Greece: Authorities abusing power to trample on right to protest

Amnesty International research shows that the Greek authorities severely restricted protest rights in the name of protecting public health, and physically and verbally abused protesters after arrest. Many of the measures introduced temporarily in the name of dealing with the pandemic have now been passed into law.


"Under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic the Greek authorities have used arbitrary arrests, blanket bans, unjustified fines and unlawful use of force to curb peaceful protest, new research by Amnesty International has revealed. 

These disconcerting examples of state overreach took place at a time when people wished to voice their concerns over important issues such as unlawful use of force by police, gender-based violence and the significant problems in Greece’s public health system – hit by many years of austerity policies - at the time of the pandemic. This report focuses on the authorities’ response to several of these protests between November 2020 and March 2021. 

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Curbs on peaceful protests were also codified into law in the months after Greece exited the first lockdown. Legislative reforms regulating demonstrations were introduced in July and September 2020 which allow for counter demonstrations to be prohibited and peaceful assemblies to be dispersed if organizers do not fulfil notification requirements. Legislation on the use of surveillance systems in demonstrations and its implementation also raise concerns including about a chilling effect that the use of cameras by police can have on peaceful demonstrators. These changes will have far-reaching consequences which will last long beyond the end of the pandemic. 

Unlawful use of force at protests 

Amnesty International found that Greek authorities failed to facilitate the right to peacefully protest, including by introducing blanket bans and dispersing peaceful assemblies through unnecessary and excessive use of force. 

Interviewees from a number of protests described how police resorted unnecessarily to the use of water cannon and chemical irritants against peaceful protesters. Some spoke of police hitting them on their heads with batons and using stun grenades in a way that could cause considerable injury including hearing problems. 

Serious allegations of torture or other ill-treatment in police custody 

Once in police custody some of the individuals interviewed by Amnesty International described being subjected to treatment that may amount to torture or other ill-treatment. 

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Golden Dawn 

At one protest in Ioannina some protesters said that riot police identified themselves as being members of the far-right Golden Dawn party. In a landmark ruling last October a court found the party’s political leadership guilty of running a criminal organization."

Source: Amnesty International, 14 July 2021

 

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