Poor conditions of detentions in overcrowded prisons in Greece

Nisiotis Group v Greece (Application No 34704/08)

Briefed on: 10 September 2018

  • Memo Professor Tsitselikis, University of Macedonia-Thessaloniki, and Member of the Hellenic League for Human Rights

  • Rule 9.2. communication on this case, by the Hellenic League for Human Rights

  • July 2018 communication from the Greek authorities on this case

  • Final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (20/6/2011, in French)

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.

“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.

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.