Council of Europe – Commitee of Ministers’ Decision: Makaratzis group v. Greece

COECM

1331st meeting, 4-6 December 2018 (DH)

 

H46-13 Makaratzis group v. Greece (Application No. 50385/99)

Supervision of the execution of the European Court’s judgments

Reference document

CM/Notes/1331/H46-13

 

Decisions

The Deputies

  1. recalling that these cases concern the use of potentially lethal force and ill-treatment by law enforcement agents as well as the lack of effective investigations capable of leading to adequate disciplinary and criminal sanctions;

As regards individual measures

  1. recalled with regret that as a result of the prescription rules in force the reopening of excessively lenient convictions or of ineffective criminal investigations (notably the recent Andersen case) is not possible;
  2. expressed also regret that in the Zontul case, due to the state of Greek law at the time, a reopening of the criminal conviction of the responsible coast guard for infringement of sexual dignity would not allow to take into account the European Court’s finding that the facts constituted torture within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention, as the notion of torture in Greek law did not extend to the facts of the case; noted, however, with satisfaction the Ombudsman’s decision to reopen the disciplinary investigations into the consequences of the acts at issue;
  3. expressed regret that in all the cases – apart from Sidiropoulos and Papakostas and Andersen – the reopening of the disciplinary investigations was not possible due to the fact that the offences were subject to prescription;
  4. invited the authorities to inform the Committee by 1 September 2019 about the reopened disciplinary investigations concerning the Sidiropoulos and Papakostas and Andersen cases;
  5. noting also the particular complexity of the prescription question in the Zontul case, invited the authorities to provide the Committee by 1 September 2019  with the full conclusions of the Hellenic Coast Guard concerning the reopening of the disciplinary proceedings, notably as regards the continued employment of those responsible;
  6. welcomed the authorities’ intention to request the heads of the services involved in torture and other forms of ill-treatment to issue written apologies to the applicants; invited the authorities to inform the Committee by 1 September 2019 of any further development;

As regards general measures

  1. called upon the authorities to intensify their ongoing efforts to eradicate all forms of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, taking due account of the CPT’s recommendations, and invited them to provide the Committee with concrete and detailed information on the measures taken or envisaged in response to the European Court’s judgments in these cases;
  1. invited, as regards the effectiveness of investigations, the authorities to provide by 1 September 2019 detailed information on the following issues:
  2. a) the suspension of the limitation period for offences related to violations similar to those in the present cases;
  3. b) the overall possibility to reopen disciplinary investigations in cases where criminal or disciplinary liability has already been decided, taking into account the ne bis in idem principle enshrined in Law 4443/2016;
  4. c) the effectiveness of the new complaint Mechanism (the Ombudsman), notably in the light of the outcome of the investigations into the complaints submitted since the Mechanism started to function on 9 June 2017;
  5. d) the impact of the new reinforced legislative protection against racist crime and possible new measures envisaged to ensure the investigation of possible racist motives when ill-treatment occurs in the context of law enforcement;
  6. e) the extent to which decisions to close criminal investigations on the basis of prescription can be subjected to judicial or other independent review;
  7. f) the measures taken or envisaged in the context of the ongoing revision of the Criminal Code in order to fully align the conduct of criminal investigations into ill-treatment and the relevant sanctions with the requirements of the Court’s case-law, in particular as regards the definition of torture and the possibilities to convert terms of imprisonment imposed for torture and other ill-treatment into non-custodial sentences.

1331st meeting, 4-6 December 2018 (DH)

Human rights

 

H46-13 Makaratzis group v. Greece (Application No. 50385/99)

Supervision of the execution of the European Court’s judgments

Reference document

CM/Del/Dec(2017)1302/H46-11

 

Application Case Judgment of Final on Indicator for the classification
50385/99 MAKARATZIS 20/12/2004 Grand Chamber Complex problem
15250/02 BEKOS AND KOUTROPOULOS 13/12/2005 13/03/2006
25771/03 ALSAYED ALLAHAM 18/01/2007 23/05/2007
17060/03 ZELILOF 24/05/2007 24/08/2007
27850/03 KARAGIANNOPOULOS 21/06/2007 21/09/2007
21449/04 CELNIKU 05/07/2007 05/10/2007
44803/04 PETROPOULOU-TSAKIRIS 06/12/2007 06/03/2008
43326/05 LEONIDIS 08/01/2009 05/06/2009
2945/07 GALOTSKIN 14/01/2010 14/04/2010
2954/07 STEFANOU 22/04/2010 04/10/2010
12294/07 ZONTUL 17/01/2012 17/04/2012
33349/10 SIDIROPOULOS AND PAPAKOSTAS 25/01/2018 25/04/2018
42660/11 ANDERSEN 26/04/2018 26/07/2018

Case description

These cases concern the use of potentially lethal force by the police in the absence of an adequate legislative and administrative framework governing the use of firearms (violation of positive obligation pursuant to Article 2 to protect life in the cases Makaratzis, Celniku, Karagiannopoulos and Leonidis); ill-treatment by police (violation of Article 3 in the cases of Bekos and Koutropoulos, Alsayed Allaham, Petropoulou-Tsakyri, Zelilof, Galotskin and Stefanou); ill-treatment by coastguards amounting to torture (violation of Article 3 in the case of Zontul); absence of effective administrative and criminal investigations and inadequate criminal proceedings and penalties (procedural violations of Article 2 in the cases of Makaratzis, Celniku, Karagiannopoulos and of Article 3 in the cases of Bekos-Koutropoulos, Petropoulou-Tsakiris, Zelilof, Galotskin, Zontul, Sidiropoulos and Papakostas and Andersen); failure to investigate whether racist motives on the part of the police may have played a role in some cases (violation of Article 14 combined with Article 3 in the cases of Bekos-Koutropoulos and Petropoulou-Tsakiris).

The Galotskin, Stefanou and Sidiropoulos and Papakostas cases also concern the excessive length of criminal proceedings (violation of Article 6 § 1); in the latter a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 6 § 1 was also found[1].

Status of execution

Individual measures

As regards all cases apart from Sidiropoulos and Papakostas and Andersen

At the 1157th meeting (December 2012) (DH), the authorities indicated that it was not possible under domestic law to reopen criminal proceedings on the sole basis of the deficiencies identified by the Court in the cases of the group where the perpetrators had been convicted or acquitted. As regards the cases where criminal charges had not been brought, these would be re-examined. Following re-examination of those cases it was found that the offences had become time-barred. As for disciplinary proceedings, the authorities indicated at that time that their reopening following a judgment by the European Court could be requested by the executive committee of “the Office for addressing arbitrary incidents” (“the Office”), established by Law No. 3938/2011, in respect of judgments of the Court delivered after 31 March 2011 (that date on which this law entered into force). Also, the statutory limitation period for disciplinary offences would not run between the termination of the disciplinary proceedings and the delivery of the Court’s judgment to the Office. In a communication received on 8 July 2015, the Greek authorities informed the Committee that the reopening of the administrative investigation in Zontul in the light of the Court’s findings would be considered as soon as the committee established by Law 3938/2011 became operational.

On 27 September 2017, the Greek authorities informed the Committee that Law 4443/2016 (in force as from 6 December 2016) had replaced the Office with the national mechanism for the investigation of incidents of abuse by law enforcement agents and by employees of state penitentiary establishments (Mechanism for the Investigation of Arbitrary Behaviour – “the Mechanism”), which was integrated into the Ombudsman’s Office. Furthermore, the authorities informed the Committee that the Zontul judgment was transmitted to the Mechanism on 27 July 2017, and that on 11 August 2017 the Mechanism requested the reopening of the administrative investigation in this case in the light of the European Court’s findings.

At its 1302nd meeting (December 2017) (DH), the Committee invited the Greek authorities to provide information on further developments and on the outcome of the reopened procedure. It also requested information regarding the examination by the Mechanism of the possibility of reopening administrative proceedings in the other cases of the group concerning ill-treatment by law enforcement agents.

In their communication of 8 October 2018, the Greek authorities informed the Committee that as regards Zontul, the Mechanism initially decided that there was no question of violation of the ne bis in idem principle since the offences to be investigated in the reopened proceedings were different from those investigated initially, and requested the reopening of the disciplinary proceedings on the basis of the European Court’s findings. The authorities added that the disciplinary proceedings were reopened by the Hellenic Coast Guard and concluded by a report issued on 13 April 2018. Subsequently, the Mechanism issued its conclusions concurring with the Hellenic Coast Guard that, although the disciplinary offences investigated were different from those investigated initially, they had become time-barred because they had not been classified by domestic courts as criminal offences subject to longer statutory limitations.

According to the Mechanism, under Article 56 § 6 of Law 4443/2016 the suspension of the offences’ prescription between the termination of disciplinary proceedings and the delivery of the Court’s judgment to the Mechanism is possible only for those cases in which the prescription period had not expired by the date on which the Mechanism became operational (9 June 2017). As regards the other cases of the group, the Mechanism held that reopening of disciplinary proceedings was not possible because the offences had become prescribed long before the Mechanism became operational.

For all of these cases, the Mechanism proposed as the only possible individual measures a written apology from the heads of the services concerned to each of the victims of the impugned acts. In this way, moral satisfaction could be provided to these persons; at the same time there would be a commitment on the part of the relevant services that future disciplinary proceedings will be carried out in conformity with the Court’s case law. The Government Agent indicated that he agrees with this proposal and that he would pursue it before the services concerned.

As regards the cases of Sidiropoulos and Papakostas and Andersen

The above judgments became final on 24 April 2018 (Sidiropoulos and Papakostas) and on 26 July 2018 (Andersen). On 30 July 2018 the judgments were transmitted by the Government Agent to the Mechanism to examine the possibility of reopening administrative investigations, and on 20 August 2018 to the competent judicial authorities to examine the possibility of reopening criminal investigations. As regards Andersen, the First Instance Court Prosecutor of Thessaloniki examined the file and decided in September 2018 that the reopening of the case was not possible due to the fact that the offences were subject to prescription.

General measures

As regards administrative investigations of complaints against law enforcement agents

At its 1157th meeting (December 2012) (DH), the Committee of Ministers welcomed the repeal of Law No. 29/1943 on the use of firearms, which had been criticised by the European Court, noted that the new national legislation introduced a modern and comprehensive legislative framework for the use of firearms by the police and decided to close the supervision of the general measures taken by Greece to prevent similar violations of Article 2.

Furthermore, the Committee of Ministers welcomed the establishment by Law No. 3938/2011 of the three-member executive committee to head the aforementioned Office.

According to information provided by the authorities in September 2017, the Office did not become operational. Instead, as mentioned above, the Mechanism was established by Law No. 4443/2016, as part of the Ombudsman’s Office. The Mechanism is mandated to collect, record, assess and transmit to the competent bodies complaints about the actions of law enforcement agents and employees of detention establishments regarding: a) torture and other violations to human dignity within the meaning of Article 137A of the Criminal Code; b) illegal, intentional attacks against life, health, physical integrity, personal or sexual freedom; c) illegal use of firearms; or d) illegal behaviour for which there is evidence of racist motivation or discriminatory treatment on the grounds of colour, race, national or ethnic origin, descent, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. More specifically, the Ombudsman, acting as the Mechanism, evaluates all submitted complaints which fall within his specific competence and decides either to investigate them himself or to refer them to the competent disciplinary body.

If the Ombudsman decides to investigate the complaint himself, the competent disciplinary body is not prevented from continuing its investigation but is obliged to suspend its decision on the case pending receipt of the Ombudsman’s findings. If the Ombudsman decides to refer the case to the competent disciplinary body, the latter is obliged to investigate it as a priority, and inform the Ombudsman of the outcome. The Ombudsman evaluates the findings of the disciplinary proceedings and may send the case back to the disciplinary body for further investigation if specific shortcomings are identified. The Ombudsman’s findings are not legally binding, but the disciplinary body concerned is obliged to provide detailed reasoning in case of any divergence from them.

The Ombudsman is also empowered to request the reopening of an administrative investigation in cases where the European Court has found the initial investigation ineffective. When the Ombudsman decides to reopen the case, based on the findings of the European Court, he communicates this decision to the disciplinary body concerned.

During the investigation, the Ombudsman may request public services to provide any information, documents or other evidence related to the case under investigation, unless they have been classified as secret on grounds of national defence, state security or the country’s international relations. Furthermore, the Ombudsman may take statements from witnesses, conduct on-site investigations and order expert reports.

According to the authorities’ communication of 8 October 2018, the Ombudsman indicated in his annual report submitted to Parliament on 26 March 2018 that, since 6 June 2017, 117 complaints had been submitted to the Mechanism. 11 complaints were submitted by individuals and 112 by state services responsible for investigating disciplinary offences. The Mechanism found that four complaints were not within the scope of the Ombudsman’s competence, whilst the remaining complaints were followed up. In seven cases the investigations were concluded by the respective services and their reports were under examination by the Ombudsman. In two cases the Ombudsman held that the investigations were insufficient and referred them back to the competent services. In four cases investigations were being carried out by the Ombudsman himself.

As regards the offences investigated, 15 concerned torture, 15 the use of firearms, 14 concerned affronts to sexual dignity, 53 concerned attacks against life or physical integrity and, lastly, 11 concerned racially motivated offences. According to information provided by the police, between June 2017 and March 2018 223 complaints were transmitted to the Ombudsman. 31 of these were found not to be within the scope of the Ombudsman’s competence. Administrative inquiries were ordered in 136 cases. Of these, 71 were completed and the relevant conclusions transmitted to the Ombudsman. In 17 cases the police were ordered to carry out further investigations; in nine of them, further investigations were carried out and they were referred back to the Ombudsman. In order to enhance co-operation between the police and the Ombudsman, a circular was issued by the head of the Greek police in June 2017.

As regards other general measures aiming at combatting ill-treatment by law enforcement officers and racially motivated crimes

At its 1302nd meeting (December 2017) (DH), the Committee noted that a law-making committee had been established, tasked with examining whether the definition of torture in Greek law is compatible with the definition in Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture. It also noted that the authorities had undertaken to examine the matter of conversion of custodial sentences imposed for torture with a view to ensuring that perpetrators of torture or other ill-treatment are proportionately and effectively punished. Lastly, the Committee invited the authorities to provide information about further relevant developments.

On 8 October 2018 the authorities informed the Committee that the above committee had concluded its work and submitted a draft criminal code to the Ministry of Justice which would be soon sent to Parliament for adoption. The authorities noted that the review of the definition of torture in the Criminal Code is beyond the necessary measures for the execution of the present judgments, because the Court did not indicate that the violations found were linked to the criminal law provisions criminalising torture or affront to life and bodily harm. According to the authorities, it was rather the lenient application by domestic courts of these provisions that led to procedural violations of Article 3.

The Greek Helsinki Monitor in its communication submitted in September 2018 mentioned notably that since June 2017 it had submitted to the Ombudsman 18 complaints of ill-treatment (including of migrants and Roma[2]) by law enforcement agents, but had not received any information on the progress of these cases.

Lastly, it is noted that as of October 2018 five new cases concerning ill-treatment by law enforcement agents have been communicated to the Greek Government.

Analysis by the Secretariat

As regards individual measures

Criminal proceedings

It is recalled that in relation to 10 cases of the group, criminal charges were brought against the law enforcement agents involved, who were either acquitted or sentenced. In relation to three cases (Zelilof, Petropoulou-Tsakiris and Andersen), where criminal proceedings had not been brought, the files were re-examined and it was found that the offences had become time-barred.

Administrative proceedings

As regards the Zontul case, the reopening of the criminal investigations into torture (as the facts were characterised by the Court) instead of mere infringement of sexual dignity (as the events were characterised in the domestic proceedings) is claimed by the authorities to be objectively impossible since the perpetrator had already been convicted at the time of the Court’s judgment for the acts at issue. In the circumstances of the case, this objection – based on the principles of legal certainty and ne bis in idem – appears justified as no new facts or other evidence emerged in the procedure before the European Court. The violations were be solely related to the legal characterisation of these acts and to shortcomings in the investigation procedure.

In view of this situation, and of the importance of effectively preventing impunity in cases of torture, the possibility of disciplinary proceedings has been explored.

It is recalled that this has been considered, in the special circumstances of the present case, to be another avenue of redress to give a measure of effect to the Court’s findings. It is further recalled that the established case law provides that, when an agent of the State is accused of crimes that violate Article 3, criminal proceedings and sentencing must not be time-barred.[3] It is also recalled that where state agents have been charged with offences involving ill‑treatment, they should be suspended from duty while being investigated or tried, and should be dismissed if convicted.[4]

It is thus to be welcomed that the disciplinary investigations have continued. However, the conduct of these proceedings raises questions as to how the conclusions of the Court were taken into account both as regards the possibility of reopening the administrative investigations and the application of the relevant prescription rules when determining disciplinary liability.

As mentioned earlier the Mechanism (Ombudsman) requested the Hellenic Coast Guard to reopen the disciplinary proceedings, considering that there was no question of infringement of the ne bis in idem principle, since the new investigation would presumably focus on the offence of torture and not on the offences actually investigated in the context of the criminal proceedings. However, following the conclusion of the reopened investigation by the Hellenic Coast Guard, the Ombudsman concluded that the offences established were indeed time-barred because of the application of the general prescription period of five years that applies to the offence of infringement of sexual dignity. This change of position as to the scope of the disciplinary proceedings requires further explanation.

