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Police Violence and Impunity in Greece

The Manifold joins forces with Solomon.

Fanis Kollias/Solomon

Public opinion in Greece is reeling at the news of a young man killed by the police on Saturday, October 23, during a high-speed chase that ended with motorised police firing a hail of bullets at his car. Information thus far indicates that the man was unarmed, which not only raises questions about the choices made by officers during the incident, but also suggests similarities with a key case that was decided by the European Court of Human Rights in 2004. In that case, the Court has found that Greece had failed both to protect the victim’s right to life from excessive force by its law enforcement officers, and to conduct an adequate investigation. The victim, who in that case ultimately survived, was awarded compensation. 

This key case is one of a number that have been under enhanced supervision by the Council of Europe for 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. 

In September, the Committee of Ministers of the CoE decided to terminate supervision of all but three of these cases, giving particular weight to the promise by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that police violence will be addressed. The promise was made in Parliament last March, following wide-spread, public police violence in the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni.

Saturday’s incident, as well as others that we have been documenting, do not appear to support that the Prime Minister’s promise is being translated to concrete measures that will counter police violence. We believe that police violence and impunity is a chronic and systemic problem that severely undermines the quality of Greek democracy. What is more, we have evidence that despite the Prime Minister’s contentions, police abuses of their legally prescribed powers have been increasing during the term of the present government. 

As we’ve shared with you in previous newsletters, we are working on an in-depth investigation of this issue, drawing on years of experience by some of our members in covering police brutality. The investigation will appear as File 02 in The Manifold Files. 

We are now very happy to announce that this project will form part of a collaboration with Solomon, a Greek non-profit media collective that uses media for social inclusion and aims to promote independent media in the country. Founded in Athens in 2016, Solomon has produced exceptional, in-depth stories on the violations of rights suffered by refugees and migrants, and was nominated for the European Press Prize 2021. As they are widening their scope to include further issues of accountability and transparency linked to those in power, we are proud to join forces with them and plan to also work on stand-alone, joint stories that will appear in Solomon. 

Read our first story (in Greek, to be available in English shortly) > >

The Project is realised with support from a grant by the Open Society Foundations. The grant is managed by Solomon in Greece.