Roma bring police brutality case against Greece to Court of Human Rights


Introduction

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Greek Helsinki Monitor, an NGO which deals with human rights issues, have brought before the European Court of Human Rights the case of two Roma men who were beaten in custody in Mesolonghi police station in May 1998, after being arrested on suspicion of trying to break into a kiosk. In spite of a forensics report indicating that the men suffered "moderate bodily injuries caused in the past 24 hours by a blunt instrument", an administrative inquiry indicating that "particular cruelty" and physical abuse had occurred and recommending temporary suspension from service for two officers involved, and a recommendation by the Misdemeanor Prosecutor of Mesolonghi that three officers be tried for causing bodily harm, only one of the officers was tried (and subsequently acquitted). The plaintiffs allege discrimination (art.14), torture, inhuman and degrading treatment (art.3), and lack of an effective legal remedy (art.13).

European Roma Rights Centre, press release, August 15, 2002

Greek Roma Bring Police Brutality Claim to European Court of Human Rights

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), together with the Athens-based non-governmental organisation, the Greek Helsinki Monitor, has filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights against Greece, arising out of an incidence of police violence against Roma in Mesolonghi, Greece, in May 1998.

The incident involved two young Romani men who were arrested for allegedly attempting to break into a kiosk. They were taken to the Mesolonghi police station and interrogated. During the interrogation, both were severely beaten by the police. A forensics report, issued the following day by Dr. Orfeas Perides, a regional forensics expert, indicated that both young men bore "moderate bodily injuries caused in the past 24 hours by a blunt, heavy instrument."

An internal Sworn Administrative Inquiry concluded that two officers, Police Lieutenant Apostolos Tsikrikas (Chief Commander of the Security Department) and Lieutenant Andreas Avgheris (Deputy Commander of the Security Department) had treated the applicants "with particular cruelty during their detention." The report also established that Officer Tsikrikas physically abused both of the young men and that Officer Avgheris has struck one of the men with a truncheon intensely several times. Although the Sworn Administrative Inquiry recommended both officers be temporarily suspended from service, that was never done.

At the conclusion of a criminal investigation into the matter two years later, the Misdemeanors Prosecutor of Mesolonghi recommended that three of the police officers be tried for causing bodily harm. Despite this recommendation, the three-judge Misdemeanor Judges Indictment Chamber dropped the criminal charges against two of the officers and indicted only Officer Tsikrikas. The Appeals Court of Patras, ignoring the testimony of the two Romani men, the findings of the Sworn Administrative Inquiry, and the results of the Mesolonghi Public Prosecutor's investigation, went on to acquit Officer Tsikrikas of the charges.

The applicants have now taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 13 (lack of an effective legal remedy), and Article 14 (discrimination), in conjunction with Articles 3 and 13. They are seeking a finding that the Greek government has violated its obligations under the European Convention and just compensation.

Further information about the case is available by contacting the office of the ERRC.

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