Even assuming that the disciplinary proceedings could only relate to the offence of infringement of sexual dignity, questions remain as to the application of prescription periods in the context of disciplinary action.

The Greek authorities have previously informed the Committee (see documents CM/Inf/DH(2012)40,
DH-DD(2015)757 and DH-DD(2018)971) that: a) for disciplinary offences the limitation period would not run during criminal proceedings; and b) according to Article 1 § 6 of Law No. 3938/2011, the limitation period for disciplinary offences giving rise to violations found by the Court would not run between the termination of disciplinary proceedings by the Hellenic Coast Guard (August 2001, § 16 Zontul) and the delivery of the Court’s judgment to the Office. However, the Office never became operational and was replaced only in 2017 by the Mechanism. The provision on the suspension of prescription remained unchanged. From the information provided, it appears that the Mechanism did not take into account the suspension of prescription in accordance with Article 1 § 6 of Law 3938/11. In view of the above, clarifications are necessary on how the statutory prescription periods for disciplinary offences were calculated and implemented by the Ombudsman.

It would be also useful to the Committee for the authorities to provide the full text of the conclusions issued by the Hellenic Coast Guard in Zontul. In this way, the Committee could acquire a detailed and comprehensive overview of these proceedings concerning torture.

As regards the Mechanism’s proposal that the heads of the services involved issue written apologies to the victims, it should be welcomed. The Committee might wish to encourage the authorities to consider it as a measure of moral compensation, and invite the authorities to provide more information on the effect given to this proposal.

General measures

As regards the problem of ill-treatment of persons in detention, it is noted that this issue has been the subject of several CPT reports. Its latest report on Greece (CPT/Inf (2017)25 §§ 62-66) states, inter alia, that as regards the treatment of criminal suspects detained by law enforcement officials, and despite overwhelming indications to the contrary, the authorities have to date consistently refused to consider that ill-treatment is a serious problem there, and have not taken the required action to implement the CPT’s recommendations and to combat this phenomenon effectively.

The CPT has notably underlined that in order to back up any message of zero tolerance and to reinforce training, effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment must be undertaken to demonstrate that criminal acts by the police will be punished, and to counter the current culture of impunity that pervades parts of the police force.

In view of the above, and of the fact that as of October 2018 five new applications against Greece lodged between 2013 and 2016 involving, inter alia, alleged violations of Article 3 due to ill-treatment in law enforcement have been communicated to the government, the Committee might visit to invite the authorities to provide information on measures taken or envisaged to give effect to the conclusions of the Court in the present group of cases, taking into account the CPT’s recommendations.

Administrative investigations of complaints against law enforcement agents concerning violations of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention 

It is recalled that the supervision of the execution of the judgments of this group focuses on the implementation of measures taken to prevent ill-treatment by law enforcement officers and to guarantee proper and effective investigations into acts giving rise to a risk to life or of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers.

It appears that a key element in the execution of the Court’s judgments is the effective operation of the Ombudsman as the Mechanism. 15 of the complaints referred to by the authorities, submitted to the Ombudsman after the judgments in the present group, led to administrative investigations for torture, whilst 53 complaints concerned attacks against life or bodily harm. However, no information was provided about the scope and effectiveness of the investigations undertaken or about their outcome as regards disciplinary or criminal responsibility of the alleged perpetrators. The authorities should provide the Committee with more information in these and other relevant respects, to permit an evaluation of the effectiveness and independence of the investigations carried under the supervision of the Mechanism.

As regards reopening of administrative investigations

The special problems raised in the Zontul case require additional attention. Given that, according to the above law, reopening of disciplinary proceedings, to the extent they impose sanctions, should not infringe the ne bis in idem principle, and given the problems identified above in this respect, as well as regards the application of prescription periods, it would be useful for the Committee to receive information about the implementation of the legislation by the Ombudsman in the cases at issue in this group and possibly others so that conclusions can be drawn about how Law 4443/2016 might be applied in possible future cases. More specifically, information would be useful about: a) the suspension of statutory limitation periods for the offences that gave rise to the violations found by the Court; and b) in view of the ne bis in idem principle, the overall possibility to reopen disciplinary investigations in cases where criminal or disciplinary liability has already been decided upon.

Some of the present cases also concern the authorities’ failure to investigate whether racist motives on the part of the police may have played a role in the applicants’ ill-treatment. Given that the authorities have not provided updated information on the impact of measures taken or measures envisaged to prevent similar violations, the Committee might wish to call on the authorities to do so.

Adequacy of criminal proceedings and sanctioning by domestic courts

It is recalled that in a number of the present judgments the Court’s findings of procedural violations of Article 3 stemmed from inadequacies in criminal proceedings, concerning notably: inadequate access for the applicant as a civil party to the criminal proceedings (Zontul § 111); inadequate witness-related proceedings indicating a lack of effort by the competent authorities to discover what really happened (Alsayed Allaham § 28-29, Galotskin § 49, Zelilof § 62); and the handling (and closing) of the relevant complaints by the prosecutor (Andersen §65).[5] In addition, procedural violations of Article 3 in some of these cases stemmed, inter alia, from the leniency and disproportionate sentences imposed by domestic courts on law enforcement agents, even in cases where (aggravated) torture occurred (Zontul §§ 106-108, Sidiropoulos and Papakostas §§ 90-96). In view of this, the Committee might wish to call on the authorities to provide information on measures taken or envisaged in order to redress these shortcomings and to fully align criminal law and practice with the Court’s case law.

Definition of torture in the Criminal Code

This issue was raised by the Court in Zontul (§§ 87-93), in which it noted that the court of appeal had not characterised the applicant’s rape by truncheon as torture because Article 137A § 2 of the Criminal Code provides that, in order for an act to be characterised as torture, the infliction of severe pain must be “planned”. The Court found that under its established case law a detainee’s rape by a state agent constitutes torture under the Convention.

The information provided concerning the review of the definition of torture in the Criminal Code in order to align it with Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture is positive, as the requirements of this Article are the same as those under the Convention. However, no detailed information was provided about the outcome of this review, notably about when the authorities intend to propose the amendments to the Criminal Code needed to bring it into line with the requirements of the Convention. The Committee might wish to invite the authorities to provide more information on the progress of the present legislative work.

Financing assured: YES

[1] The issues of excessively lengthy criminal proceedings and effective remedies were examined in the Michelioudakis / Diamantides No.2 group of cases,  closed by Final Resolution CM/ResDH(2015)231.

[2] The term “Roma and Travellers” is used at the Council of Europe to encompass the wide diversity of the groups covered by the work of the Council of Europe in this field: on the one hand a) Roma, Sinti/Manush, Calé, Kaale, Romanichals, Boyash/Rudari; b) Balkan Egyptians (Egyptians and Ashkali); c) Eastern groups (Dom, Lom and Abdal); and, on the other hand, groups such as Travellers, Yenish, and the populations designated under the administrative term “Gens du voyage”, as well as persons who identify themselves as Gypsies. The present is an explanatory footnote, not a definition of Roma and/or Travellers.

[3] See, inter alia, Yeter v. Turkey, judgment of 13 January 2017 §70, Mocanu v. Romania, GC judgment. of 17 September 2014, §326.

[4] See, inter alia, Gäfgen v. Germany, GC judgment of 1 June 2010 §125.

[5] See also CPT report on Greece of 1 March 2016 (CPT/Inf (2016) 4 §24) stating that “ the current system is characterised by systemic failings by the police and judicial authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations, aimed at bringing the perpetrators of ill-treatment to justice”.

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European Implementation Network civil society briefing focuses on Georgia, Greece and the Russian Federation

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EIN civil society briefing focuses on Georgia, Greece and the Russian Federation

On 23 November 2018, EIN held its quarterly civil society briefing, ahead of the 1331st CM-DH meeting.

Presentations were given on the following cases:

1- Alekseyev v Russia (Application No 4916/07) and Bayev v Russia (Application No 67667/09) – Repeated bans on the holding of LGTBI marches and pickets; fines imposed for displaying banners considered to promote homosexuality among minors (against laws prohibiting such “propaganda”).

2- Makaratzis v Greece (Application No 50385/99) – Ill-treatment by coastguards and other state agents and a lack of effective investigations.

3- Merabishvili v Georgia (Application 72508/13) – Failure by the domestic courts to give relevant and sufficient reasons to justify continuation of detention on remand; continued detention on remand with the predominant purpose of obtaining information from the applicant about third persons.

4- Bekir Ousta v Greece (Application 35151/05) – Refusal of domestic courts to register the applicants’ associations.

 

 Participants in the briefing. Photo: EIN

Participants in the briefing. Photo: EIN

 

Over 35 participants attended the briefing, including participants from the Permanent Representations to the Council of Europe, the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, and other CoE staff members. The main recommendations from the briefing are available here.

1- Alekseyev v Russian Federation (Application No 4916/07) and Bayev v Russia (Application No 67667/09)

The Alekseyev v. Russia case addresses repeated bans on demonstrations promoting tolerance and respect for the human rights of LGBTI persons in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and the absence of an effective remedy to challenge those bans. The European Court of Human Rights (the Court) found violations of Convention Articles 11 (right to freedom of assembly), 13 (right to an effective remedy), and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 11.

 

 Nigel Warner from ILGA Europe reporting about the Alekseyev and Bayev v RF cases. Photo: EIN
Nigel Warner from ILGA Europe reporting about the Alekseyev and Bayev v RF cases. Photo: EIN

 

The Bayev v. Russia case addresses violations of the right to freedom of expression and discrimination on account of fines imposed on the applicants for displaying banners considered to promote homosexuality among minors. The banners were held by the Russian courts to be against the regional laws prohibiting such “propaganda”, adopted in several regions since 2006, and followed by a nation-wide law of 2013 similar to that effect (violations of Article 10 and of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 10).

The main argument advanced by the RF in support of these laws – that they are necessary to protect minors from information about homosexuality – was dismissed by the ECtHR as “lacking any evidentiary basis”.

The execution of judgments process in the Alekseyev case has now been proceeding for 7 ½ years. Over that time, in numerous Decisions, the CM has repeatedly expressed concern that the competent authorities have refused the majority of requests to hold public events similar to those in the Alekseyev judgment. It has also made numerous warnings against the introduction of regional and federal laws prohibiting so-called “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” (the “propaganda” laws). These were ignored, and despite assurances by the Russian government to the contrary, these laws have been used on many occasions to refuse authorisation of public events in support of the rights of LGBTI persons. As far as the Bayev case is concerned, the judgment is relatively recent (June 2017).

In his presentation, Nigel Warner focused on the main recommendations listed in the Rule 9.2 communication submitted on those cases by Coming Out, a St Petersburg-based NGO, and ILGA Europe, in October 2018. According to Mr Warner, the latest Action Plan of the Russian Federation on those cases offers no evidence of any improvement or prospect of improvement in the situation. Furthermore, it appears to repudiate the Bayev judgment, citing a ruling of the RF Constitutional Court to the effect that the “propaganda laws” are consistent with the constitution. The “propaganda laws” continue to be used to the detriment of LGTB youth.

In view of this situation, Mr Warner therefore invited the CM to:

  • repeat its request to the Russian authorities to adopt a comprehensive action plan to ensure execution of the Alekseyev and Bayev judgments. This request should, as a minimum, include the repeal of legislation prohibiting so-called “propaganda of homosexual relations”; and
  • continue requesting information on the treatment of notifications to hold public events similar to those in the Alekseyev case.

The memo of Mr Warner is available here. His power point presentation is here. The October 2018 rule 9.2 submission form ILGA Europe and Coming Out is here. You can access the October 2018 Action Plan from the Russian Federation here.

2- Makaratzis and others group of cases v Greece (Application No 50385/99)

These cases concern ill-treatment and the unauthorized and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials.

An update on the group was delivered by Panayote Dimitras from the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), which represents the victims in nine of thirteen cases of the group.

Mr Dimitras first underlined the positive points included in Greece’s communication dated 4/10/2018 on the Makaratzis group of cases, i.e. the beginning of the functioning of the National Mechanism for the Investigation of Arbitrary Behaviour (hereafter “the Mechanism”) within the framework of the Greek Ombudsman; and the agreement of the Government with the Mechanism recommendation that letters of apology be sent to victims of the incriminating acts.

 

 Panayote Dimitras from the Greek Helsinki Monitor on the Makaratzis group of cases. Photo: EIN

Panayote Dimitras from the Greek Helsinki Monitor on the Makaratzis group of cases. Photo: EIN

 

He further highlighted the historical decision of the Supreme Court Prosecutor, in the Chowdury and others v Greece case, to file an appeal for the cassation of a domestic court judgment for the benefit of the law, to comply with the ECtHR judgment ruling that this domestic judgment was violating the ECHR. He reminded that GHM had recommended as a fundamental remedy to execute ECtHR judgments the filing of such appeals for cassation by the Supreme Court Prosecutor in case where the violations ruled by the ECtHR resulted from domestic court judgments.

Despite these positive developments, there is still need for further progress. With regard to the work of the Ombudsman as the Mechanism for the investigation of arbitrary behaviour, in particular, Mr Dimitras regretted the lack of transparency and information on the Mechanism. GHM, which represents the victims in nine out of thirteen cases has never received any communication from the Mechanism. Most importantly, Mr Dimitras expressed his concern over the decision by the Ombudsman on almost all new cases not to carry out his own investigations but only to supervise them, and entrust the disciplinary investigations to what GHM considers as objectively partial investigation bodies. He also recalled that, in its Report on Greece of 2 November 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee evaluated the answers from Greece related to the work of the Ombudsman and the effectiveness of the Mechanism as either partially satisfactory or not satisfactory.

With regard to the Makaratzis group of cases, GHM therefore urged the CM to ask the Greek government to:

  • reopen all disciplinary investigations in the 13 cases of the Makaratzis group;
  • request the Supreme Court Prosecutor to file appeals for cassation for the benefit of law of ten domestic judgments in the Makaratzis group of cases found by the ECtHR to be in violation of the ECHR;
  • provide detailed information on the punishment of law enforcement officials for misconduct, ill-treatment or disproportionate use of force;
  • make sure that the Ombudsman investigates himself the torture or ill-treatment allegations;
  • empower the Ombudsman to impose sanctions. To do so, the law should be amended so that the Mechanism can impose penalties; concretely, a solution would be to remove the Mechanism from the Ombudsman and make it independent.
  • introduce the necessary amendments so that the definition of torture is compatible with Article 1 of UN CAT

The memo of Mr Dimitras on this group of cases is available here. The latest communication from the Greek government (September 2017) is here. You can also download the Rules 9.2. September and October submissions by the Greek Helsinki Monitor.

 

3. Merabishvili v Georgia (Application 72508/13)

 

 Georgian MP Otar Kakhidze and another Georgian MP updating on the Merabishvili case. Photo: EIN.

Georgian MP Otar Kakhidze and another Georgian MP updating on the Merabishvili case. Photo: EIN.

 

The case concerns violations suffered by the applicant, a former Prime Minister of Georgia, in the context of the criminal proceedings instituted against him in December 2012 and January 2013, for alleged embezzlement and the abuse of official authority (violations of Article 5 § 3 and Article 18 taken in conjunction with Article 5 § 1 of the Convention).

The presentation on this case was given by Mr Kakhidze, MP of Georgia, on the basis of the Rule 9 submission filed on this case by EHRAC in September 2018.

Mr Kakhidze noted that, following the release of Ilgar Mammadov on 13 August 2018, Mr Merabishvili was the only convicted individual against whom a violation of Article 18 of the Convention had been found who remained in detention.

In its Action Plan, the Government proposes to undertake further investigative measures taking full account of the Grand Chamber’s findings. “The only potential investigative mechanism in which Mr Merabishvili has confidence”, stated by Mr Kakhidze, “is an investigation by the Parliamentary Commission (a Temporary Investigative Commission, set up pursuant to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, Chapter 6, Articles 55-70”). Mr Kakhidze reminded that in September 2017 he requested that such a Parliamentary Commission be established to investigate Mr Merabishvili’s covert removal. Despite the fact that this request remains pending before Parliament, the Government rejected this proposal in its Action Plan (para. 33).

Mr. Kakhidze stated that without Mr. Merabishvili’s early release another investigation was not an answer to the established breach of Article 18/5. He emphasized that even the judges dissenting on violation of Article 18 agreed that Mr. Merabishvili was removed from his cell. Mr Kakhidze also reminded that an official internal inquiry of Merabishvili’s covert removal was conducted in 2014, and another formal investigation was launched in 2016 by the “reformed” prosecution service with a “newly appointed chief prosecutor”. However, the outcome which they published in 2017 clearly contradicted the ECtHR findings, both in the chamber and GC.

