Rights group raps police violence

Police in Greece routinely use excessive force against demonstrators, immigrants and detainees, according to a report published on Tuesday by Amnesty International which claimed that the authorities’ failure to adequately tackle the problem was creating a “climate of impunity” that is aggravating the phenomenon.

The report examines several cases of alleged brutality or abuse by members of the police force over the past decade, focusing in particular on the period between 2008 and 2012. AI’s Greek office said it interviewed 88 people -- including self-professed victims of police abuse and their lawyers or relatives. The organization’s report includes the testimonies of several demonstrators and migrants regarding beatings and other abuse at the hands of Greek police officers and even some alleged cases of torture.

The watchdog also draws attention to what it describes as the excessive use of tear gas during frequent demonstrations, particularly over the past two years, when public protests against the imposition of austerity measures have peaked.

AI called on the new government “to acknowledge the extent of the police violence and take the necessary steps” to combat it. “Failure to do this will lead to yet more violations going unpunished,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, deputy director of the watchdog’s Europe and Central Asia program.

“For far too long, [the Greek authorities] have brushed off such violations as ‘isolated incidents,’ creating a climate of impunity,” AI said in a press release presenting the report.

The report zooms in on the experiences of journalists and citizens who have fallen victim to excessive force. One is the case of Manolis Kypreos, a former journalist who lost his hearing after being hit by a stun grenade that was allegedly thrown by a police officer during an anti-austerity demonstration on June 15 last year.

Another is that of Yiannis Kafkas, an unemployed psychologist and postgraduate photography student, who suffered near-fatal head injuries after being struck by a fire extinguisher of the type carried by riot police officers. Kafkas remained in hospital for 20 days, 10 of them in intensive care, after undergoing emergency surgery.


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