Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Greek lockdown enforcement violated rights, Amnesty International reports

Amnesty International finds Greek authorities have used the Covid-19 pandemic to violate the right to protest | Amnesty International

July 14, 2021 - "Under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic the Greek authorities have used arbitrary arrests, blanket bans, unjustified fines and unlawful use of force to curb peaceful protest, new research by Amnesty International has revealed.... 

"'The Greek authorities used shocking tactics to try to scare women’s rights activists, trade unionists, members of political parties, lawyers and others who were participating or called for participation in peaceful protests in November and December 2020 after the country entered its second lockdown. Many were arbitrarily arrested, criminalized and handed unjustified fines in a blatant abuse of power by authorities.' [said] Kondylia Gogou, Greece Researcher at Amnesty International

"The Greek authorities have a responsibility to facilitate peaceful protest.... Restrictions to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly to curb the pandemic are permissible but must be subject to strict criteria, meet the principles of necessity and proportionality and assessed on a case-by-case basis. Governments do not have carte blanche to restrict human rights, even during a pandemic. 

“Greek authorities justified blanket bans on protest and other rights violations by citing the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ironically, they then implemented these bans by detaining protestors in enclosed spaces, putting them at much higher risk of transmission. 

"Curbs on peaceful protests were also codified into law in the months after Greece exited the first lockdown. Legislative reforms regulating demonstrations were introduced in July and September 2020 which allow for counter demonstrations to be prohibited and peaceful assemblies to be dispersed if organizers do not fulfil notification requirements. Legislation on the use of surveillance systems in demonstrations and its implementation also raise concerns including about a chilling effect ... on peaceful demonstrators. These changes will have far-reaching consequences which will last long beyond the end of the pandemic.... 

"Interviewees from a number of protests described how police resorted unnecessarily to the use of water cannon and chemical irritants against peaceful protesters. Some spoke of police hitting them on their heads with batons and using stun grenades in a way that could cause considerable injury....

"Once in police custody some of the individuals interviewed by Amnesty International described being subjected to treatment that may amount to torture or other ill-treatment. Aris Papazacharoudakis, a twenty-one year old protester said that he was tortured during his questioning by police.... '…They were throwing me from my chair, they were lifting me from my handcuffs (and) I felt that my shoulders would dislocate… It (was) a process of non-stop beating'…. 

Giorgos [not their real name] ... sustained a series of injuries during a student protest in Ioannina on 17 November 2020 ... 'I had fallen on the ground… before I got up, they threw stun grenades right  at us… I gave a mighty scream because the (stun grenade) exploded before my eyes and next to my left ear… (They) threw me on the ground and got me to a spot a little further away behind all  the other students and a little bit away  the cameras and there were five to six police officers who were  beating me up'.... 

"'The Greek authorities must halt the criminalization of peaceful assembly and annul any fines given to peaceful protesters, lawyers and women’s rights activists and those other individuals who were arbitrarily arrested prior and during the November and December 2020 demonstrations. Any charges against them for allegedly breaching public health rules must be dropped and prompt and thorough investigations must also be conducted into all the cases of human rights violations Amnesty International has documented,' said Kondylia Gogou." 

 Read more: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/07/greece-authorities-abusing-power-to-trample-on-right-to-protest/

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Alison Abrahams on  alison.abrahams@amnesty.org +32 483 680 812 [or] press@amnesty.org +44 20 7413 5566

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