The Georgian Government indicated that the current domestic law prevented mobile telephone records and cell tower data from being examined as part of any further investigation, as the offence being investigated in relation to Mr Merabishvili’s removal fell within the category of less grave crimes (Action Plan, paras 34-36). It therefore proposed to amend the domestic legislation in order to permit such investigative steps to be carried out (Action Plan, para. 37). However, as Mr Kakhidze underlined, the Government failed to provide any further information as to what specific amendments it proposed to make, within what time period, whether such amendments would be retrospective (i.e. could be applied in Mr Merabishvili’s case) or whether practically this would have any effect (i.e. whether the relevant records in this case continue to exist almost 5 years after the event in question).

The Government also indicated that it has already undertaken a number of General Measures, in light of the Grand Chamber’s judgment, including:

a. Extending the period of time for storing video surveillance footage from 24 to 120 hours (Action Plan, para. 66; Order N35 amended by Order N19 (20 March 2017)); and

b. Creation of State Inspector’s Service SIS (Action Plan, paras 74-5).

Mr Kakhidze underlined that, in reality, video surveillance footage in detention facilities are stored for 30 days, but the Government tries to make the impression that “the system change” will be seen by the CM as an effective general measure. He noted that the proposed SIS was entirely irrelevant to Mr Merabishvili’s case as the crimes that it is empowered to investigate does not include any crimes related to Mr Merabishvili’s covert removal.

Mr. Kakhidze submitted that the Government intends to take the Committee of Ministers’ attention from individual measures to general legislative measures which, in his opinion, aims at delaying Mr. Merabishvili’s early release. According to him, the applicant’s continuous detention still has ulterior purposes disclosed by the Court when establishing violation of Article 18 in conjunction with Article 5.

As previously submitted (see letter to the Committee of Ministers dated 26 January 2018), in order to effectively implement the Grand Chamber judgment in his case, the Georgian authorities should therefore:

  • Re-open the criminal proceedings against him;
  • Pending the outcome of the re-opening of the criminal proceedings, order Mr Merabishvili’s release; and
  • Ensure rigorous investigation of his covert removal by an independent body.

You can download the text of the EHRAC rule 9 submission on this case, as well as all attachments: annexe 1, 2, 3 , 4 and 5. The power point presentation of Mr Kakhidze is here. The October 2018 Action Plan from the Georgian government can be downloaded here. The November 2018 Rule 9.2. submission by the Public Defender of Georgia can be downloaded here.

Other documents presented by Mr Kakhidze:

Nov 2018 letter from Georgian MPs to the CM-DH.

October statement from Georgian NGOs on the crisis of institutions in Georgia

Excerpt from the Georgian Public Defender Report 2018

4. Bekir Ousta and others group of cases v Greece (Application No 35151/05)

These cases concern violations of the right to freedom of association (Article 11) due to the refusal to register Turkish minority associations (Bekir-Ousta and Others and Emin and Others; final domestic decisions in 2006 and 2005 respectively).

 

 Photo: EIN

Photo: EIN

 

Mr Dimitras, from the Greek Helsinki Monitor, gave a summary of the developments since the last examination of the case by the CM, in December 2017. In February 2018, the Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Prefecture of Xanthi was refused registration on similar grounds as in the present group of cases. In its 2018 communications, mentioned Mr Dimitras, Greece has refused to address the CM December 2017 concerns on these developments. More importantly, the Supreme Court Judgment dissolving the Turkish Union of Xanthi (which was the first of the three Turkish minority associations of the group of cases that filed an application for the reopening of the domestic proceedings), was considered by the Greek government as irrevocable. This means, Mr Dimitras explained, “that any similar applications for the reopening of the proceedings on the basis of Articles 29 and 30 of Law 4491/2017 by ethnic Turkish and ethnic Macedonian minority associations vindicated by the ECtHR will have no chance to become admissible by domestic courts”.

Bearing in mind these developments, Mr Dimitras called on the CM to ask the Greek government to:

  • provide explanations for the two domestic court decisions not to register the new Cultural Association of Turkish Women in the Prefecture of Xhanti, and to reject as inadmissible the Turkish Union of Xhanti’s application to have its dissolution annulled;
  • promptly introduce a legislative amendment that will change the procedure so as to introduce a simple registration of associations, along the line of (for instance) the French model;
  • request that the Supreme Court Prosecutor to file appeals for cassation against all domestic judgments that were found by the ECtHR to violate the ECHR, including the four judgments related to the Bekir -Ousta associations.

The memo of Mr Dimitras and his recommendations are available here. The Rule 9.2. submission of the Greek Helsinki Monitor published in September and October 2018 are there. The December 2017 CM decision on this case is here.

The killing of Zak: the astonishing violence and impunity of Greek police

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The killing of Zak: the astonishing violence and impunity of Greek police

Police were seen hitting him with a baton, kicking him, stepping on him, and finally handcuffing him – while he appeared motionless. He was pronounced dead on arrival.
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Riot Police guarding Greek parliament during demonstrations Athens Greece, 2011. Wikicommons/Ggia. Some rights reserved.

On September 21, Zak Kostopoulos, or Zackie Oh!, a queer performer and activist, was brutally killed in downtown Athens. As seen in video footage that has been made public, Zak was beaten savagely by two men, in broad daylight, in full view of onlookers.[1]

He appeared to be trapped inside a jewellery store, trying to break the glass window, in order to get out. The two men were seen to break the window front, and then kick him repeatedly onto the broken glass, as he was bleeding on the ground. He was then briefly attended to by a paramedic, who arrived at the scene, before getting up and trying to flee in panic, wielding a shard of glass from the broken window as if to keep people away, finally falling onto the tables of a coffee shop.

Police were then seen hitting him with a baton, kicking him, stepping on him, and finally handcuffing him – while he appeared motionless.[2] He was then transported by ambulance to a central Athens hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was then transported by ambulance to a central Athens hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Initially, most media outlets reported on the incident as a jewellery store robbery gone wrong. Though precisely what happened is still unclear, both video footage and eyewitness testimony that have since been made public have cast serious doubts on the robbery scenario. The investigation by state prosecutors is on-going, and the two men who beat Zak now face charges of “bodily harm leading to death”. The prosecutor for Arios Pagos, the Supreme Court of Greece, issued an order that the investigation should include the possibility of discriminatory motives, based on the law that prohibits racist crimes.

What is, however, more clear than the precise circumstances that led to Zak’s beating is that the conduct of police officers at the scene raises a lot of questions. To the general consternation caused by the footage showing police officers kicking and stepping on an already injured, motionless man on the ground, the most resounding answer to date has been the statement by the Chairman of the Athens Police Union, Dimosthenis Pakos, who said that “this is standard practice, whether you like it or not”.[3]

Incomplete reform

The questions raised by the apparent conduct of police officers in the case of Zak’s death are, unfortunately, far from unprecedented. Although in the decades since the restitution of democracy in 1974, the Greek Police has been reformed, we might be  justified in thinking that this process is incomplete – in the sense of a lingering lack of accountability, which has created an impenetrable culture of impunity, and even what could be called an autonomy from social control.

A vast amount of evidence that we have been gathering from several sources (including public records, media reports, personal interviews, requests for information from the police, and reports by respected NGOs) indicates that abuses of police powers in Greece occur much more frequently than is tolerable in a democratic country.

These abuses include, first and foremost, a number of unlawful killings of civilians, most of which have not been adequately addressed by either internal disciplinary proceedings or the judicial system. They also include unprovoked and excessive use of violence; ill-treatment and torture of detainees; inadequate or deficient actions at crime scenes, including the mishandling of evidence; and refusal to display police identification either when operating (for example, concealing or not wearing the identifying number on a riot-policeman’s uniform), or when so requested.

What makes the frequency and gravity of abuses even more concerning is that very few cases among the ones reported result in the police being held in some way accountable. This remains so even when the persons claiming that they have been abused have a relatively high public profile, such as journalists, or there is a great number of available witnesses (such as during a demonstration), or there is indisputable visual evidence of the incident (such as photographs or video footage).

Amnesty International has documented allegations of abuse of police powers, including ill-treatment, violence and torture, such as beatings, falanga (beating or whipping the soles of the feet), rape with a truncheon, and use of an electric shock device. This documentation is included in reports that were shared with the Greek authorities and governments.[4]

Amnesty International research

We spoke with Gavriil Sakellaridis, who heads the Greek Section of the international organisation, and asked for his view of the situation. “Amnesty International in Greece,” Sakellaridis told us, “has been systematically researching the issue of arbitrary and excessive use of force or ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. We have published three reports in the recent past, the last of which was in 2014, as well as numerous statements. Reported serious incidents, particularly against refugees and migrants, continued this year, including many allegations of ill-treatment of refugees and migrants by the coastguard in the port of Patras and the continuing practice of push-backs in Evros river. These reported incidents illustrate that the culture of impunity persists.”

“Another recent incident,” Sakellaridis went on “where audio visual material shows police misuse of force is the case of LGBTI activist Zak Kostopoulos, who died after being violently attacked by a crowd of people, after being perceived as a thief of a jewellery shop. Published testimonies of eye-witnesses in the Greek media support further the audio-visual material. Amnesty International’s research shows that systemic failings leading to impunity for law enforcement officials committing human rights violations persist. These include: the failure by the police or judicial authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, effective and impartial investigations and to bring perpetrators to justice; and the failure to guarantee the right to an effective remedy. The lack of accountability is one of the major factors that lead to the on-going human rights violations by law enforcement officials”.

Licence to kill?

The impression of less than satisfactory processes to ensure police accountability is justified if one considers even the most serious offences committed by officers. To cite only some of the most widely publicised unlawful killings by the Hellenic Police – and, therefore, ones where it would be reasonable to expect public pressure to result in justice being served:

–   in November 1980 twenty-one-year-old worker Stamatina Kanelopoulou and twenty-six-year-old law student Iakovos Koumis were beaten to death by riot police, during the march commemorating the 1973 Polytechnic uprising against the junta;

–  in November 1985, fifteen-year-old student Michalis Kaltezas was shot in the back and killed by a police officer, again after the Polytechnic commemoration march;

–  in January 1991, twenty-five-year-old Turkish refugee Suleiman Akar died from what the coroner determined were severe injuries resulting from beatings, after being detained by the police for eight days on suspicion of peddling drugs;

–  in October 1998, seventeen-year-old Serbian student Marko Bulatovic, while on a school trip to Greece, was shot at close range and killed by a police officer, after he was mistakenly identified as a pick-pocket;

–  in December 2003, twenty-two-year-old amateur footballer Iraklis Marangakis was shot in the head and killed by a police officer, after he failed to stop at a police check-point while driving;

–  in December 2008, fifteen-year-old student Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by a police officer, while on an evening out with his friends.

The officers who beat Kanellopoulou and Koumis to death were never identified. Athanasios Melistas, the officer who killed Kaltezas, was tried and sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment; the sentence was suspended, then the conviction was overturned on appeal. The officers responsible for Akar’s death were cleared of wrongdoing in an internal hearing and were not prosecuted. Kyriakos Vandoulis, the officer who killed Bulatovic, was tried and sentenced to twenty-seven months imprisonment; the sentence was suspended. Yiorgos Dimitrakakis, the officer who killed Marangakis, was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment, but on appeal his sentence was commuted to five and a half years.

The only case to date in which an officer charged with the murder of a civilian was punished to the full extent of the law has been that of Epaminondas Korkoneas, murderer of Grigoropoulos, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. The case, however, is currently being heard by the Court of Appeals, and it would perhaps be important to remember that the murder of the fifteen-year-old student was followed by massive social unrest and riots, in which Athens burned for weeks.

No evidence discovered

If convictions are infrequent and sentences lenient where there are grave charges, such as murder, then for lesser – though still very serious – cases of alleged violence, the possibility of the police being held accountable is even more doubtful.

In June 2011, journalist Manolis Kypreos was reporting on a demonstration against austerity measures introduced by the government. According to his own account, when he observed riot police launching tear-gas and attacking with batons against peaceful protesters, he protested to the commander of a riot-police platoon. The officer dismissed him. Moments later, a flash-bang grenade landed at his feet. He suffered permanent loss of his hearing, and has since been suffering from vertigo and related disabilities affecting his sense of orientation and balance.

In April 2012, Marios Lolos, a photojournalist and chairman of the Greek Union of Photojournalists at the time, suffered a skull fracture from, according to his and several bystanders’ accounts, a police baton. He was hospitalised and underwent emergency surgery. Those present also alleged that the officer who struck Lolos had turned his baton upside down, so as to strike with the handle, thus inflicting more damage. This practice has also been reported in other cases of alleged police violence.

In November 2014, Dimitris Liakos, a photojournalist, was covering a demonstration at the Athens Polytechnic, which involved clashes between students and riot police. According to his account, while he was photographing police beating students who were already face-down on the ground and handcuffed, he was himself hit on the head with a baton.

These high-profile cases involving journalists were widely publicised. They were protested by press unions and human rights groups. Internal disciplinary inquests were called for. But as time passed and the news-cycle shifted, nothing was heard about them. We requested information from the Hellenic Police on the findings of the inquests, and in each of the three cases got an identical answer: “The case was archived, as no evidence was discovered to establish the commission of a disciplinary offence by a police officer.”

So, unfortunately, it is perhaps unsurprising that we got the exact same answer from the police regarding cases that involved not journalists covering protests, but demonstrators themselves, such as Yiannis Kafkas. In May 2011, a peaceful demonstration was broken up by riot police in what the demonstrators have described as an unprovoked attack with tear-gas and police batons. Kafkas, a post-graduate student, was beaten on his body and his head. He and eyewitnesses have reported that he was hit on the head with a portable fire-extinguisher. His head injury was so severe that he fell into a coma.

Having undergone emergency surgery, he spent ten days in intensive care and another ten in the neurosurgery clinic. A hospital doctor who operated on Kafkas described his situation when he was brought in as “close to death”. Again, “the case was archived” by the police. Again, “the case was archived” by the police.

Trial and error

Of course, cases of police violence do reach the courts. But even when judges in principle accept the fact that violence has been perpetrated, in the face of overwhelming evidence in the form of photographs or video footage recording the incidents, they seem reluctant to convict or to pass sentences that might serve as any kind of deterrent.

A most striking example is the case of photojournalist Tatiana Bolari, who was punched squarely in the face by an officer of the riot police, as she was covering a demonstration in October 2011. The police were pushing the photojournalists back with their shields. When Bolari complained that they could not do their job, she was punched. Her head violently swinging back from the force of the blow, with the policeman’s hand suspended in mid air, was captured on camera by other photographers.[5] Still, the policeman was given an eight-month suspended sentence, which was reduced to three on appeal. He was acquitted of the charge of breach of duty.

In May 2008, Nikos Sakellion, a twenty-four-year-old expatriate Greek from Russia, who was in Athens on holiday, died while four police officers were attempting to arrest him. The officers maintained that he suddenly collapsed and they called an ambulance. During the autopsy, at the morgue, a bag of heroin was found in the dead man’s throat.

Dissatisfied with the police’s account of the incident, Sakellion’s father plastered posters around the area where he died, requesting information from anyone that might have witnessed the incident. An eyewitness came forward, who claimed to have seen everything from his window. He recounted that the officers beat the man violently, after having handcuffed him, mainly on the back of his head. He even filmed part of the incident with his mobile phone.

Despite eyewitness testimony being heard in court, all officers involved were acquitted. The doctor who performed an emergency tracheostomy in the ambulance testified that there was no “bag of heroin” in the victim’s throat.

On December 6, 2009, during the march commemorating the first anniversary of the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos, a policeman from DELTA Team, a motorised police unit that has since been disbanded, was captured on video driving into the crowd.[6] Sixty-one-year old Aggeliki Koutsoumbou, a mathematics teacher and political activist, was seriously injured. She had to be hospitalised for skull, ribs and collarbone fractures, and has experienced recurring hearing and balance problems from the beating that followed. According to those present, when they tried to help her, they were also attacked and beaten by police. A doctor suffered permanent damage to his arm from the beatings, while he was trying to give her first aid. In March 2012, the state prosecutor dismissed Koutsoumbou’s lawsuit against the police. The policeman in question was tried for involuntary bodily harm, the court essentially accepting the police’s account that this was a “traffic accident”. He was given a twelve-month suspended sentence.

In June 2011, the police attacked the huge anti-austerity demonstrations that were taking place in front of the Greek Parliament, launching thousands of tear-gas canisters onto the crowds, and even inside the Syntagma metro station, where demonstrators had been trying to find refuge, as well as on the improvised infirmary, where volunteer doctors were giving first aid to the injured. We, the authors of this article, were present during the attack, as we were tasked with covering the demonstration at the time, so apart from numerous eye-witness accounts that have since been published, we can also personally attest to the brutality with which police beat demonstrators, even chasing them into apartment buildings and the streets of nearby Plaka. We left when it became absolutely impossible to breathe, and to this day we consider ourselves very lucky to have escaped unharmed.

For the incidents of June 2011, there were several different lawsuits filed against the police by members of the public, and also one filed by Alexis Tsipras, who was not Prime Minister at the time, but still the leader of a small party. The lawsuits were considered together, in light of a great volume of evidence, including photographs, video footage, and testimony from those injured in the attack. Eighteen police officers were finally brought to trial last summer. They were all acquitted.

