Torture and ill-treatment by police officers in Greece

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Torture and ill-treatment by police officers in Greece

By Panayote Dimitras, Spokesperson, Greek Helsinki Monitor

In mid-August 2002, Georgios Sidiropoulos and Ioannis Papakostas, two youngsters who had never met each other before, were taken to an Athens police station on alleged traffic violations (never subsequently confirmed by the courts). A police officer on duty took them to an office and repeatedly used a taser gun against them, to punish them because they had allegedly resisted arrest. The complaints launched in the following days led to an administrative investigation that concluded that their claims were false as the officer simply had used a wireless . A criminal investigation which after several years led to the only trial in Greece where a police officer was irrevocably convicted for torture – a full 12 years after the eents, in 2014 . The sentence was a mere 5 years converted into the minimum fine possible of 5 euros per day. The officer convicted for torture did not spend even one day in detention or in prison.

 

  Source: Panayote Dimitras

Source: Panayote Dimitras

 

In January 2018 the European Court of Human Rights found Greece in violation of Articles 3, 6.1 and 13 of the Convention. In particular, the Court found that “the criminal and disciplinary system had proved to be seriously lacking in rigour and incapable of having a deterrent effect to ensure the effective prevention of illegal acts such as torture.”

This was the most recent of the thirteen cases in the Makaratzis group, concerning impunity for the use of potentially lethal force; ill-treatment sometimes amounting to torture; absence of effective administrative and criminal investigations; inadequate criminal proceedings and penalties; and in some cases a failure to investigate possible racist motives. The leading case (the shooting of Christos Makaratzis) dates from 1995

The Committee of Ministers had confined its three examinations of the execution of these cases in 2012, 2015 and 2017 to welcoming the information provided by Greece on the modernization of the law on the use of arms, the establishment of an office to review the related complaints, and the possible reopening of the cases adjudicated by the ECtHR. Three written submissions from the Greek Helsinki Monitor and one from REDRESS highlighted the ineffectiveness of the Greek state’s response. These were followed by an oral briefing to CM representatives by GHM in November 2018. In December 2018, for the first time, the CM issues a very strong decision seeking a detailed set of information from Greece by September 2019

Greece is now obliged to provide documented information about the effectiveness of the Ombudsman as an Independent Complaints Mechanism. This relates not only to the reopening of investigations in old cases, but also to reviewing new complaints that, as GHM has noted, number in the hundreds. Greece must also amend its legislation to bring the definition of torture in line with international standards and prevent the conversions of imprisonment imposed for torture and other ill-treatment into fines. The state must also provide information on the investigation of possible racist motives when ill-treatment occurs in the context of law enforcement; and, finally, implement its commitment to issue written apologies to the victims.

This decision is a powerful weapon in view of the CPT visit to Greece in 2019, the review of Greece by UN CAT in July-August 2019, and the probable new review of the Makaratzis case by the CM in December 2019. The Greek Helsinki Monitor will seek to capitalise on this decision, by seeking the apologies promised from the authorities; pressing the Ombudsman to conclude at least some of the hundreds of the investigations it has been carrying out since mid-2017 so as to assess their effectiveness; and review the proposed amendments to the criminal code announced by the government so as to assess if they are up to the standards defined by ECtHR, CM, CPT, and CAT. These institutions will be kept closely informed of developments.

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Εκλογή Παναγιώτη Δημητρά στο ΔΣ του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικτύου Εφαρμογής (αποφάσεων ΕΔΔΑ)

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Στην Πρώτη Γενική Συνέλευση του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικτύου Εφαρμογής (αποφάσεων ΕΔΔΑ) – European Implementation Network (EIN) την 1 Δεκεμβρίου 2018 στο Στρασβούργο εκλέχτηκε το νέο 10μελές ΔΣ του EIN στο οποίο μετέχει και ο Εκπρόσωπος του (μέλους του ΕΙΝΕλληνικού Παρατηρητηρίου των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι Παναγιώτης Δημητράς.

Στην παραπάνω φωτογραφια του ΔΣ, στη δεύτερη σειρά Malcolm Langford, Philip Leach, Adam Weiss, Παναγιώτης Δημητράς, Krasimir Kanev, Vladislav Gribincea, Kristina Todorovic και στην πρώτη σειρά Basak Cali, Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, Nigel Warner.


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Ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς είναι επίσης μέλος του Εκτελεστικού Συμβουλίου της Ευρωπαϊκής Ουμανιστικής Ομοσπονδίας – European Humanist Federation (EHF) από το 2014, ως Εκπρόσωπος της Ένωσης Ουμανιστών Ελλάδας (ΕΝΩ.ΟΥΜ.Ε.).


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Τέλος, ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς είναι μέλος της Γενικής Συνέλευσης της Παγκόσμιας Οργάνωσης κατά των Βασανιστηρίων – World Organisation against Torture (OMCT).


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.

