17 January 2014

The Greek government responded on 10 January 2014 to a request from the Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe Nils Muiznieks to carry out effective investigations into all recorded incidents of collective expulsions from Greece to Turkey of irregular migrants including a large number of Syrians who are fleeing the conflict in their country.

In its response, the Greek government has assured the Commissioner that every such case is being thoroughly investigated by the Hellenic Police and if necessary by the judicial authorities. Nikos Dendias, Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection further notes that “upon completion of the ongoing investigation and in case that substantial evidence occurs, appropriate penal and disciplinary measures will be imposed.”

These push-back operations were exposed by ECRE Member ProAsyl with the publication of the report Pushed Back last November. ProAsyl accused Greece of systematically violating the rights of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border. The testimonies of the refugees interviewed for the purpose of the report showed that Special Forces of the Greek Coastguard are ill-treating refugees upon apprehension, detaining them arbitrarily on Greek soil without any registration and then deporting them back to Turkey, in breach of international law.

On 25 November, the Naval Court of Piraeus found two Greek coast guards guilty of having committed acts of torture against an asylum seeker upon entry into Greece. The coast guards were charged with restricting the victim’s breathing so as to simulate drowning and suffocation (‘wet and dry submarino’), carrying out mock execution, as well as other serious attacks on human dignity. This incident had been brought to light in The truth may be bitter, but it must be told, an earlier report from 2007 by ProAsyl and the Greek organisation Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants. The two coast guards were received suspended jail sentences of 6 and 3 years.

The correspondence has been made public this week by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 January 2014
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