Leniency escalating abuse

It would not be unreasonable to suppose that a failure to impose penalties that serve as a deterrent, not only exacerbates the climate of apathy towards excessive and unprovoked police violence, but also may allow a specific officer to continue to abuse citizens, having got away with illegal violence before. And facts do prove that such a supposition is justified.

Police using tear gas on protesters against US-led airstrikes in Syria, April,2018. Eurokinissi/Press Association. All rights reserved.

In December 2001, during a routine vehicle check, police officers severely beat up at least two persons. According to the account of one of the victims, Panayiotis Galotskin, whose case was eventually vindicated by the European Court of Human Rights,[7] the police suddenly turned on an acquaintance of his, a passer-by, who had simply wanted to know what all the fuss was about, and began to punch him and kick him.[8] They then burst into a nearby cafeteria, where Galotskin had meanwhile been visiting the toilet, and beat him up with a pool cue. He was subsequently hospitalised.

Galotskin was charged with attacking the officers and freeing a prisoner (his acquaintance). He was acquitted in court, but despite that fact, the officers involved never faced any consequences for their actions: they were cleared in the internal inquest, and they were acquitted in the lawsuit Galotskin filed against them.

Five years later, on November 17, 2006, after another march in memory of the Polytechnic uprising had finished and everything was quiet, Cypriot college student Avgoustinos Dimitriou was walking in Thessaloniki. Dimitriou was totally unrelated to the earlier march and was just taking a stroll. He was suddenly attacked by police officers in plain clothes who began to savagely beat him with their fists. Not knowing that the men attacking him were police, he called to uniformed officers who were standing a little further away for help. Instead of helping him, they handcuffed him, and the beating continued. The violence was prolonged and extreme, and, as it later turned out, took place under the eyes of the Director of Police in Thessaloniki, who did not stop it. The violence was prolonged and extreme, and, as it later turned out, took place under the eyes of the Director of Police in Thessaloniki, who did not stop it.

Despite the incident being captured on video,[9] leaving no doubt about the circumstances of the attack, the police officially insisted that the student had injured himself by tripping and falling into a planter box.

Dimitriou was hospitalised for eleven days and has since stated that he has been facing serious psychological problems as a result of the attack. A civil court later found in favour of Dimitriou and awarded him a 300,000 euro compensation.

Eight officers were brought to trial. One of them had also been a participant in the beating of Galotskin, five years earlier, for which he had been cleared. Despite this indication of systematic abuse, the court was lenient for yet another time. Six officers were acquitted on appeal, and two were given prison sentences of two and a half years. The court suspended the sentences.

An antifascist motorcade, “State Security” and bodily harm

The Greek Police have often been accused of racially motivated ill-treatment. Such accusations have, on occasion, crossed the country’s borders.

In May 2012, Indian university professor Shailendra Kumar Rai, who had been invited to lecture at Athens University of Economics and Business, was arrested during a police crackdown on illegal street vendors, who are mostly immigrants.

In July 2012, an American tourist, Christian Ukwuorji was detained during a police anti-immigrant “sweep operation”, and claimed to have been beaten until he lost consciousness. After that incident, the State Department published a travel warning that Americans could face discrimination by the Greek Police.

In January 2013, Korean tourist Hyun Young Jung was also detained in a “sweep operation” and maintained he was beaten both during his arrest and at the police station. Commenting for a BBC report and apparently confident that he was not saying anything problematic, a police representative at the time stated that anyone who looks foreign can be stopped.[10] A police representative at the time stated that anyone who looks foreign can be stopped.

Unfortunately, such xenophobic or racist motivations are not accidental. On the contrary, they appear to be connected to sympathies for far-right ideologies that run much deeper in the Greek Police.

On September 30, 2012, an antifascist motorcade demonstration was organised to protest the repeated racist violence against immigrants, perpetrated by fascist gangs, members or affiliates of Golden Dawn, the notorious neo-Nazi party that had just gained entry to the Greek Parliament. The leadership as well as numerous members of Golden Dawn are currently on trial, charged with constituting a “criminal organization”. The latest such incident at the time was a violent attack on the premises of the Tanzanian Community in Athens, six days earlier. A press release by the Hellenic Union for Human Rights, and other anti-racism watchdogs, described the attackers as “a group of about eighty Golden Dawn members”.[11]

According to the protesters, motorised police were following them and harassing them all along. After an altercation between the protesters and a small group of passers-by that included Golden Dawn members, the police suddenly attacked the motorcade, using flash-bang grenades and tear gas. They arrested fifteen of the demonstrators, and beat them with batons while handcuffed. A protester stated that police officers were stepping on his chest, causing him serious difficulty to breathe. Another said he was hit with a taser in his spine.

The fifteen detainees, according to their allegations, were then transported to the Attica General Police Directorate and were told to stay in a corridor outside the offices of the Directorate informally known as “State Security”. Formally the Directorate for Regime Protection, “State Security” is responsible for various surveillance operations and usually collaborates closely with the Antiterrorist Division.

They were to remain there until they gave a statement to the police, without being allowed access to a lawyer. Officers of the police unit that made the arrests were also to give statements, and they were allowed to stay in the same space. According to accounts, the “State Security” officers, who were at that point responsible for handling the detainees, then withdrew to their offices, and only emerged occasionally to tell everyone to “keep it down”.

The protesters maintain that while at the Police Headquarters they were beaten again. They claim that members of the arresting police unit, as well as a few others from the Police Special Forces that wondered in, then proceeded to put cigarettes out on them, shine flashlights and laser pointers in their eyes, spit on them, slap them, strip search them in plain view, all the while humiliating them and threatening them that they were going to kill their families. They were all denied water, and the only way to drink some was when they were allowed, after much taunting, to use the toilet. They were also denied sleep all through the night. They did not see a lawyer until the following day, almost twenty hours after their arrest.

Pictures of the detainees after their release on bail confirmed the presence of serious injuries, including a mark from a taser. The accusations against the police were widely publicised when The Guardian published a report.[12] The Minister of Public Order at the time, Nikos Dendias, denied the allegations in a speech in Parliament, and threatened the Guardian with a lawsuit, which he never filed. Forensic reports subsequently confirmed the injuries.

After a lawsuit filed by the fifteen, the Internal Affairs Division investigated the allegations, and some of the officers were positively identified. The public prosecutor decided to charge the officers with a misdemeanour charge of bodily harm. Only one officer is charged with torture, again as a misdemeanour and not a felony. The officers of “State Security” that had the detainees in custody were not charged with a crime. The lawyers of the fifteen argue that the “State Security” officers were the designated custodians and should have been charged with failing to protect the detainees.

We again requested information from the police on the findings of the internal disciplinary inquest – this time regarding the torture allegations. They replied: “After the sworn administrative review was concluded, it was tried by the General Police Director of Attica, and was by his decision archived, as no responsibility by police officers was determined, without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 1 of article 49 of Presidential Decree 120/2008, concerning the repetition of the disciplinary trial in the case that a verdict of conviction is issued in the penal trial”. To translate, the police say that they determined no officer was responsible, but they are aware that they are required by law to reopen disciplinary proceedings if the officers are found guilty in court.

“Six years on,” Marina Daliani, a lawyer representing some of the protesters, told us “they are still waiting for their lawsuit against their torturers to be tried by a court of first instance, while the police officers involved have already been cleared of any disciplinary responsibility for the incident. Meanwhile, the ECHR continues to censure Greece for its inefficient prevention of torture and the impunity of the perpetrators. Incidents of police violence and corruption are increasing, and nobody feels surprised any more when they are publicized”.

Both the trial of the police officers and the trial of the protesters are on-going, with the next court dates upcoming in November.

The group of people that was involved in the altercation with the antifascists that night was never arrested. Two persons from the group subsequently became witnesses against the protesters, claiming they were just ordinary citizens out on a stroll, when the “anarchists” attacked them. Their statements to the police were instrumental in the state prosecution against the fifteen protesters: the charges were upgraded to include attempted grievous bodily harm, a felony. Both “ordinary citizens” are today defendants in the on-going Golden Dawn “criminal organization” trial. Both were also convicted, in another case, for arson against a bar owned by immigrants in the Agios Panteleimonas area.

Some of the fifteen protesters have also claimed that during the time they spent under arrest at Police Headquarters, the officers who tortured them were bragging about being members of Golden Dawn, and photographed them with their mobile phones in order to put their pictures on the Internet – the implication being that their faces would then be known to Golden Dawn gangs.

A family affair

The issue of the ties between Greek Police and Golden Dawn has been hotly debated ever since the neo-Nazi party’s appeal started rising in 2010 – but has been investigated, albeit by very few people, for a lot longer.[13]

After a notorious Golden Dawn attack, in 1998, which left student Dimitris Kousouris – today a professor in Germany – in a coma due to grave head injuries, the main perpetrator, Antonis Androutsopoulos – who was later convicted of attempted murder – remained a fugitive for six years. Michalis Chrysochoidis, Minister of Public Order at the time, formed a special police task force in spring 1998 with the mission of capturing Androutsopoulos, who was then Golden Dawn’s deputy leader and went by the nickname “Periandros”. Nothing came of the special task force’s efforts, and the fugitive finally surrendered on his own.

In April 2004, Ta Nea newspaper published classified documents by the special police task force, where it was claimed that the investigation into Androutsopoulos’s whereabouts was “sabotaged from within”. The documents further revealed that some elements from within the police were supplying Golden Dawn with radios and batons during popular demonstrations, in order for them to strike against “leftists and anarchists”.[14]

Ties between the police and Golden Dawn were again up for public debate in 2008, when Golden Dawn members attacked an anti-racist demonstration, stabbing protesters, and then were seen to retreat behind the lines of riot police, who protected them.[15]

After video footage emerged that showed riot police providing shelter for far-right extremists, during a demonstration in 2011, by herding them into the grounds of the Greek Parliament,[16] even the vice-chairman of the Police Employees Union of Attica, Nikos Karadimas, had to admit that “it is true that in the Police Force there are many who sympathize with the far-right”. He went on to say: “In some units they may be up to 20%”.[17] Enquiring about the sheltering of far-right extremists on parliament grounds sometime later, we requested information from the police on the results of the internal disciplinary inquest. Unsurprisingly, we were told that, “the case was archived, as no evidence was discovered to establish the commission of a disciplinary offence by a police officer”.

Particularly during the years of the Greek crisis, as Golden Dawn was becoming a law unto itself in certain areas of Athens, the police’s willingness to investigate mounting racist attacks against immigrants was questioned on many occasions.[18] In a most characteristic incident, on the day after the Golden Dawn attack on the Tanzanian Community premises that we mentioned earlier, Yianna Kourtovic, a well-known lawyer, responded to an invitation by members of the community and went to the Aghios Pandeleimonas police station, where an investigation into the previous night’s attack had begun.

According to her account, members of Golden Dawn were also present. “Everyone, both the ones who were identified and the ones doing the identifying, were taken to the station,” Kourtovic stated at the time. “But when I arrived, I found the accusers on the bench where the accused normally sit, and the accused outside the station, laughing with the police officers. In the station, while I was not there, as soon as one immigrant had filed a lawsuit, they told him he was to be detained, and pressured him to withdraw the complaint and the identification”.[19] While all this was going on, members of Golden Dawn were freely roaming the offices of the police station. More of them gathered outside the station and started shouting and threatening. Platoons of riot police then arrived, but stood around chatting with the Golden Dawn members. As Ms Kourtovic tried to leave the police station, she was harassed in the presence of the police. While all this was going on, members of Golden Dawn were freely roaming the offices of the police station.

After the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn member Dimitris Roupakias, in September 2013, an investigation was launched by the Internal Affairs Division into issues of “corruption”, covering the whole of the police force, and including racially motivated and discriminatory abuses of power. The investigation resulted, a month later, in fifteen arrests of officers, ten of which were determined to have had “direct or indirect” connections to Golden Dawn, and concluded that there are “no ‘nuclei’ or (non-transparent) ‘factions’ or extra-constitutional poles in the Hellenic Police, which as a whole is a pillar of the democratic order”.[20]

Protestors marking 4th anniversary of murder of Pavlos Fyssas by a supporter of Greek ultra-right Golden Dawn party clash with anti-riot police, September, 2017. Marios Lolos/Press Associaition. All rights reserved.

Lawyers representing the victims of Golden Dawn in the on-going “criminal organisation” trial had criticised the Internal Affairs investigation, calling it a “parody”. They pointed out that just by examining media reports, the officers that had “direct or indirect connections” to Golden Dawn (through, for example, being implicated in criminal investigations, or through the police’s own public announcements) were at least three times as many. In addition, they maintained, the investigation failed to examine the systemic ties between the police and Golden Dawn, as evidenced in the implication of officers in higher positions, such as commanders of police precincts.[21]

Thanassis Kampayiannis, one of the lawyers at the trial, who is representing Egyptian fishermen attacked by Golden Dawn, told us :

“the investigation of relations between Golden Dawn and Greek Police has turned into a cover-up. At a time when the immunity enjoyed by the members of this criminal organisation has been manifestly shown at the Golden Dawn trial, there are still no penal or disciplinary responsibilities for those who are to blame.

“ The findings of the Internal Affairs investigation during the ministry of Nikos Dendias was a parody. However, the approach taken by the new government, led by SYRIZA, was also an unpleasant surprise. Not only were ministers unwilling to touch the abscess of the ties between Golden Dawn and the police, but Minister Nikos Toskas reached the point of attacking his predecessor, Nikos Dendias, in a statement saying that there was a “hunt against the police” and a “huge mistake”. The continuity between the state, the fascist deep state and Golden Dawn is still, unfortunately, the rule.”

Photoshop skills

The question why Greek governments have not been doing more to address the problem of abuse of police powers and to increase police accountability is a pressing one. Ministers responsible for the police have through the years appeared more willing to absolve the police of any wrongdoing than to seriously investigate claims of brutality – as is evidenced by the following infamous incident:

On February 1, 2013, four people were arrested for a double armed robbery. During their attempt to escape, they took a hostage with them, but they released him unharmed when their getaway van was blocked.

On the next day, the police published their photographs on its website. The photographs were very obviously and crudely altered with some image editing software. After persistent questions by journalists and a veritable storm in social media, the police published the original photos, which showed the faces of those arrested full of blood, bruises and swelling.

Three of the four claimed, through their families and lawyers, that they had been tortured during their detention. Forensic reports confirmed the injuries, and the police conducted an internal investigation, which concluded that they had resulted from the struggle during the arrest. [22]

The four did not file lawsuits, citing ideological reasons – meaning their anarchist convictions. It was largely for those convictions that along with armed robbery and other charges, they were also charged with participating in a terrorist organisation.

When the Minister of Public Order at the time, Nikos Dendias, was asked during a TV interview why the pictures had been altered, he replied: “I asked about it, too, like you, like any reasonable person, why was this done? Why were the photographs published? So that there could be an identification, so that there could be information about hide-outs. Because if there was no photoshop, so that they could resemble the image that the average person has, then the job of publishing the photographs would not have been done.” [23]

The Minister’s reply could be interpreted as saying that the pictures were altered because the faces of those arrested were so disfigured from the beatings that they were not recognizable for identification purposes. Though he was not as adamant in his denials of wrongdoing by the police as he had been in the case of the antifascist motorcade the previous year, he did repeat the police’s contention that the injuries were sustained during the arrest. He also said that the four were heavily armed terrorists, and that if terrorism was not dealt with, then there was no hope for Greece’s economic recovery.

In the event, both the Minister’s premature verdict and the internal police inquiry were disproved during the trial. The four were not convicted of terrorism, with the public prosecutor himself saying that there was “no evidence” of participation in a terrorist group, and that “a crime with an ideological or political motive does not necessarily mean terrorist action”. [24] But he also asked the court to consider the conduct of the accused during their arrest as a mitigating factor, because “the hostage related the dialogue between the accused in the van, according to which they decided not to use their weapons in order not to endanger the life of the hostage, and despite having a tactical advantage, such as heavy weapons and a hostage, they did not use it. As to the charge of resisting arrest, it would be unreasonable to accept that the accused surrendered their option for armed attack while they had the advantage, but they decided to do so while they were being arrested.”

They were all acquitted of resisting arrest. Nevertheless, no inquiry was launched – neither was the disciplinary inquest reopened – into the causes of the injuries they suffered while in custody.

The responsible Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection has through the years demonstrated little interest in questioning the procedures through which the police seem to never find any evidence of wrongdoing among their peers. This remains true to a large extent today, even though SYRIZA had been very vocal about the issue while in opposition, with one notable exception: the creation of a new “mechanism” for investigating complaints, as part of the Ombudsman’s office, which is an independent authority for mitigation in differences between citizens and public administration.

The so-called “National Mechanism for the Investigation of Incidents of Abuse”, which was launched in 2016, allows the Ombudsman to intervene in internal disciplinary proceedings in various institutions, including the police. Effectively, the Ombudsman can halt the disciplinary proceedings until they conduct their own independent investigation into allegations of abuse. They have the power to request documents and hear testimony from involved persons, which they can use to produce an independent report. Upon submission of the Ombudsman’s report, the disciplinary inquest resumes and must take it into account without diverging from it, except by providing a “specifically justified reason”. The Ombudsman also has the power to request a reevaluation of findings in such proceedings, can make recommendations to ministers, and can forward its findings to state prosecutors when they determine that there is evidence of criminal activity. Finally, in cases where the European Court of Human Rights finds Greece in violation of its obligation to conduct effective investigations, the Ombudsman has the power to request that disciplinary inquests be reopened.

