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State Department report on human rights exposes Greece

Featured State Department report on human rights exposes Greece

The US State Department's report on human rights practices in Greece was published with important "red lines". A report detailing the government's initiatives, but also the issues that the US administration says are problematic and need to be addressed.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of suspects by the police and against migrants and asylum seekers by the authorities - severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including criminal defamation and libel laws defamation - forced returns of asylum seekers - crimes involving violence directed at members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups - and crimes involving violence or threats of violence directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, homosexual or transgender persons, the State Department's report says .

The government regularly took steps to investigate, prosecute and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in government, the report continued.

There were, however, reports and complaints from non-governmental organizations and international organizations about the government's failure to effectively investigate and punish police abuse and the lack of independent investigation and accountability for widespread credible allegations of forced returns of asylum seekers.

Significant omissions in respect of refugees

The report includes the November 2020 report of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

According to her, while the vast majority of migrants interviewed were not physically abused by the authorities when they were arrested and detained, the CPT delegation received several reports from migrants that they were slapped on the head, kicked and hit with a globe by members of the Greek Police and of the Coast Guard.

For example, the State Department cites a man held by Greek police at the former Coast Guard Special Missions Unit in Samos who claimed he was hit on the left side of the head with a globe by a police officer after he asked to be released to leave the cell to go to the toilet, causing him to become partially deaf

The same Commission reported that detained immigrants were sometimes confined in deplorable conditions. In two cells under the supervision of the Greek Police in the port of Samos, for example, the CPT found 93 migrants (58 men, 15 women, three of whom were pregnant, and 20 children, 10 of whom were under the age of five) crammed into spaces that provided each person with less than 10 square meters of living space.

Access to natural light was limited, there was no artificial lighting, no heating, no beds, no mattresses, and the undivided toilets inside the cells emitted a stench.

Women were given wet wipes, but no other hygiene products. The CPT report said: “These conditions clearly constitute inhuman and degrading treatment. The fact that the authorities continued to detain this group, many of whom were clearly vulnerable, for 18 days without any attempt to reduce the severity of their situation could be considered inhumane punishment."

At the same time, the State Department cites reports from local and international media, human rights NGOs and international organizations regarding testimonies from asylum seekers who were physically abused and stripped of their personal belongings before being sent back to Turkey.

The case of television licenses in the State Department report

On July 14, the parliament ordered the prosecution of the former minister of digital policy, telecommunications and media, Nikos Pappas, on the charge of "continuous and ongoing dereliction of duty" for manipulating and orchestrating the auction of a TV channel license to a businessman in exchange for a favorable media coverage.

Particular emphasis is placed in the State Department's report on wiretapping, which is prohibited by the Constitution and by law. The report of the State Department stands in two cases of wiretapping, that of the journalist T. Koukakis and the president of PASOK-KINAL, N. Androulakis.

Concern for the Media as well

A European Commission report, the State Department cites, raised concerns about the non-transparent allocation of state media advertising, as well as potential political influence in the appointment of public media board members.

On September 21, the NGO Govwatch reported similar findings, highlighting the restrictions on freedom of expression resulting from the new "fake news" law and the lack of transparency in media funding.

Discrimination in the country based on race or religion

Roma continued to face widespread government and societal discrimination, social exclusion and harassment, the State Department report said.

Among them, ethnic profiling by the police, alleged abuse during police custody, employment discrimination, limited access to education and school segregation.

At the same time, special mention is made of the murder of 16-year-old Roma, Kostas Fragoulis in Thessaloniki, who was shot by the police authorities. It is noted that the incident in question raised a storm of reactions, while the anger took on anti-government characteristics.

Difficulties in everyday life for people with disabilities and LGBTQ people

People with disabilities still had insufficient access to public buildings, transport and public spaces, even though such access was required by law. Building access, sidewalk ramps and accessible public transport vehicles were among the most serious deficiencies. Ramps were often too steep or bumpy, and public transport ramps were often out of order.

At the same time, according to the State Department's lengthy report, societal discrimination and harassment against LGBTQI+ people, including LGBTQI+ refugees and immigrants, remained a concern. A number of violent incidents targeting LGBTQ+ people were reported.

In 2020 RVRN recorded 14 attacks based on sexual orientation, 12 based on gender identity and four for mixed reasons.