Notorious crimes and complaints are buried away gathering dust in justice system’s bottom drawer

In Greece’s justice system, there is a huge backlog of cases waiting to be heard that sometimes take years before they reach a courtroom, but just as many end up being filed away. Greeks are notoriously fond of suing each other but the justice system is slow to respond, whether the matter is a serious miscarriage of justice or so minor that it is forgotten about and never even investigated. Unsolved cases, even those that «shocked the country,» often fall into a seemingly bottomless pit. Preliminary investigations are the cornerstone of the penal system following charges lodged with the public prosecutor, made in the media or as a result of complaints. In most cases (apart from a few exceptions involving complaints) these preliminaries are a prerequisite for charges to be brought. At least that is the formality, for these investigations also go some way toward satisfying public demand for «the truth» after a major scandal erupts. Every day the prosecutor of the Athens Court of First Instance orders one to two preliminary investigations into crimes. The volume of work is usually considerable and that is why many cases take months, even a year to complete. By that time, the issue has usually been demoted to the back pages of the daily press and is nowhere to be seen on television. Issues of public interest such as the pollution of the Asopos River in Viotia, the flooding of the Kifissos River and the phone-tapping scandal, even last year’s craze for olive leaf extract as a cure-all for diseases including cancer, not to mention dangerous substances being sold on the market, are all the subject of investigation. Then there are what are known as «seasonal» cases. Every summer, for example, coastal nightclubs trigger a slew of complaints and prosecutors are obliged to establish whether these clubs are illegally sited too close to the shore. In winter, the problem is floods and who is to blame for the consequences. Each time garbage collectors or Public Power Corporation workers go on strike, or there are student sit-ins at schools, a judicial investigation usually follows.