A portable transceiver

In the last fifteen years, the European Court of Human Rights has found against Greece in numerous cases concerning violations of article 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

These are, obviously, only the cases where the people affected had both the determination and the resources to see a rather difficult process through, and also where the strict ECHR standards for admissibility could be met. Depending on whether one only includes torture as legally defined or also varying degrees of degrading treatment in the more general sense ­– including conditions of detention in police stations, refusal of access to medical attention, etc.—the number of these cases ranges between thirteen and over one hundred.

The most recent such case that was decided by the ECHR, in 2018, concerned two young men – one of them a minor at the time – who were arrested for traffic violations in 2002, in separate incidents. Once taken to a police station, they were beaten up. Then, a police officer produced a device for delivering electric shocks and tortured the detainees. During the administrative inquiry that followed, the officer’s superiors decided to archive the case with respect to the allegation of using an electric shock device, and found only that he carried and used during the performance of his duties a “portable transceiver” without the prior permission of the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications. He was fined 100 euros. The officer was subsequently promoted, and left the service in 2010.

After a long series of delays and postponements, the officer was put on trial and convicted in 2011, receiving a sentence of six years imprisonment. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to five years and converted to a pecuniary penalty of five euros per day of sentence. Because the court took into consideration the officer’s financial difficulties, it decided that the amount could be paid in thirty-six instalments.

The ECHR found that the process followed by the Greek authorities failed to provide a deterrent for the officer or other agents of the state, so that they may not commit such acts in the future. It awarded 26.000 euros in moral damages to each of the two victims.[25]

The thirteen cases against Greece involving violations of articles 2 and 3, collectively known under the leading case title “Makaratzis v. Greece”,[26] were discussed in a meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in September 2018.[27] The Committee has placed these cases under “enhanced supervision”, particularly with regard to the possibility of reopening disciplinary inquests under the new Ombudsman “mechanism”. The Ombudsman has requested the re-evaluation of one case, so far.

It is, however, crucial to note that although this new “mechanism” is an undoubtedly positive development, it is at best a means of applying pressure to relevant authorities, and not a definitive measure – which is perhaps why Gavriil Sakellaridis told us that “Amnesty International is deeply concerned that although some steps have been taken to address impunity, such as the creation of a police complaints mechanism, more needs to be done”.

Impunity

To our question on how the Ombudsman’s findings would be binding or could be enforced on the police, the Press Office replied that they are “obliged to comply”. This does little to counteract the view that the Ombudsman’s powers amount, in the final analysis, to a capability of making recommendations, as it has no power to actually enforce its decisions. It is still down to relevant authorities – whether the police disciplinary mechanism or the state prosecutors and the courts – to heed the Ombudsman’s recommendations and mend their ways.

“Greece consciously avoids as far as it can punishing officers of its security forces who are implicated in torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” says Panayote Dimitras, head of Greek Helsinki Monitor, an NGO that has represented eight out of the thirteen cases in the ECHR “Makaratzis v. Greece” bundle. “Even when there are convictions by the ECHR,” he told us, “a proper execution of the decision does not take place. This would mean, at least, a review of the disciplinary and penal decisions that have led to impunity, even if such actions would not result in new sentences for the perpetrators, due to the statute of limitations. A review, nevertheless, that would quash decisions or parts of decisions that led to impunity, combined with an apology to the victims, would be a very significant step in rectifying injustice”.

It seems to us that the Ombudsman’s powers are not on their own sufficient for this task—nor for preventing or substantially limiting the continuation of police abuses in the future. The police, in a democracy, is subject to elected political authority, and it is ultimately that authority which is responsible for addressing the issue of police abuses and the apparent “culture of impunity”.

With that in mind, we requested an official statement from the current minister, Olga Gerovassili. Her response, which was emailed to us via the ministry Press office, included a pledge that the manner in which the police operated in the Zak Kostopoulos incident will be thoroughly investigated and the affair will be resolved, as well as a lengthy exposition on the culpability of “some” of the media for how the incident was reported, and other thoughts on the “fascisisation” of society.

When we replied that this statement did not address our question, which was about police impunity, we were told by the press office that the Minister’s schedule would not allow her to draft a new statement. We replied again that we were willing to wait, and indeed allowed ten days for the Minister to find the time to reply. To the last of several reminders that this is an issue of the utmost importance for the Ministry, the press office replied for a final time that the Minister would not have the time for further comment.

Justice for Zak?

“We will ask to speak with the Minister, Ms Gerovassili,” one of the lawyers for Zak’s family, Anny Paparroussou told us. Her intention is to communicate to the Minister not only her concern over the conduct of the police at the scene of Zak’s death, but also their less than satisfactory, in her view, performance in the on-going investigation.

Characteristically, once Zak had been taken away in the ambulance, the arresting officers left the scene, without securing it. It is only after about an hour and a half that an officer, according to his own testimony to the prosecutor, was ordered to go back and secure the scene. In the meantime, the jewellery store owner, who had beaten up Zak, was still not in custody and was seen on video cleaning up.

“The investigation is not going very well,” says Paparroussou. “The video material from cameras of adjacent shops, which could help to retrace everything that happened, has not been collected by the police. We are told this matter is now closed. There does not seem to have been any active search for witnesses by the police – it is only some friends of the victim who are looking for them and are trying to convince them to come forward. Around fifteen people have testified, but there were over a hundred present. The prosecutor did ask the police to identify the people that appear in videos with Zak before the incident, and particularly one person who was with him before and is also seen during the beating. The police replied one day later, just one day, that they were unable to identify them”.

A great many people, including from the queer community, have expressed outrage online about the way Zak died and are demanding “justice for Zak”. Protests have been held in Athens and Brussels. At the massive anti-racist march in Berlin, on October 13, there was a block dedicated to Zak. Amnesty International, the Hellenic Union for Human Rights, and various NGOs have issued statements condemning the conduct of the police and calling for an investigation.

An internal disciplinary inquest is now under way. Several NGOs have petitioned the Ombudsman’s new “mechanism” to intervene – and they have pledged to do so. “They have no intelligible place in the philosophy of democracy.”

Still, given the Greek police’s track record, of which we here have documented merely a few most memorable instances, it would not be unreasonable to suspect that the officers of the law and the rule of law will continue on their separate ways.

“Part of the reason,” Mark Greif writes, “police seem at present unreformable is that they have no intelligible place in the philosophy of democracy”.[28]

In Greece at least, this certainly has a ring of truth.

Protesters opposing planned changes to Greek strike laws and rampant real estate auctions clash with police outside parliament, Athens, January 12, 2018. Angelos Tzortzinis/Press Association. All rights reserved.


[1] Video footage is available from SKAI TV here, in a news report billed as “attempted robbery”.

[2] Video footage available via Efimerida ton Syntakton, here .

[3] Statement made during live interview here on Antenna TV. Video available online (in Greek).

[4] See Amnesty International, “Police Violence in Greece. Not just ‘Isolated Incidents’,” report, 2012, available online (in English) here; “A Law Unto Themselves. A Culture of Abuse and Impunity in the Greek Police,” report, 2014, available online (in English) here.

[5] A photo by Reuters/Yannis Behrakis is available to view here.

[6] A clip from the video footage is available to view here.

[7] See “Case of Galotskin v. Greece” (Application no. 2945/07), 14.04.2010, available online (in English) here.

[8] The victim of this abuse was also vindicated by the ECHR. See “Case of Zelilof v. Greece” (Application no. 17060/03), 24.08.2007, available online (in English) here .

[9] A part of the video footage is available here and here.

[10] See Chloe Chadjimatheou, “The tourists held by Greek police as illegal migrants,” BBC News, January 10, 2013, available online here.

[11] See Hellenic Union for Human Rights, “Violent attack by Golden Dawn,” Press release, September 26, 2012, available online (in Greek) here.

[12] See Maria Margaronis, “Greek anti-fascist protesters ‘tortured by police’ after Golden Dawn clash,” The Guardian, October 9, 2012, available online here.

[13] For an introduction to the issue, see the article by the investigative team “Ios”, which over the years has revealed a lot of what we know about Golden Dawn: “The Blackshirts of the Hellenic Police” [Oi melanohitones tis ELAS], Eleftherotypia, February 10, 2008. Available online (in Greek).

[14] See Areti Athanassiou, “Police were covering for ‘Periandros’,” Ta Nea, April 17, 2004, available online (in Greek) here.

[15] “The Blackshirts of the Hellenic Police”, ibid.

[16] Part of the footage is available to view here.

[17] See Stelios Vradelis, “The intimate relations between Hellenic Police and Golden Dawn have surfaced” [Stin epifaneia oi sheseis storgis EL.AS.-Hrysis Avgis], Ta Nea, July 1, 2011, available online (in Greek) here.

[18] See Amnesty International, Public Statement, October 29, 2012, available online (in Greek) here.

[19] See “Golden Dawn Attack on Immigrants and lawyer Ioanna Kourtovic” [Epithesi Hrysavgiton se metanastes kai sti dikigoro Ioanna Kourtovic], tvxs.gr, September 27, 2012, http://bit.ly/1NLWi44

[20] The findings of the investigation are no longer available on the Hellenic Police website, but they are available (in Greek) here.

[21] The statement is available (in Greek) here.

[22] Statements by the Commander of the Internal Affairs Service of the Hellenic Police, February 8, 2013, available online (in Greek) here.

[23] Ministry of Public Order and Protection of the Citizen, Press Release, Statements by the Minister on ΜEGA Channel to journalists Dimitris Kampourakis and Yiorgos Oikonomeas, February 4, 2013, available online (in Greek) here.

[24] See Mariniki Alevizopoulou, “Do you remember the guys from Velvendo?” [Thimaste ta paidia sto Velvento?], Unfollow, September 5, 2014.

[25] See “Affaire Sidiropoulos et Papakostas c. Gréce” (Requête no 33349/10), 25.04.2018, available online (in French) here .

[26] The relevant ECHR documentation is available online (in English) here: the original decision is available (in English) here.

[27] The relevant documentation is available online (in English) here.

[28] Mark Greif, “Seeing Through Police,” Verso blog, October 6, 2017, available online here.

«Ποιον Λες να Πιστέψουν, Εσένα ή Εμένα;» – Η Ιστορία του Αστυνομικού της ΕΛ.ΑΣ. που Βασάνισε Πολίτες με Ηλεκτροσόκ

Για το ίδιο θέμα βλ. και 25/01/2018: Ευρωκαταδίκη δικαιοσύνης, αστυνομίας και κυβερνήσεων για επιεική (μη) τιμωρία & προαγωγή βασανιστή αστυνομικού – την απέκρυψαν τα ΜΜΕ

Vice

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«Ποιον Λες να Πιστέψουν, Εσένα ή Εμένα;» – Η Ιστορία του Αστυνομικού της ΕΛ.ΑΣ. που Βασάνισε Πολίτες με Ηλεκτροσόκ

Το 2002, ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας και ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος βασανίστηκαν με ηλεκτροσόκ στο Α.Τ. Ασπροπύργου. Ο αστυνομικός που τους βασάνισε δεν μπήκε ποτέ φυλακή. Πριν από έναν μήνα, η Ελλάδα καταδικάστηκε από ευρωπαϊκό δικαστήριο.

Έχει ξεκινήσει να σουρουπώνει και ο ζεστός ήλιος λούζει τον Ασπρόπυργο με ένα βαθύ πορτοκαλί χρώμα. Το ημερολόγιο γράφει 13 Αυγούστου 2002 και ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας, ένας φαντάρος 20 ετών που έχει πάρει άδεια ενόψει Δεκαπενταύγουστου, έχει βγει για καφέ με τους φίλους του. Καθώς επιστρέφουν όλοι μαζί απολαμβάνοντας τη χαλαρή βόλτα με τα μηχανάκια τους πάνω στην καυτή άσφαλτο, σταματούν σε ένα STOP, πολύ κοντά στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα του Ασπροπύργου. «Μόλις φτάσαμε στη διασταύρωση, ένα περιπολικό ξεκίνησε έξω από το Τμήμα. “Ρε μαλάκες, έρχεται η Αστυνομία”, φώναξε ένας και αμέσως όλοι άνοιξαν το γκάζι. Γκάζωσα και ’γω, για να μην μείνω πίσω και τους χάσω», λέει ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας.

Ο φαντάρος, που εκείνη την ημέρα οδηγούσε χωρίς δίπλωμα, δεν καταφέρνει να ξεφύγει από το περιπολικό. «Μετά από λίγα δευτερόλεπτα, αισθάνθηκα δύο φώτα να είναι κολλημένα στην πίσω ρόδα μου. Γύρισα το κεφάλι μου και είδα ένα περιπολικό με αναμμένο φάρο να με ακολουθεί κατά πόδας, λίγο ακόμη και θα έπεφτε πάνω μου. Το βλέμμα μου συναντήθηκε με εκείνο του αστυνομικού, που μου έκανε σήμα να κάνω δεξιά».

Η πρώτη προσαγωγή

Ο Γιάννης σταματά το μηχανάκι του μπροστά από ένα εργοστάσιο χαρτοποιίας, όπου λόγω της παραγωγής το έδαφος είναι λασπώδες.

Δύο αστυνομικοί βγαίνουν από το περιπολικό.

«Πέσε κάτω τώρα», τον διατάζει ένας από αυτούς.
«Έχει λάσπες, δεν μπορώ», απαντάει ο Γιάννης.
«Είπα, πέσε κάτω τώρα», επιμένει ο αστυνομικός.
«Δεν μπορώ, έχει νερά», ανταπαντά ο Γιάννης.

Ο αστυνομικός πλησιάζει, τον πιάνει από τον ώμο και τον σπρώχνει προς τα κάτω με δύναμη, περνώντας του τις χειροπέδες στα χέρια. Ο αστυνομικός βάζει τόση δύναμη, που στο χέρι του Γιάννη υπάρχει ακόμη το σημάδι από τις χειροπέδες, 15 χρόνια μετά από εκείνο το βράδυ.

«Δώσε μου τα χαρτιά σου», λέει σε έντονο ύφος ο αστυνομικός.
«Είναι στην κωλότσεπη. Λύσε με να σου τα δώσω», απαντάει ο Γιάννης.

«Ο αστυνομικός έβαλε το χέρι του στην τσέπη και πήρε το πορτοφόλι μου, ψάχνοντας για τα χαρτιά μου, παρότι δεν αρνήθηκα να του τα δώσω ο ίδιος», λέει στο VICE.

«Τι κάνεις εκεί, ρε;», λέει εκνευρισμένος στον αστυνομικό. «Μου είπες να σου τα δώσω και δεν σου τα έδωσα;».
«Πάμε στο Τμήμα, που θα αντιμιλήσεις!», ήταν η επόμενη φράση του αστυνομικού.

Την ώρα που ο Γιάννης φτάνει με τους δύο αστυνομικούς στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα, ένας ανώτερος εμφανίζεται μπροστά τους.

«Τι έκανε το παιδί;», ρωτάει.
«Την κοπάνησε, όταν του ζητήσαμε να σταματήσει», απαντάει ο αστυνομικός που τον είχε συλλάβει.
«Ποιος την κοπάνησε; Μου είπες να κάνω δεξιά και έκανα», λέει ο Γιάννης.
«Ποιον λες να πιστέψουν; Εσένα ή εμένα;», απαντάει ο αστυνομικός χαμογελώντας ειρωνικά.

Ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας συλλαμβάνεται το βράδυ της 13ης Αυγούστου 2002, την ώρα που κάνει βόλτα με το μηχανάκι του. Ένα περιπολικό του λέει να κάνει δεξιά στον δρόμο. Όταν σταματήσει, δύο αστυνομικοί βγαίνουν από το όχημα. «Πέσε κάτω τώρα», του λέει ο ένας σε έντονο ύφος. Ο 20χρονος φαντάρος αρνείται να πέσει στα γόνατα, γιατί έχει λάσπες από ένα παρακείμενο εργοστάσιο. Τότε, ο αστυνομικός πλησιάζει, τον πιάνει από τον ώμο και τον σπρώχνει προς τα κάτω με δύναμη, περνώντας του τις χειροπέδες στα χέρια. Εικονογράφηση του Σταύρου Παυλίδη για το άρθρο του VICE: «Συνέντευξη με τον Διαβόητο Βαρυποινίτη που Προσπάθησε να Αποδράσει απ’ όλες τις Ελληνικές Φυλακές».

Το πρώτο ηλεκτροσόκ

Οι αστυνομικοί βάζουν τον Γιάννη να καθίσει σε έναν καναπέ, στον προθάλαμο του Αστυνομικού Τμήματος. Τα χέρια του να είναι ακόμη δεμένα με τις χειροπέδες. Από το σημείο που βρίσκεται, έχει οπτική επαφή με το κρατητήριο, όπου βρίσκονται πάνω από δέκα κρατούμενοι. Κοιτάζει γύρω του και το μόνο που βλέπει είναι δύο κοπέλες που περίμεναν αδιάφορες.

