the subsequent alleged beatings of another four Albanians. The border guard arrested for fatally shooting Vullnet Bytyci was arrested but only briefly detained before his release pending investigation for «reckless homicide,» the watchdog said. «Concerns raised with the Greek authorities about a killing in September met no response,» the report noted. Also in September, other border guards brutally beat, kicked and robbed another three Albanian nationals who had tried to cross into Greece, Amnesty maintained, noting that one of the three had been so badly injured that he had required surgery to remove his spleen. In November, a fourth Albanian charged that three Greek police officers beat him after asking to see his papers while he was drinking coffee in a bar in Agrinion, according to the report. «The European Union is increasingly sealing its borders. It sees any refugee and asylum seeker as a potential terrorist,» a spokesman for Amnesty’s Athens office told Reuters.» Amnesty’s report also accused police of physically abusing four demonstrators at a European Union summit in Thessaloniki last June, when Greece was preparing to hand over the presidency of the union to Italy. Of the seven demonstrators (three Greeks and four foreigners) charged with possession of illegal weapons, four were ill-treated at the time of their arrest and while in police custody, the report claimed. The watchdog indicated that at least one of the seven, British national Simon Chapman, had been charged on the basis of false evidence. Last month, Amnesty asked the Greek government to ensure that police and other security services staff do not use heightened security measures for the forthcoming Olympics as a pretext for human rights violations. However, the report sounded one positive note as regards Greek police in its reference to legislation passed last July relating to the possession, training and use of firearms by policemen «which limits the circumstances in which officers can justifiably resort to using arms and which provides for police training in handling firearms.» Yesterday’s report also expressed concern over the deaths of seven illegal immigrants last September when they walked into a minefield in northeastern Greece. Amnesty remarked that, although Greece had ratified the Ottawa Convention banning the use of land mines in 2002, «the destruction of mines in border areas is still to be carried out.» Amnesty also drew attention to a series of complaints «to the police, judicial authorities and the government, and to international human rights bodies, about human rights violations against Roma in Greece.» Last September, human rights organizations accused the government of failing to provide adequate water and electricity supplies to a Roma settlement in Spata. They also charged that members of Roma communities had been subjected to arbitrary and discriminatory arrests and ill-treatment in police custody.