11/09/2018: Poland, Ukraine, Greece and Albania at the heart of EIN civil society briefing

Poland, Ukraine, Greece and Albania at the heart of EIN civil society briefing

The European Implementation Network (EIN) convened a quarterly civil society briefing to Permanent Representations of the Council of Europe on 10 September 2018.

This briefing, which was the third in 2018, focused on analyses by civil society representatives to support the implementation of cases of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) scheduled for review from 18-20 September 2018 at the 1324th Human Rights Meeting of the Committee of Ministers’ Deputies. The Committee is responsible for supervising the judgment execution process.

Representatives of 24 Permanent Representations to the Council of Europe attended the briefing at the Palais de l’Europe.

The following ECtHR judgments were presented and discussed: P. and S. v Poland, Gongadze v Ukraine, Nisiotis Group v Greece and Manushaqe Puto and Others and Driza Group v Albania.

 

 NGO representatives Katarzyna Wisniewska, Olena Protsenko, Simon Palmer (chair), Prof. Konstantinos Tsitselikis and Ina Xhepa. Photo: EIN

NGO representatives Katarzyna Wisniewska, Olena Protsenko, Simon Palmer (chair), Prof. Konstantinos Tsitselikis and Ina Xhepa. Photo: EIN

 

A summary of points in the form of main recommendations made by each of the presenters in support of the implementation of the respective cases can be found here.

P. and S. v Poland (Application No 57375/08)

The 2012 judgment in the case of P. and S. v. Poland (application no. 57375/08) is one of three important decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerning access to legal abortion in Poland. In all three cases, the ECtHR ruled that the rights of the applicants were violated because of the practical difficulties they experienced in exercising their right to legal abortion. To fully implement these judgments, the Court stated that the national authorities must take steps to guarantee not only theoretical but also practical access to abortion. On 21 September 2017, the Committee of Ministers issued a decision asking the Polish government to present information on the guarantees of effective access to legal procedures for pregnancy termination.

In June 2018, the Polish Government sent a report indicating that, in its opinion, the current regulations ensured effective access both to abortion and to information on the possibility of underdoing such a procedure.

Referring to this Report, Ms Katarzyna Wisniewska, Coordinator of the Strategic Litigation Programme at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland), highlighted that the Polish government did not fully and thoroughly address the matters invoked by the Committee of Ministers in its September 2017 decision. First of all, the procedure of imposing financial penalties on medical facilities for non-performance of the contract with the National Health Fund is not an effective measure to protect women applying for abortion, commented Ms Wisniewska. Second, the date on the complaints filed with the Commissioner for Patients’ Rights and the National Health Fund concerning refusals to perform an abortion was not included in the Government’s report.

In terms of recommendations to support implementation of the judgment, Ms Wisniewska therefore noted the need for detailed data on such complaints and the way they were tackled. She also called for detailed information on disciplinary measures against doctors related to the refusal to perform abortion and how they were conducted. Moreover, she expressed her concern that analytical works would be ongoing at the Ministry of Health to amend the provisions concerning the objection to an opinion or decision of the doctor, and insisted on the need to introduce mechanisms to ensure that the right to abortion is not nullified by doctors’ invocation of the conscience clause.

The memo by Ms Wisnieska identifying the main recommendations on the case can be found here. The recent submission of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights on the case (August 2018) is available here. The latest communication the Polish authorities submitted on 22 June 2018 can be found here.

Gongadze v Ukraine (Application No 34056/02

 From left to right: Olena Protsenko (Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union), speaking about the Gongadze case, and Katarzyna Wisniewska (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights). Photo: EIN

From left to right: Olena Protsenko (Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union), speaking about the Gongadze case, and Katarzyna Wisniewska (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights). Photo: EIN

This case concerns the killing of Georgyi Gongadze, a journalist, in 2012, and lack of effective investigation.

In her briefing, Ms Olena Protsenko, Lawyer at the Centre for Strategic Litigation of the Ukrainian Helsinki Rights Union, stated that, with regard to general measures, positive achievements had been reached through the introduction of four new corpus delicti into the Criminal Code of Ukraine. She underlined though that this legislation would only concern – and thus protect – journalists belonging to a certain mass media or a journalist association, and therefore not bloggers or non-professional reporters. In addition, the Ukrainian legislation only applies in cases where criminal proceedings are already open, and does not operate on a rapid response basis to ensure active protection of journalists. With regard to investigation, Ms Protsenko highlighted the lack of effective investigations, and the victims’ inability to access the criminal files during the pre-trial investigation.

Ms Protsenko put forth several recommendations to support implementation of this case, starting first and foremost with the need to adopt a broad notion of media which encompasses all media actors, and to create emergency protection remedies for journalists at risk and their families. She also called for the creation of special investigative units with specialised expertise and methods of investigation for police officers investigating crimes against journalists.

The memo from Ms Protsenko can be found here. The very recent Rule 9.2 submission from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union on this case can be found here. The June 2018 Action Plan from the national authorities is here.