«Μετά από λίγο, ήρθε μπροστά μου ένας αστυνομικός και με κοίταξε στα μάτια αφ’ υψηλού», λέει Γιάννης Παπακώστας στο VICE.

«Γιατί την κοπάνησες ρε;», τον ρωτάει ο αστυνομικός.
«Δεν την κοπάνησα», απαντάει εκείνος.
«Γιατί την κοπάνησες;».
«Δεν την κοπάνησα».
«Γιατί την κοπάνησες;».
«Δεν την κοπάνησα».
«Πάρτε τις κοπέλες από εδώ», λέει ο αστυνομικός σε κάποιους συναδέλφους του.

Οι αστυνομικοί απομακρύνουν τις δύο γυναίκες, που δεν έχουν πλέον οπτική επαφή με τους δύο άνδρες.

«Λέγε, γιατί την κοπάνησες;», ρωτάει ξανά ο αστυνομικός.
«Δεν την κοπάνησα», λέει και πάλι ο Γιάννης.
«Γιατί την κοπάνησες;».
«Δεν την κοπάνησα».
«Γιατί την κοπάνησες;».
«Δεν την κοπάνησα».

Ο αστυνομικός στέκεται μπροστά στον συλληφθέντα και παίρνει μερικά δευτερόλεπτα. O Γιάννης διηγείται στο VICE τις στιγμές που ακολούθησαν: «Ξαφνικά, σήκωσε το χέρι του και μου ακούμπησε ένα μηχάνημα στο στήθος. Έμοιαζε με φακό. Κατέβασα ενστικτωδώς τα μάτια μου, για να δω τι είναι. Καθώς έκανα να κοιτάξω, πάτησε ένα κουμπί και αμέσως έχασα τη γη κάτω από τα πόδια μου, έχασα το φως μου. Ένιωσα ένα τόσο δυνατό τράνταγμα, που δίπλωσα στον καναπέ από τον πόνο. Στη συνέχεια, ακούμπησε το μηχάνημα ανάμεσα στα πόδια μου και πάτησε ξανά το κουμπί. Μια, δυο, τρεις. Ήταν τόσο δυνατό και κοντά στα γεννητικά όργανα, που έπεσα και κουλουριάστηκα στο έδαφος».

Το δεύτερο θύμα βασανιστηρίων με ηλεκτροσόκ

Η ελληνική Δικαιοσύνη και το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου (ΕΔΔΑ) θα αποφανθούν αργότερα ότι εκείνο το βράδυ, στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα Ασπροπύργου, ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας έπεσε θύμα βασανισμού με μια συσκευή ηλεκτροσόκ από τον αστυνομικό Χρήστο Ευθυμίου. Τον Δεκέμβριο του 2011, ο τελευταίος θα κριθεί ένοχος για την πραγματοποίηση βασανιστηρίων κατά την άσκηση των καθηκόντων του, ενώ τον Φεβρουάριο του 2014, το Εφετείο θα κρίνει και πάλι ένοχο τον αστυνομικό, επιβάλλοντάς του ποινή φυλάκισης πέντε ετών με αναστολή, καθώς και επιβολή προστίμου πέντε ευρώ ανά εξαγοράσιμη ημέρα φυλάκισης για τρία χρόνια. Η παραπάνω ποινή θα κριθεί αργότερα ανεπαρκής από το ΕΔΔΑ, που θα καταδικάσει την Ελλάδα για παραβίαση της απαγόρευσης βασανιστηρίων και του δικαιώματος των πολιτών σε δίκαιη δίκη, αφού η υπόθεση κράτησε συνολικά πάνω από 12 χρόνια.

Η μάχη για την ανάδειξη της ενοχής του αστυνομικού που βασάνισε τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα ξεκίνησε το ίδιο βράδυ, όταν ο 20χρονος πέρασε την πόρτα του κρατητηρίου, λίγα λεπτά μετά τον βασανισμό του. Εκεί βρισκόταν ήδη ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος, ένας ανήλικος παλιννοστούντας Ελληνοπόντιος, που γεννήθηκε στη Σοβιετική Ένωση το 1985 και πραγματοποίησε «όνειρο της επιστροφής στην πατρίδα» σε ηλικία έξι ετών, μετά την πτώση του «υπαρκτού σοσιαλισμού».

Παρότι αμφότεροι έμεναν στον Ασπρόπυργο, ο Γιώργος και ο Γιάννης δεν γνωρίζονταν μεταξύ τους. Ωστόσο, είχαν ένα κοινό: το βράδυ εκείνης της 13ης Αυγούστου, είχαν πέσει και οι δύο θύμα βασανισμού από τον ίδιο αστυνομικό. Μάλιστα, ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος πέρασε την πόρτα του Αστυνομικού Τμήματος λίγες ώρες πριν από τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα, με αποτέλεσμα, όταν ο τελευταίος υπέστη το ηλεκτροσόκ, ο 17χρονος να γίνει μάρτυρας του βασανιστηρίου στο οποίο είχε υποβληθεί λίγες ώρες νωρίτερα. Όπως λέει ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος στο VICE, «όταν ο αστυνομικός έκανε ηλεκτροσόκ στον Γιάννη, άκουσα τον ήχο της συσκευής και αμέσως μετά μια φωνή να ουρλιάζει “Τι μου κάνεις εκεί;”. Κοίταξα από το παράθυρο της πόρτας και τον είδα διπλωμένο στο πάτωμα».

«Αυτό που κάνεις με το ηλεκτροσόκ δεν θα πάει μακριά»

«Σήκω πάνω», φώναξε ο αστυνομικός στον Γιάννη Παπακώστα, που έμεινε σωριασμένος στο έδαφος μετά το ηλεκτροσόκ.

«Δεν μπορώ», απάντησε εκείνος.

Εκείνη τη στιγμή, πλησίασε ένας άλλος αστυνομικός. «Αυτό που κάνεις με το ηλεκτροσόκ δεν θα πάει μακριά», είπε στον συνάδελφό του πιάνοντας τον ανήμπορο Γιάννη στα χέρια του. Ο Γιάννης μεταφέρθηκε στο κρατητήριο και κάθισε σε ένα από τα παγκάκια που ήταν τοποθετημένα περιμετρικά στο δωμάτιο.

«Πονάει αυτό που σου ’κανε;», τον ρώτησε ένας συγκρατούμενος.

«Άμα θες, φώναξέ τον να στο κάνει», του απάντησε ο Γιάννης.

Μέχρι το ξημέρωμα, όλοι οι κρατούμενοι είχαν αφεθεί ελεύθεροι, με μόνο τον Γιώργο Σιδηρόπουλο να μεταφέρεται στη ΓΑΔΑ, για να περάσει αυτόφωρο. Τελευταίος έμεινε ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας, που αφού κρατήθηκε ώρες για μια «εξακρίβωση στοιχείων», αφέθηκε ελεύθερος στις πέντε το πρωί. Ανέβηκε στο μηχανάκι του και πήγε στο σπίτι που τον περίμεναν οι φίλοι του. «Ρε μαλάκα, τι σου έκαναν;», τον ρώτησε ένας από αυτούς. Του είπαν ότι από το παράθυρο του Αστυνομικού Τμήματος είχαν δει τη λάμψη που έβγαλε η συσκευή του ηλεκτροσόκ. Ένας από τους φίλους του είπε ότι άκουσε έναν αστυνομικό να λέει γελώντας σε συνάδελφό του: «Πήγαινε να του κάνεις ηλεκτροκόλληση».

Το ξημέρωμα, ο Γιάννης επέστρεψε σπίτι του. Δεν είπε τίποτα στους δικούς του. «Το απόγευμα της ίδιας ημέρας, πήγα στο σπίτι ενός φίλου. Εκεί που καθόμασταν, του είπα τι μου είχε συμβεί», λέει ο ίδιος. «Ο πατέρας του άκουσε την κουβέντα μας και αποσβολωμένος, μου έδωσε τον αριθμό ενός δημοσιογράφου. “Αν θες, παρ’ τον τηλέφωνο και πες του όσα έζησες”, μου είπε. Γυρίζοντας σπίτι, αποφάσισα να τον καλέσω. “Πήγαινε τώρα στο νοσοκομείο, για να κάνεις εξετάσεις”, μου είπε εκείνος. Πήγα στο Τζάνειο και εκείνος έκανε την καταγγελία. Το κινητό μου ξεκίνησε να χτυπάει σαν τρελό».

To πρωί της 14ης Αυγούστου, ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος, μεταφέρθηκε στην ΓΑΔΑ για το αυτόφωρο. Λίγες ώρες πριν, είχε υπσοτεί ηλεκτροσόκ στο Α.Τ. Ασπροπύργου, όμως δεν τον πίστευε κανείς, ούτε καν οι φίλοι του. Εικονογράφηση του Σταύρου Παυλίδη.

«Δείξε μου ποιος σου το έκανε»

«Ήρθε στο σπίτι η Αστυνομία και σε ψάχνει», είπε στον Γιάννη ο αδερφός του, όταν τον πήρε στο κινητό. Ο Γιάννης πήρε αμέσως το μηχανάκι και πήγε στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα του Ασπροπύργου.

«Τι θέλετε;», τον ρώτησε ο φύλακας.
«Μου είπαν ότι με ψάχνετε», απάντησε ο Γιάννης.
«Ποιος είσαι;».
«Ο Παπακώστας».

Όταν κατάλαβε ποιος είναι, ο φύλακας πήγε τον Γιάννη σχεδόν τρέχοντας στο γραφείο του διοικητή.

«Τι έγινε χθες;», τον ρώτησε ο τελευταίος.

Ο Γιάννης εξιστόρησε τα γεγονότα.

«Γιατί δεν ήρθες εδώ να τα βρούμε;», ρώτησε ο αστυνομικός.

«Εσείς μου τα κάνατε. Σε εσάς θα έρθω να τα βρούμε;», απάντησε εκείνος ρητορικά.

Ο Γιάννης έδειξε στον διοικητή τα σημάδια που έφερε στο σώμα του από το ηλεκτροσόκ. «Είδα τα σημάδια που είχε ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας στο σώμα του», θα έλεγε αργότερα στην κατάθεσή του ο διοικητής, ένας από τους λίγους που μίλησαν επιβαρυντικά για τον συνάδελφό τους.

«Έλα πάλι αύριο το πρωί στις επτά. Θα έχω μαζέψει όλους όσοι είχαν υπηρεσία την ώρα της σύλληψής σου. Θα μου δείξεις ποιος σου το έκανε», είπε ο διοικητής στον Γιάννη.

Το επόμενο πρωί, πήγε στο Τμήμα. Την ώρα που περίμενε να μπει στο δωμάτιο με όσους αστυνομικούς είχαν υπηρεσία το βράδυ του βασανισμού του, ένας αστυνομικός τον πλησίασε.

«Ο Γιάννης;».
«Ναι», απαντάει εκείνος.
«Κοίτα, το έκανε πάνω στα νεύρα του, ασ’ τον μωρέ, έχει και οικογένεια», του είπε ο αστυνομικός.
«Αν το έκανε στο παιδί σου, θα τον δικαιολογούσες, επειδή το έκανε πάνω στα νεύρα του; Αν είχα πρόβλημα στην καρδιά και με άφηνε στον τόπο; Θα τον δικαιολογούσες και πάλι;», απάντησε ο Γιάννης.

Μετά από λίγα λεπτά, ο διοικητής τον φώναξε στο δωμάτιο.

«Δείξε μου ποιος σου το έκανε», του είπε.

Μέσα στο δωμάτιο υπήρχαν τουλάχιστον 12 αστυνομικοί.

«Αυτός με σταμάτησε στον δρόμο. Αυτός ήταν ο συνοδηγός. Αυτός με έριξε κάτω. Αυτός μου έκανε ηλεκτροσόκ», είπε ο Γιάννης, ο οποίος λέει στο VICE: «Όταν έδειξα εκείνον που μου έκανε το ηλεκτροσόκ, ξεκίνησε να γελάει, υποτίθεται για να δείξει ότι είναι αστείο να τον κατηγορώ για κάτι τέτοιο».

«Οι φίλοι μου δεν με πίστευαν για τα βασανιστήρια»

Σε μια από τις πολλές καταθέσεις του, ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας θα πει αργότερα ότι ο βασανισμός του έγινε πολύ κοντά στην πόρτα του κρατητηρίου και συνεπώς οι πάνω από δέκα κρατούμενοι πιθανόν να είδαν ή να άκουσαν το τι είχε συμβεί. Ως εκ τούτου, η Αστυνομία κάλεσε για κατάθεση όλους όσοι κρατούνταν εκείνο το βράδυ.

Ένας από αυτούς ήταν ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος, που περιγράφει στο VICE πώς, ουσιαστικά, έγινε ο δεύτερος πρωταγωνιστής της ιστορίας: «Αφού πέρασα αυτόφωρο και αφέθηκα ελεύθερος το επόμενο πρωί, έφυγα για διακοπές. Δεν ήθελα να πω στους γονείς μου για τα βασανιστήρια, ο πατέρας μου ήταν πολύ νευρικός και δεν ήθελα άλλη ταλαιπωρία».

«Έχει έρθει ένα χαρτί, για να παρουσιαστείς στο Τμήμα», είπε στον Γιώργο η μητέρα του, όταν επέστρεψε από τις διακοπές. Ο Γιώργος, ανήλικος ακόμη, είχε πει σε μερικούς φίλους του ότι τον βασάνισαν με ηλεκτροσόκ στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα. «Όταν τους έδειξα τα σημάδια, ξεκίνησαν να γελάνε και να με κοροϊδεύουν: “Άντε, ρε μαλάκα, φύγε από ’δω”. Όμως μια μέρα, είδαμε με τον αδερφό μου την περίπτωση του Γιάννη στην τηλεόραση, όπου μιλούσαν για σημάδια σαν αυτά που είχα εγώ. “Ρε μαλάκα, σοβαρά τώρα;”, μου είπε ο αδερφός μου, παίρνοντας τα μάτια του από την τηλεόραση και κοιτάζοντάς με έκπληξη», διηγείται ο ίδιος.

«Τα έκανε και σε μένα»

Ο Γιώργος πήγε στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα, για να καταθέσει.

«Για πες μας, είδες να κάνουν τίποτα στον Παπακώστα εκείνο το βράδυ που σε είχαμε στο κρατητήριο;», τον ρώτησε ο διοικητής.

«Ο Γιάννης λέει την αλήθεια, άκουσα με τα αυτιά μου και είδα με τα μάτια μου τι του έκανε ο αστυνομικός. Άλλωστε, προτού με βάλουν στο κρατητήριο, τα έκανε και σε μένα».

Στο άκουσμα αυτής της φράσης, ο διοικητής σηκώθηκε από την καρέκλα του.

«Περίμενε να του πω ότι δεν είχα δει τίποτα», σχολιάζει στο VICE ο Γιώργος.

«Έχεις κι εσύ σημάδια πάνω σου;», τον ρώτησε ο διοικητής.

Ο Γιώργος σήκωσε την μπλούζα του και έδειξε τα σημάδια στο στήθος. Στη συνέχεια, κατέβασε το παντελόνι του και έδειξε τα σημάδια ανάμεσα στα πόδια του. Ο διοικητής είδε ότι τα σημάδια ήταν ακριβώς τα ίδια με αυτά που του είχε δείξει ο Γιάννης, λίγες ημέρες νωρίτερα.

«Να τον γαμήσεις τον Ρωσοπόντιο»

Στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα Ασπροπύργου ακολούθησαν κωμικοτραγικές στιγμές. «Ο διοικητής πήρε τηλέφωνο τον ταξίαρχο, που πολύ σύντομα εμφανίστηκε στο Τμήμα. Όταν έφτασε, ξεκίνησε να τα χώνει στον διοικητή για τις συνθήκες που με είχαν στο Τμήμα: “Σήκω και φέρε στο παιδί μία σοβαρή καρέκλα και φέρτε του κι έναν καφέ”, φώναξε, όταν με είδε να κάθομαι σε μια πλαστική καρέκλα», λέει στο VICE γελώντας ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος.

«Έλα αγόρι μου, κάθισε να τα πούμε», είπε ο ταξίαρχος στον 17χρονο. «Μην ανησυχείς, το μαγαζί είναι δικό μου».

«Δικό σου είναι το μαγαζί;», ρώτησε ο Γιώργος.
«Ναι», απάντησε.
«Αν είναι δικό σου το μαγαζί, το μόνο που θέλω είναι να με βάλεις μόνο μου σε ένα δωμάτιο με τον αστυνομικό που με βασάνισε, χωρίς ηλεκτροσόκ και μαλακίες – και όποιος βγει ζωντανός. Αν με κάνει φίδι, εγώ θα πω ότι δεν μου έκανε τίποτα. Έτσι λύνουμε τις διαφορές μας οι Πόντιοι», είπε ο Γιώργος.
«Δεν γίνονται αυτά», είπε ο ταξίαρχος.
«Ε, τότε μη μου λες ότι είναι δικό σου το μαγαζί», απάντησε ο Γιώργος.

