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Greece: Limit ‘Stop-and-Search’

Broad Reform of Police Powers Needed

Police detain individuals assumed to be migrants in central Athens, on Sunday, August 5, 2012. Between August 4, 2012, and February 22, 2013, Greek police detained almost 85,000 people of foreign origin on the streets of Athens to check their identification papers and legal status. © 2012 Associated Press/Thanassis Stavrakis

(Athens) – The Greek government should take formal steps to limit overly broad police stop-and-search powers, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter and briefing paper to the alternate minister for citizen protection, Nikolaos Toskas.

Greece’s government told Human Rights Watch in December 2015 that it will amend a police circular governing the procedure for taking someone into police custody following a stop, for further confirmation of the person’s identity. But the government has not addressed gaps in the law that lead to groundless and sometimes abusive identity checks.

“The government has made important commitments to change its approach to policing in the center of Athens, but further reforms are needed to end widespread stop-and-search abuses,” said Eva Cossé, Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch. “The minister should seize this opportunity to make sure that the changes have the legal and policy framework to make them effective.”

Human Rights Watch research has documented abusive stops and searches by Athens police. In many cases, the police confine people in police buses and police stations for hours, sometimes moving them and then releasing them far from the city center, without any reasonable and individualized suspicion of criminal wrongdoing.

The briefing paper to Toskas, the alternate minister, outlines the concerns. Human Rights Watch urged him to make necessary reforms to ensure that police stops are conducted in accordance with national and international law prohibiting discrimination, including ethnic profiling, ill-treatment, and arbitrary deprivation of liberty. These reforms should be accompanied by adequate training of police officers, a functioning independent complaints mechanism, and accountability for police abuse.

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