Ill-treatment by law enforcement officers

Makaratzis and others group of cases v Greece (Application No 50385/99)

These cases concern ill-treatment and the unauthorized and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials.

  • Memo by Panayote Dimitras, Spokesperson from the Greek Helsinki Monitor

An update on the group was delivered by Panayote Dimitras from the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), which represents the victims in nine of thirteen cases of the group.

Mr Dimitras first underlined the positive points included in Greece’s communication dated 4/10/2018 on the Makaratzis group of cases, i.e. the beginning of the functioning of the National Mechanism for the Investigation of Arbitrary Behaviour (hereafter “the Mechanism”) within the framework of the Greek Ombudsman; and the agreement of the Government with the Mechanism recommendation that letters of apology be sent to victims of the incriminating acts.

He further highlighted the historical decision of the Supreme Court Prosecutor, in the Chowdury and others v Greece case, to file an appeal for the cassation of a domestic court judgment for the benefit of the law, to comply with the ECtHR judgment ruling that this domestic judgment was violating the ECHR. He reminded that GHM had recommended as a fundamental remedy to execute ECtHR judgments the filing of such appeals for cassation by the Supreme Court Prosecutor in case where the violations ruled by the ECtHR resulted from domestic court judgments.

Despite these positive developments, there is still need for further progress. With regard to the work of the Ombudsman as the Mechanism for the investigation of arbitrary behaviour, in particular, Mr Dimitras regretted the lack of transparency and information on the Mechanism. GHM, which represents the victims in nine out of thirteen cases has never received any communication from the Mechanism. Most importantly, Mr Dimitras expressed his concern over the decision by the Ombudsman on almost all new cases not to carry out his own investigations but only to supervise them, and entrust the disciplinary investigations to what GHM considers as objectively partial investigation bodies. He also recalled that, in its Report on Greece of 2 November 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee evaluated the answers from Greece related to the work of the Ombudsman and the effectiveness of the Mechanism as either partially satisfactory or not satisfactory.

With regard to the Makaratzis group of cases, GHM therefore urged the CM to ask the Greek government to:

  •  reopen all disciplinary investigations in the 13 cases of the Makaratzis group;

  • request the Supreme Court Prosecutor to file appeals for cassation for the benefit of law of ten domestic judgments in the Makaratzis group of cases found by the ECtHR to be in violation of the ECHR;

  • provide detailed information on the punishment of law enforcement officials for misconduct, ill-treatment or disproportionate use of force;

  • make sure that the Ombudsman investigates himself the torture or ill-treatment allegations;

  • empower the Ombudsman to impose sanctions. To do so, the law should be amended so that the Mechanism can impose penalties; concretely, a solution would be to remove the Mechanism from the Ombudsman and make it independent.

  • introduce the necessary amendments so that the definition of torture is compatible with Article 1 of UN CAT