Αργότερα, ο ίδιος εξιστόρησε τη δική του ιστορία βασανισμού. Όταν έκανε βόλτες με το μηχανάκι ενός γνωστού του που είχε πάει ναυτικός στα καράβια, ο Γιώργος έπεσε σε μπλόκο της Αστυνομίας που τον σταμάτησε για έλεγχο.

«Τα χαρτιά σου», του είπε ο αστυνομικός.

Έβγαλε την ταυτότητά του, όμως δεν είχε δίπλωμα.

«Πάμε στο Τμήμα», είπε ο αστυνομικός και του φόρεσε τις χειροπέδες.

«Όταν μπήκαμε στο Τμήμα, με πήραν και με έβαλαν σε ένα δωμάτιο», διηγείται ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος στο VICE. «Όταν με έχωσαν στο δωμάτιο, ένας αστυνομικός ρώτησε έναν συνάδελφό του: “Τι να του κάνω;”. “Να τον γαμήσεις τον ρωσοπόντιο”, απάντησε ο άλλος και τότε τρεις αστυνομικοί ξεκίνησαν να μου ρίχνουν σφαλιάρες και να με χτυπάνε με τα κλομπ, ο ένας μετά τον άλλον».

Όταν ο Γιώργος σηκώθηκε από το πάτωμα, όπου είχε πέσει από το ξύλο, οι αστυνομικοί τον χτύπησαν εκ νέου, σωριάζοντάς τον ξανά στο έδαφος.

«Μη σηκώνεσαι, ρε», του είπε ένας αστυνομικός. «Θα σε χώσουμε στη φυλακή. Το καταλαβαίνεις; Θα σου γαμήσουμε την Παναγία και τον Χριστό».

Ο Γιώργος λέει πως «αφού μου έδωσε μερικές σφαλιάρες, ο Χρήστος Ευθυμίου μου έκανε ηλεκτροσόκ στο στήθος και στα πόδια. Όταν έπεσα κάτω από το σοκ, ήρθε από πάνω μου, ακούμπησε τη συσκευή στην πλάτη μου και πάτησε ξανά το κουμπί».

Μετά τον βασανισμό του, ο ανήλικος μεταφέρθηκε στο κρατητήριο, απ’ όπου αργότερα θα έβλεπε τα βασανιστήρια που στα οποία υποβλήθηκε ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας.

«Προσπάθεια συγκάλυψης»

Αφού έδειξε και εκείνος τον αστυνομικό που τον βασάνισε, ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος πήγε σε ιατροδικαστή, ώστε να εξεταστούν τα τραύματα που έφερε. Ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας λέει στο VICE ότι «στο δικαστήριο, η ιατροδικαστής είπε ότι έβλεπε για πρώτη φορά τέτοιου είδους σημάδια, σαν αυτά που είχα εγώ και ο Γιώργος. Ωστόσο, ο δικηγόρος μας γνώριζε και είπε στο ακροατήριο ότι ένα μήνα πριν από εμάς, είχε μεταφερθεί στην ίδια ιατροδικαστή ένας αλλοδαπός, που είχε τα ίδια σημάδια και το ιατροδικαστικό πόρισμα ανέφερε ότι είχαν προκληθεί από συσκευή ηλεκτροσόκ. Μάλιστα, ο αλλοδαπός είχε ζωγραφίσει τη συσκευή. Στο δικαστήριο, όταν η ιατροδικαστής κατάλαβε ότι ξέραμε για την προηγούμενη υπόθεση, κοκάλωσε. Κατά την άποψή μου, αυτό δείχνει ότι υπήρχε συνεννόηση μεταξύ κάποιων, για να συγκαλυφθεί το έγκλημα».

Στο ακροατήριο ακούστηκε το επιχείρημα ότι τα σημάδια στο σώμα των δύο νεαρών μπορεί να είχαν προκληθεί από κάψιμο τσιγάρου, κάτι που καταρρίφθηκε, αφού οι δύο ακίδες της συσκευής ηλεκτροσόκ δημιουργούσαν στο σώμα δύο τραύματα που είχαν πάντα ίση απόσταση μεταξύ τους, κάτι που θα ήταν πρακτικώς αδύνατο να επιτευχθεί με το κάψιμο τσιγάρου.

Η αστυνομία είπε ότι κρατούσε «ασύρματο» και του έδωσε προαγωγή

Μετά τα βασανιστήρια και κατά τη διάρκεια της δίκης, αστυνομικοί στον Ασπρόπυργο σταματούσαν συχνά τον Γιώργο και τον Γιάννη για έλεγχο, μη χάνοντας την ευκαιρία να αναφερθούν στη δίκη.

«Ρε ‘σεις, βρείτε τα μεταξύ σας», είπε μια μέρα, για πολλοστή φορά, ένας αστυνομικός στον Γιώργο Σιδηρόπουλο.

«Να τα βρούμε, ε; Και για πες μου, με πόσα λεφτά να τα βρούμε;», απάντησε ο ίδιος εκνευρισμένος.

«Με δυο χιλιάρικα», είπε ο αστυνομικός.

«Φίλε, φέρε μου τώρα το παιδί σου να του κάνω ό,τι μου έκανε αυτός και θα σου δώσω δέκα χιλιάρικα», ανταπάντησε ο Γιώργος, που θα έλεγε αργότερα ενώπιον του δικαστηρίου: «Δεν θέλω λεφτά. Θέλω απλώς να πληρώσει για όσα έκανε και να πάει φυλακή, επειδή έτσι ο επόμενος θα το σκεφτεί δύο φορές, προτού το κάνει σε κάποιον άλλον».

Παράλληλα με την ποινική δίκη, οι αστυνομικές Αρχές πραγματοποίησαν ένορκη διοικητική εξέταση (ΕΔΕ), για να εξεταστούν τυχόν πειθαρχικές ευθύνες του Χρήστου Ευθυμίου. Είναι αξιοσημείωτο ότι η ΕΔΕ ολοκληρώθηκε προτού κριθεί η υπόθεση από τα ποινικά δικαστήρια, ενώ σύμφωνα με το πόρισμά της, εκείνο το βράδυ ο αστυνομικός δεν έκανε χρήση συσκευής ηλεκτροσόκ, αλλά απλώς κατείχε ασύρματο χωρίς άδεια, για τον οποίο τιμωρήθηκε με πρόστιμο ύψους 100 ευρώ. Το πόρισμα της ΕΔΕ ήρθε σε αντίθεση με την απόφαση της ποινικής δικαιοσύνης, που είπε ότι ο αστυνομικός κρατούσε συσκευή ηλεκτροσόκ. Εκτός από το να τον απαλλάξουν από κάθε πειθαρχική ευθύνη, οι αστυνομικές Αρχές επέτρεψαν την τιμητική αποστρατεία του αστυνομικού με προαγωγή, προτού ολοκληρωθεί η κατ’ έφεση δίκη, με αποτέλεσμα να μην μπορεί να γίνει ξανά ΕΔΕ, μετά την τελεσίδικη καταδίκη του, η οποία ενδέχεται να οδηγούσε τον αστυνομικό σε απόταξη, αντί τιμητικής αποστρατείας. Τα αντιφατικά αποτελέσματα δικαιοσύνης και ΕΔΕ ήταν ένας από τους λόγους που οδήγησαν στην καταδίκη της Ελλάδας από το ΕΔΔΑ.

Μετά τα βασανιστήρια, ο Γιώργος και ο Γιάννης δεν μίλησαν ξανά με τον Χρήστο Ευθυμίου. «Μια μέρα, με σταμάτησε η Αστυνομία για έλεγχο. Στο σημείο βρίσκονταν τρεις αστυνομικοί, ένας από τους οποίους ήταν ο Ευθυμίου. Όταν έκανα δεξιά, ξεκίνησε να έρχεται προς το μέρος μου. Όταν ξαφνικά με αναγνώρισε από τον καθρέφτη του αυτοκινήτου, γύρισε πίσω και είπε σε κάποιον άλλο να δει τα χαρτιά μου», λέει ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος, με τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα να συμπληρώνει: «Ποτέ δεν ήρθε να μου ζητήσει μια συγγνώμη». Εικονογράφηση του Σταύρου Παυλίδη.

Η δίκη

Η στοιχειοθέτηση της ενοχής του αστυνομικού στην ποινική δίκη δεν ήταν εύκολη υπόθεση. Πέρα από τις αναβολές επί αναβολών, «οι περισσότεροι συνάδελφοί του προσπάθησαν να τον καλύψουν. Ήρθαν στο δικαστήριο, για να πουν τι καλός άνθρωπος και αστυνομικός είναι. Υπόδειγμα συναδέλφου, που δεν έδωσε ποτέ δικαίωμα, έλεγαν και ξανάλεγαν», σημειώνει στο VICE ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας.

Καταθέσεις έδωσαν και δύο από τους φίλους του Γιάννη, που εκείνο το βράδυ έκαναν μαζί του βόλτες με τα μηχανάκια. «Κάποια μέλη της οικογένειάς τους ήταν αστυνομικοί. Προτού καταθέσουν, τους είπα: “Πείτε απλώς τι είδατε, πείτε για τη λάμψη του ηλεκτροσόκ που είδατε, μην πείτε ψέματα”. Ωστόσο, εκείνοι στην κατάθεσή τους είπαν ότι δεν είδαν τίποτα. Από εκείνη την ημέρα, δεν τους μίλησα ποτέ ξανά. Προφανώς, τους είπαν να μην ανακατευτούν στην υπόθεση».

Οι περισσότεροι από όσους ήταν στο κρατητήριο τη στιγμή του βασανισμού του Γιάννη Παπακώστα, είπαν ότι δεν είδαν και δεν άκουσαν τίποτα. Ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος λέει σχετικά στο VICE: «Μια κοπέλα που ήταν μαζί μου στο κρατητήριο μού είπε αργότερα ότι την είχαν πιάσει με μικροποσότητα κάνναβης. “Πες ότι δεν είδες τίποτα, αλλιώς θα μπλέξεις”, μου εκμυστηρεύτηκε ότι της είπαν οι αστυνομικοί, θέλοντας να τη φοβίσουν, για να μην αναφέρει τίποτα ενοχοποιητικό σε βάρος του αστυνομικού».

Στην κατάθεσή του, ο διοικητής του Αστυνομικού Τμήματος είπε ότι είδε τα σημάδια στο σώμα του Γιώργου Σιδηρόπουλου και του Γιάννη Παπακώστα, ενώ ένας αλλοδαπός είπε ότι άκουσε τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα να «ουρλιάζει» κατά τη διάρκεια των βασανιστηρίων. Ένας από τους φύλακες, είπε ότι άκουσε τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα να ουρλιάζει και να φωνάζει «Άσε με, άσε με», ενώ την ώρα που μπήκε στον προθάλαμο, τον είδε πεσμένο στα γόνατα.

Ο κατηγορούμενος αστυνομικός κατέθεσε τελευταίος. «Κρατούσα ασύρματο», ήταν η υπερασπιστική του γραμμή μέχρι την έκδοση της απόφασης, ό,τι δηλαδή είχε βγάλει το πόρισμα της ΕΔΕ της Αστυνομίας.

Ωστόσο, το δικαστήριο δεν πείστηκε και καταδίκασε τον αστυνομικό για βασανιστήρια σε βαθμό κακουργήματος, σε μια υπόθεση που αποτελεί μέχρι σήμερα μια εξαιρετικά σπάνια για τα ελληνικά δικαστικά χρονικά, τελεσίδικη καταδίκη για βασανιστήρια σε κακουργηματική μορφή.

Ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς, Εκπρόσωπος του Ελληνικού Παρατηρητηρίου των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι, το οποίο είχε προηγουμένως χειριστεί μαζί με το δικηγόρο Θεόδωρο Σχινά την υπόθεση ενώπιον των ελληνικών δικαστηρίων, είπε στο VICE για τα στοιχεία που οδήγησαν στην καταδίκη του αστυνομικού: «Πιστεύουμε πως οι καταθέσεις δύο νεαρών που δεν γνωρίζονταν καν μεταξύ τους, πριν από τα βασανιστήριά τους και που όλα αυτά τα χρόνια τις επαναλάμβαναν με σταθερότητα, η κατάθεση της γιατρού που εξέτασε τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα στο Τζάνειο την επόμενη ημέρα των βασανιστηρίων -σε αντίθεση με την κατάπτυστη προσπάθεια της ιατροδικαστού να απαλλάξει τον βασανιστή- και η τεκμηριωμένη στήριξη της κατηγορίας από τους συνηγόρους πολιτικής αγωγής, που επίσης ανέδειξαν τις αντιφάσεις ανώτατου αξιωματικού της Αστυνομίας που είχε βγάλει λάδι τον βασανιστή στην πειθαρχική διαδικασία, όπως φυσικά και η αδυναμία του κατηγορούμενου να υποστηρίξει το παραμύθι του, πως δεν είχε taser, αλλά ασύρματο, έπεισαν το δικαστήριο για την ενοχή του αστυνομικού».

Στην κατάθεσή του, ο διοικητής του Αστυνομικού Τμήματος είπε ότι είδε τα σημάδια στο σώμα του Γιώργου Σιδηρόπουλου και του Γιάννη Παπακώστα, ενώ ένας αλλοδαπός είπε ότι άκουσε τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα να «ουρλιάζει» κατά τη διάρκεια των βασανιστηρίων. Ένας από τους φύλακες, είπε ότι άκουσε τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα να ουρλιάζει και να φωνάζει «Άσε με, άσε με», ενώ την ώρα που μπήκε στον προθάλαμο, τον είδε πεσμένο στα γόνατα. Εικονογράφηση του Tyler Boss από το άρθρο του VICE: «What I Saw While Spending 16 Hours in Manhattan Criminal Court».

Ούτε μία μέρα στη φυλακή ο βασανιστής

Παρότι οι κατηγορίες κατά του Χρήστου Ευθυμίου απαγγέλθηκαν το 2002, η πρωτόδικη απόφαση εκδόθηκε σχεδόν δέκα χρόνια αργότερα, τον Δεκέμβριο του 2011. Το Μικτό Ορκωτό Δικαστήριο καταδίκασε τον αστυνομικό για βασανιστήρια σε βαθμό κακουργήματος. Το Εφετείο επιβεβαίωσε την ενοχή σε δεύτερο βαθμό, τον Φεβρουάριο του 2014, δηλαδή σχεδόν 12 χρόνια μετά τη διάπραξη του εγκλήματος.

«Κάποια στιγμή, είπα στον διοικητή: “Με βασάνισε όταν ήμουν 17 ετών, όταν θα βγει η απόφαση θα έχω παιδί”. Έτσι και έγινε, αφού όταν ανακοινώθηκε η τελεσίδικη απόφαση, η κόρη μου ήταν δύο ετών», λέει στο VICE ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος.

Μόλις βγήκε η απόφαση, το κινητό του Γιώργου Σιδηρόπουλου ξεκίνησε να χτυπάει επίμονα.

«Τελείωσε», τον ενημέρωσαν από την αίθουσα του δικαστηρίου.
«Καταδικάστηκε;», ρώτησε.
«Σε πέντε χρόνια…».

«Χάρηκα όταν το άκουσα, σκέφτηκα ότι επιτέλους θα κάτσει στη φυλακή για όλα όσα μας έκανε», λέει ο ίδιος στο VICE. Ωστόσο, τη σκέψη του Γιώργου σταμάτησε ο επόμενη φράση που άκουσε στο τηλέφωνο.

«…με αναστολή».

Παρότι ο αστυνομικός δεν μπήκε ούτε για μία ημέρα στη φυλακή, ο Γιώργος λέει ότι «αυτή ήταν μια αρχή, αφού μιλάμε για την πρώτη περίπτωση που ένας αστυνομικός καταδικάζεται τελεσίδικα για βασανιστήρια σε κακουργηματική μορφή. Ο επόμενος θα το σκεφτεί δυο φορές, για να το κάνει». Από την άλλη, ο Γιάννης Παπακώστας λέει ότι «για μένα, η καταδίκη με αναστολή δεν είναι τίποτα, αφού δεν ξέρω κατά πόσο θα αποτρέψει τον επόμενο αστυνομικό από το να βασανίσει έναν πολίτη».

Παρότι οι κατηγορίες κατά του Χρήστου Ευθυμίου απαγγέλθηκαν το 2002, η πρωτόδικη απόφαση εκδόθηκε σχεδόν δέκα χρόνια αργότερα, τον Δεκέμβριο του 2011. Το Μικτό Ορκωτό Δικαστήριο καταδίκασε τον αστυνομικό για βασανιστήρια σε βαθμό κακουργήματος. Το Εφετείο επιβεβαίωσε την ενοχή σε δεύτερο βαθμό, τον Φεβρουάριο του 2014, δηλαδή σχεδόν 12 χρόνια μετά τη διάπραξη του εγκλήματος. Εικονογράφηση της Dola Sun για το άρθρο του VICE: «What It’s Like to Meet the Men You Sentence to Prison».