Nisiotis Group v Greece (Application No 34704/08)

The Nisiotis Group v Greece concerns the inhuman and/or degrading treatment of the applicants arising from poor conditions of detention in overcrowded prisons in Greece (violation of Art. 3)., notably in Ioannina, Korydallos, Diavata/ Thessaloniki, Alikarnassos, Patra, Larissa, Corfu, Korydallos prison Hospital, Hios, Komotini, Nafplio and Korinthos in relation to more than 1,200 applicants.

 

 Professor Konstantinos Tsitselikis, University of Macedonia-Thessaloniki, Hellenic League for Human Rights, reporting about the state of execution in the Nisiotis group v Greece. Photo: EIN

Professor Konstantinos Tsitselikis, University of Macedonia-Thessaloniki, Hellenic League for Human Rights, reporting about the state of execution in the Nisiotis group v Greece. Photo: EIN

 

“The Greek prison system suffers for long from structural deficiencies. Overcrowding is the most important of them”, said Professor Konstantinos Tsitselikis from the University of Macedonia-Thessaloniki, and Member of the Hellenic League for Human Rights, at the start of his presentation.

The governments of the past years sought to build new prisons or to reduce the number of the inmates. Indeed new prisons have been opened (such as in Nigrita, Agia, or Domokos, but partially remain non-operational) and laws passed for early release and favourable arrangements for inmates in cases where smaller sentences are imposed. This helped to drop the total number of inmates by 20% since 2015, but it is still more than ten thousand, a critical threshold affecting the whole prison system in Greece.

With regard to living conditions and health care services, the situation has improved compared to the pre-2015 situation, but not to the point of removing structural problems. Serious infrastructure and staffing problems have not been sufficiently dealt with. The current staffing numbers are inadequate to care for the enormous numbers of inpatients and outpatients (hundreds of inmates are registered as in- and outpatients each month). Although the law provides for the integration of Korydallos Psychiatric Hospital for Inmates and the Prison Hospital, as well as the special treatment facilities for drug-addicted prisoners to the (Public) National Health System (NHS) of the Ministry of Health, in practice prison medical services still belong to the prison administration structure. After long waiting time, a presidential decree for the incorporation of the Korydallos hospital in NHS has been drafted by the Minister of Justice in March 2018, but it is not in force.

 

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The Government’s latest action report to the CM shows that deficiencies are at least acknowledged. However, the “Strategic plan for the prison system 2018-2020” that the government has elaborated, and which entered into force in January 2018, still has not been implemented. In his recommendations, Prof. Tsitselikis therefore asks for full enforcement of the “Strategic plan” of the Government through a specific timetable. Going forward, he also called for the incorporation of the Korydallos hospitals to the NHS and guarantee for proper medical care to all prisoners. He concluded by highlighting the need for allocation of funds for prisons, to upgrade prison premises and staff.

The memo of Professor Tsitselikis can be found here. The September 2018 Rule 9.2 communication from the Hellenic League for Human Rights on this case is here. The July 2018 communication from the Greek authorities concerning this group of cases can be found here.

Manushaqe Puto and Others Group and Driza Group v Albania (Applications No 604/07 and 33771/02)

These cases relate to the non-enforcement of final domestic court and administrative decisions relating to the applicants’ rights to restitution or compensation for property nationalised under the communist regime. In its pilot judgment, the ECtHR ordered the Albanian Government to set up an efficient compensation scheme. In order to do this, the Court found that the authorities needed to provide a list of final judicial and administrative decisions which recognized, restituted and/or compensated former-owners for property, the financial bill stemming from this list, an updated Land Value Map, the adoption of an Action Plan for the enforcement of this Court pilot judgment, and finally the establishment of an effective mechanism for the execution of the aforementioned decisions.

Even though some progress has been made since the delivery of the first Action Plan four years ago, Ms Ina Xhepa, Director of the European Centre (Albania), underlined that further steps were needed.

 

 Ina Xhepa, Director of the European Centre, Albania. Photo: EIN

Ina Xhepa, Director of the European Centre, Albania. Photo: EIN

 

First, the Property Management Agency (PMA) established by the law should further proceed with the examination of unaddressed claims and applications awaiting a final decision. This process started to be fully operative in December 2017, with a delay of almost two years after the law no. 133/2015 entered into force, due to justified problems such as human resources and pleadings before the Constitutional Court. Ms Xhepa reminded that, whilst up to now about 28% of all pending claims have been addressed, the deadline to finalize the entire evaluation process was February 2019.

Secondly, the amendments made in 20.12.2017 to the by-law which provides the rules and procedures for the evaluation and compensation process entails a real complex process. In addition, the frequent amendments made to the by-laws by the Government, entails a lack of legal certainty toward the owners.

Eventually, the current juridical reform in Albania impacts the whole system, as the Constitutional Court cannot deliberate on any claim presented before it.

In her recommendations, Ms Xhepa therefore called on to the State Authorities to complete the implementation of the Action Plan within the time limits set forth and to accelerate the process of execution of the final decisions which were not appealed at any instance or court.

Ms Xhepa’s memo is available here. The Action Report communicated by the Albanian authorities in August 2018 is here.