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In Investigating December Riots, Greece Must Address "Entrenched Pattern" of Police Abuse, Charges Amnesty International

LONDON - As the events during the violent demonstrations
that rocked Greece in recent months come under police and judicial investigations,
Amnesty International calls on the Greek authorities to take the opportunity
to address long-standing problems of policing.  

In a briefing published today, Greece:
Alleged abuses in the policing of demonstrations
, Amnesty International
highlights patterns of alleged human rights violations by police against
civilians, including excessive use of force and firearms, torture or other
ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and denial of prompt access to lawyers.

"Time and again police officers in Greece
have been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators or denying
them their rights when in detention. The police response to the recent
unrest is the culmination of an entrenched pattern of serious human rights
violations by law enforcement officials," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe
and Central Asia program director at Amnesty International.

The killing of 15-year-old Alexis Gregoropoulos
by an officer serving as a special guard on December 6, 2008 sparked widespread
demonstrations that in many cases developed into riots.

Since the end of the demonstrations last
January, Amnesty International has been receiving mounting allegations
of violations by police. The human rights organization has brought a number
of cases from December 2008 and January 2009 to the attention of the Minister
of the Interior, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, in which police officers were said
to have arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated and detained peaceful demonstrators
and detainees, including minors were prevented from promptly contacting
their lawyers.  

"These incidents should be used as a catalyst
by the government to launch a wide-ranging commission of inquiry that would
investigate not only recent events but also systemic issues, including
training of police on the use of firearms and of force," Duckworth said

Amnesty International notes that the Greek
authorities have both a responsibility and an obligation under international
law to ensure the safety and security of people and property and acknowledges
the difficulties faced by law enforcement officials while policing violent
demonstrations. It is also the duty of the authorities under international
law to ensure that the policing of demonstrations is carried out in a manner
that complies with international standards, including those on the use
of force.

Amnesty International urges the Greek authorities
to address the patterns of abuses which have led to a lack of public confidence
in policing.  

"The people of Greece have the right to
proper policing in accordance with the government's national and international
obligations," Duckworth said.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide.  The organization investigates and exposes abuses,
educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever
justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.


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