Άλλη μία καταδίκη από το ΕΔΔΑ για άσκηση αστυνομικής βίας

Αν και ο Χρήστος Ευθυμίου καταδικάστηκε τελεσίδικα από την ελληνική δικαιοσύνη, η υπόθεση έφτασε στο Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου (ΕΔΔΑ), μετά από προσφυγή του Ελληνικού Παρατηρητηρίου των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι (ΕΠΣΕ). Το ΕΔΔΑ καταδίκασε την Ελλάδα στην «Υπόθεση Σιδηρόπουλος και Παπακώστας κατά Ελλάδας», αφού «σε ό,τι αφορά την ποινή, δεν λήφθηκε υπόψη [σ.σ.: από τα ελληνικά δικαστήρια] το γεγονός ότι ο κ. Σιδηρόπουλος ήταν ανήλικος κατά τον χρόνο του εγκλήματος».

Ακόμη, σύμφωνα με το ΕΔΔΑ, «το Εφετείο, βρίσκοντας ελαφρυντικά, καταδίκασε τον Χ[ρήστο] Ε[υθυμίου] σε πέντε χρόνια φυλάκισης, υποστηρίζοντας ότι η προσβολή που διέπραξε ήταν ιδιαίτερης ηθικής απαξίας για τον “νομικό πολιτισμό” και τα “ατομικά δικαιώματα” του κ. Σιδηρόπουλου και του κ. Παπακώστα. Ωστόσο, στη συνέχεια περιόρισε την ποινή σε πρόστιμο πέντε ευρώ για κάθε ημέρα φυλάκισης, όταν η ανώτατη ποινή του εθνικού δικαίου είναι 100 ευρώ ανά μέρα. Επομένως, το Εφετείο έλαβε υπόψη του μόνο την οικονομική κατάσταση του αστυνομικού και το ζήτημα αν η καταδίκη μπορεί να τον αποτρέψει από το να επαναλάβει παρόμοιες προσβολές στο μέλλον». Ωστόσο, το ευρωπαϊκό δικαστήριο είπε ότι η επιεικής ποινή που επιβλήθηκε «δεν θα μπορούσε να θεωρηθεί ικανή να αποτρέψει τον δράστη ή άλλο όργανο του κράτους από το διαπράξει ανάλογες προσβολές, ούτε μπορεί να θεωρηθεί δίκαιη από τα θύματα, πόσο μάλλον που οι πράξεις χαρακτηρίστηκαν ως βασανιστήρια. Σε αντίθεση με αυτά, ο σκοπός του εσωτερικού δικαίου στην τιμωρία των βασανιστηρίων που διαπράττονται από όργανα του κράτους είναι να εξασφαλίσει υψηλή προστασία των ατόμων, ειδικά στις περιπτώσεις κατά τις οποίες βρίσκονται υπό την επιτήρηση του κράτους και να πάρει αποτελεσματικά μέτρα, για να τιμωρήσει και να προλάβει κακομεταχειρίσεις από όργανα του κράτους», σημείωσε το δικαστήριο, που έφτασε στο συμπέρασμα ότι «η επιείκεια της ποινής που επιβλήθηκε στον αστυνομικό Χ[ρήστο] Ε[υθυμίου] είναι αναμφίβολα δυσανάλογη σε σχέση με τη σοβαρότητα της συμπεριφοράς με την οποία αντιμετωπίστηκαν οι κύριοι Σιδηρόπουλος και Παπακώστας».

Σύμφωνα με το ΕΔΔΑ, το γεγονός ότι η ΕΔΕ απλώς επέβαλε στον Χρήστο Ευθυμίου πρόστιμο 100 ευρώ για παράνομη κατοχή ασυρμάτου, την ώρα που η ποινική δικαιοσύνη απεφάνθη ότι κρατούσε συσκευή ηλεκτροσόκ είχε ως αποτέλεσμα ο αστυνομικός να «μην υποστεί ποτέ τις συνέπειες των πράξεών του ως αστυνομικός, αφού είχε εθελούσια αποχωρήσει από την Αστυνομία, έχοντας μάλιστα υπηρετήσει για οκτώ ολόκληρα χρόνια μετά τις πράξεις του. Εξαιτίας της διάρκειας της ποινικής διαδικασίας, ήταν αδύνατο να συνεχιστεί η πειθαρχική διαδικασία, αφού ο Χ[ρήστος] Ε[υθυμίου] είχε αποχωρήσει στο μεταξύ, έχοντας μάλιστα λάβει προαγωγή, με ό,τι αυτή σημαίνει ηθικά και οικονομικά». Με βάση τα παραπάνω, το ΕΔΔΑ έκρινε ότι η Ελλάδα παραβίασε το Άρθρο 3 της Ευρωπαϊκής Σύμβασης για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου (ΕΣΔΑ), ενώ η μακρά διάρκεια της δίκης οδήγησε σε παραβίαση και του Άρθρου 6 της ΕΣΔΑ που κατοχυρώνει το δικαίωμα στη δίκαιη δίκη.

Ενάμιση χρόνο χρειάστηκε για να καθαρογραφεί η καταδικαστική απόφαση

Σχετικά με την επιείκεια της απόφασης, ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς αναφέρει: «Ο δράστης αστυνομικός, με τη συνήθη και απαράδεκτη αρωγή των συνδικαλιστών αστυνομικών που του επέτρεψε να έχει τη στήριξη μεγαλοδικηγόρων, εξάντλησε κάθε χρονικό όριο και κάθε ακριβό ένδικο μέσο -ακόμη και αναίρεση στον Άρειο Πάγο κατά του παραπεμπτικού βουλεύματος-, με την ελπίδα να γλιτώσει. Ακόμη και όταν προσδιορίστηκε η δίκη για κακουργηματικά βασανιστήρια, η υπεράσπισή του έκανε κατάχρηση αναβολών, με τη συνενοχή των δικαστών, που δεν δίστασαν να διακόψουν και δίκη που είχε ξεκινήσει μετά από 25 συνεδριάσεις. Έτσι τελικά, η πλήρης πρωτόδικη δίκη έγινε πάνω από εννιά χρόνια μετά τα βασανιστήρια. Μετά, ο πρόεδρος του δικαστηρίου καθυστέρησε επί ενάμιση χρόνο την καθαρογραφή της απόφασης και χρειάστηκε παρέμβαση του ΕΠΣΕ στον Άρειο Πάγο, για να καθαρογραφεί η απόφαση. Έτσι, έφτασε το 2014, σχεδόν δώδεκα χρόνια μετά, για να γίνει η δίκη στο Εφετείο, όπου η αρχικά μικρή ποινή μειώθηκε και κατά έναν χρόνο, όσο χρειαζόταν, για να μην μπει φυλακή ούτε μία ημέρα ο βασανιστής».

Η απόφαση του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου «προστίθεται σε άλλες 11 καταδίκες της Ελλάδας -οκτώ μετά από προσφυγές του ΕΠΣΕ- για βία από όργανα της τάξης, τη μη ικανοποιητική εκτέλεση των οποίων εξετάζει επί χρόνια η Ελλάδα. Η πρόσφατη απόφαση προσθέτει ένα στοιχείο, την απαράδεκτη δυνατότητα του νόμου να επιτρέπει λόγω ελαφρυντικών να μην πηγαίνουν φυλακή ακόμη και καταδικασμένοι ειδεχθείς βασανιστές», συμπληρώνει ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς. «Βέβαια, δεν περιμένουμε να κάνει κάτι η κυβέρνηση στην εξέταση των αποφάσεων αυτών από το Συμβούλιο της Ευρώπης (ΣτΕ), αφού είτε κυβερνάει η Δεξιά, είτε το ΠΑΣΟΚ ή ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, όλοι υποκρίνονται στο ΣτΕ και δίνουν αόριστες υποσχέσεις, αδιαφορώντας για τα καταδικαστικά ψηφίσματα που βγάζει η Επιτροπή Υπουργών του ΣτΕ. Χαρακτηριστικό είναι πως την απαράδεκτη αυτή στάση της Ελλάδας κατήγγειλε η Μαρία Γιαννακάκη, όταν ήταν στην Κοινοβουλευτική Συνέλευση του Συμβουλίου της Ευρώπης, αλλά τώρα που είναι στο αρμοδιότατο υπουργείο Δικαιοσύνης και Ανθρώπινων Δικαιωμάτων νομιμοποιεί τη συνέχιση αυτών που επέκρινε».

«Ποτέ δεν ήρθε να μου ζητήσει μια συγγνώμη»

Μετά τα βασανιστήρια, ο Γιώργος και ο Γιάννης δεν μίλησαν ξανά με τον Χρήστο Ευθυμίου. «Μια μέρα, με σταμάτησε η Αστυνομία για έλεγχο. Στο σημείο βρίσκονταν τρεις αστυνομικοί, ένας από τους οποίους ήταν ο Ευθυμίου. Όταν έκανα δεξιά, ξεκίνησε να έρχεται προς το μέρος μου. Όταν ξαφνικά με αναγνώρισε από τον καθρέφτη του αυτοκινήτου, γύρισε πίσω και είπε σε κάποιον άλλο να δει τα χαρτιά μου», λέει ο Γιώργος Σιδηρόπουλος, με τον Γιάννη Παπακώστα να συμπληρώνει: «Ποτέ δεν ήρθε να μου ζητήσει μια συγγνώμη στα δικαστήρια ή στο σπίτι. Αν το έκανε, ίσως να μην φτάναμε μέχρι τα δικαστήρια. Όμως, για να πω την αλήθεια, αυτό που μου κάνει εντύπωση σήμερα δεν είναι τόσο τα βασανιστήρια που υπέστην, αλλά το γεγονός ότι την ώρα που ο αστυνομικός μου έκανε ηλεκτροσόκ, δεν βρέθηκε κάποιος να του πει “Τι κάνεις εκεί πέρα;”».

21/12/2017: Ευρωκαταδίκη κυβερνήσεων και δικαστικών για συγκάλυψη φόνου “κωλοαλβανού” – την απέκρυψαν τα αλβανοφοβικά ΜΜΕ

21/12/2017: Ευρωκαταδίκη κυβερνήσεων και δικαστικών για συγκάλυψη φόνου “κωλοαλβανού” – την απέκρυψαν τα αλβανοφοβικά ΜΜΕ

 

Δίκες που δεν τελειώνουν ποτέ

LOGO-TBJ
Σάββατο, 16 Αυγούστου 2014

Γιατί οι δικηγόροι αδιαφορούν και δεν διεκδικούν αποζημιώσεις για υπερβολική διάρκεια δικών;

Στις 14 Αυγούστου 2014 πήγα να καταθέσω δύο αιτήσεις στη Γραμματεία του Πρωτοδικείου Αθηνών για δίκαιη ικανοποίηση λόγω υπέρβασης της εύλογης διάρκειας δίκης στη βάση του Ν. 4239/2014 σε ισχύ από τις 20 Φεβρουαρίου 2014, στον οποίο προβλέπεται:

Οποιοσδήποτε από τους διαδίκους, εκτός από το Δημόσιο και τα δημόσια νομικά πρόσωπα […] που έλαβε μέρος σε δίκη ενώπιον των πολιτικών δικαστηρίων ή του Ελεγκτικού Συνεδρίου, μπορεί να ζητήσει με αίτηση δίκαιη ικανοποίηση προβάλλοντας ότι η διαδικασία για την εκδίκαση της υπόθεσης καθυστέρησε αδικαιολόγητα και συγκεκριμένα ότι διήρκεσε πέραν του ευλόγου χρόνου που απαιτείται για τη διάγνωση των πραγματικών και νομικών ζητημάτων που ανέκυψαν στη δίκη […]  Η αίτηση, συνοδευόμενη από τα στοιχεία της παραγράφου 4 του άρθρου 4, κατατίθεται στη γραμματεία του Δικαστηρίου που εξέδωσε την απόφαση […] Η αίτηση υπογράφεται από δικηγόρο […] Για την άσκηση της αίτησης καταβάλλεται παράβολο, το οποίο ορίζεται σε πενήντα (50) ευρώ για τις αιτήσεις ενώπιον του Ειρηνοδικείου, εκατό (100) ευρώ για τις αιτήσεις ενώπιον του Πρωτοδικείου και Εφετείου και εκατόν πενήντα (150) ευρώ για τις αιτήσεις ενώπιον του Αρείου Πάγου και του Ελεγκτικού Συνεδρίου υπέρ του Δημοσίου […] Η αίτηση ασκείται ανά βαθμό δικαιοδοσίας εντός προθεσμίας έξι (6) μηνών από τη δημοσίευση της οριστικής απόφασης του δικαστηρίου που εκδόθηκε μετά από δίκη για την οποία ο αιτών παραπονείται ότι υπήρξε υπέρβαση της εύλογης διάρκειάς της […] Ο αιτών μνημονεύει στην αίτησή του το δικαστήριο ενώπιον του οποίου προβάλλει ότι υπήρξε αδικαιολόγητη καθυστέρηση, αναφέρει τις αναβολές που τυχόν δόθηκαν με πρωτοβουλία των διαδίκων ή του δικαστηρίου, περιγράφει συνοπτικά τα ανακύψαντα νομικά ή πραγματικά ζητήματα και λαμβάνει θέση επί της πολυπλοκότητας αυτών… Τα οριζόμενα στα προηγούμενα άρθρα εφαρμόζονται αναλόγως και στις διαδικασίες ενώπιον των ποινικών δικαστηρίων.

Η Γραμματεία ξαφνιάστηκε αφού, έξι μήνες μετά τη δημοσίευση του νόμου, δεν της είχε υποβληθεί άλλη ανάλογη αίτηση. Έτσι πήγαμε στη ίδια την Πρόεδρο της Τριμελούς Διοίκησης του Πρωτοδικείου Αθηνών. Η τελευταία μού επιβεβαίωσε πως ήταν οι πρώτες αιτήσεις που κατετίθεντο στο μεγαλύτερο Πρωτοδικείο της χώρας και πως η διαδικασία που θα ακολουθηθεί για τις αιτήσεις αυτές θα αποφασισθεί με αφορμή τις αιτήσεις μου, οι οποίες προς το παρόν απλώς πρωτοκολλήθηκαν.

Ο νόμος δημοσιεύθηκε στις 20 Φεβρουαρίου 2014 και κάλυπτε όλες τις δίκες που είχαν διεξαχθεί και κατά το εξάμηνο που προηγήθηκε: δηλαδή όλες τις δίκες από την έναρξη του δικαστικού έτους 2013-2014 μέχρι σήμερα. Είναι γνωστό σε όλους και όλες πως, εκτός και αν υπάρχει αυτόφωρο ή/και προσωρινή κράτηση, όλες οι πρωτόδικες δίκες ολοκληρώνονται 5-7 χρόνια από την τέλεση του αδικήματος και την υποβολή μήνυσης ή έγκλησης, δηλαδή εμπίπτουν σχεδόν όλες στην κατηγορία της υπέρβασης της εύλογης διάρκειας δίκης, υπό την προϋπόθεση πως ο αιτών ή η αιτούσα αποζημίωση δεν είχε προκαλέσει πολύχρονες αναβολές ή η υπόθεση δεν είχε κάποια πολυπλοκότητα. Στη δική μου περίπτωση οι δύο δίκες που είχαν ολοκληρωθεί στα τέλη Φεβρουαρίου 2014 αφορούσαν ψευδορκία μάρτυρα και συκοφαντική δυσφήμηση που φέρονταν να είχαν τελεστεί το Νοέμβριο 2007 και τον Ιανουαρίου 2009, με μηνύσεις που είχαν υποβληθεί αμέσως ή λίγους μήνες αργότερα.

Από τα παραπάνω προκύπτει το συμπέρασμα πως, για χιλιάδες πολίτες και πολίτισσες των οποίων οι δίκες περατώθηκαν μεταξύ Σεπτεμβρίου 2013 και σήμερα, ΟΛΟΙ/ΕΣ οι δικηγόροι που εμπλέκονταν είτε αγνοούσαν το νόμο είτε δεν θεώρησαν αναγκαίο να επιδιώξουν να τον ενεργοποιήσουν υπέρ των πελατών και πελατισσών τους, ζημιώνοντάς τους/τες και ωφελώντας το κράτος που γλύτωσε πάνω από ένα εκατομμύριο ευρώ σε αποζημιώσεις. Τόσα εκτιμάται πως θα κατέβαλε με βάση την πρακτική του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου να επιβάλει αποζημιώσεις 1.000 ευρώ για κάθε έτος καθυστέρησης μετά το τρίτο ή το τέταρτο έτος από την υποβολή της μήνυσης/έγκλησης. Έχω κάποιες σκέψεις για τους λόγους αυτής της αποχής, αλλά αρμόδιοι/ες να ερμηνεύσουν το φαινόμενο είναι οι δικηγόροι και οι σύλλογοί τους.

Και έτσι, βρέθηκα να γράφω ιστορία ανοίγοντας το δρόμο για τη διαδικασία αυτή στο Πρωτοδικείο Αθηνών ενώ θα έπρεπε οι αιτήσεις μου να είχαν αριθμό φακέλου τετραψήφιο (1000+) και να εμπίπτουν σε μια καλά ρυθμισμένη διαδικασία το Πρωτοδικείου Αθηνών…