November 27, 2013

Press Release: Two coast guards convicted of torturing asylum seeker upon entry into Greece

On 25. November 2013 the Five-Member Naval Court of Piraeus found two out of three accused coast guards guilty for having committed acts of torture against an asylum seeker, including restricting the victim's breathing so as to simulate drowning and suffocation ('wet and dry submarino'), carrying out mock execution, as well as other serious attacks on human dignity, immediately after the victim's entry into Greece and during his transfer with other asylum-seekers to the Port of Chios. The above-mentioned incident was first documented in the report entitled “The truth may be bitter but it must be told – The Situation of Refugees in the Aegean and the Practices of the Greek Coast Guard” by the Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants and the NGO Pro-Asyl, which was published in 2007 and has attracted extensive publicity ever since.

The two defendants received suspended jail sentences of 6- and 3-years as well as long-term deprival of their political rights. In addition, one of the convicted coast guards faces demotion once the decision becomes final.

November 26, 2013



Atene, 26/11/2013

Ieri 25/11, il Tribunale Marritimo del Pireo in seduta collegiale ha condannato due delle tre guardie costiere imputate di aver torturato un rifugiato, tramite il blocco del respiro fino ai limiti dell'asfissia (il "waterboarding", con e senza acqua), e attraverso finte esecuzioni sommarie, oltre ad altre pesanti offese della dignità umana. Il tutto è avvenuto subito dopo il suo rientro in Grecia, durante il trasferimento del gruppo dei rifugiati al porto dell'isola di Chios. Il crimine venne documentato dal "Gruppo di Avvocati per i Diritti dei Rifugiati e dei Migranti" e dall'ONG "Pro Asyl" nel rapporto del 2007 "The truth must be bitter but must be told - The situation of refugees in the Aegean Sea and the practices of the Greek Coastguard", che ebbe grande risonanza.

I due imputati sono stati condannati a 6 anni e 3 anni di reclusione con effetto sospensivo, oltre all'inflizione della perdita dei diritti politici per molti anni. Al primo di questi personaggi è stata comminata la deposizione dal suo grado, dopo la comunicazione della sentenza irrevocabile.

November 9, 2013

Pushed Back – systematic human rights violations against refugees in the aegean sea and at the greek turkish land border


On the Greek-Turkish land border refugees are systematically refouled with brutal, shocking and systematic violations of human rights: ‘When they left us in the Turkish waters they made waves again and six of us – all men – fell into the sea. The Greeks saw that, but they didn’t help, they just left.’ PRO ASYL documents these systematic pushback in the report “Pushed Back – systematic human rights violations against refugees in the aegean sea and the greek-turkish land border”. With few exceptions, all documented pushback took place in the area of ​​operations of Frontex. PRO ASYL raises the question of the involvement of Frontex on the human rights violations and calls: Frontex must end its operations in Greece.

Download Report (in English)
Summary (in German)

August 18, 2013

Immigration detention centres - “Warehouses” of souls and bodies

A year after the start of operation Xenios Zeus, the uprising in Amygdaleza detention centre reminded us of the approximately 4,000 to 5,000 people held in various detention centres – warehouses all over the country we had forgotten about.

In crisis-stricken Greece operation ‘Xenios Zeus’ has been used by the Greek government as a means of rounding up a redundant and unemployed segment of the migrant labour force from the center of Athens under the pretext of controlling the legality of their residence.

These people have been transferred to new detention centers (Amygdaleza, Corinth, Xanthi, Komotini, etc.) set up specifically for this purpose but which hardly differ from extant facilities (police stations, former warehouses, etc.) that were the subject of a Public Statement by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe in March 2011 and have given rise to a multitude of convictions by the European Court of Human Rights on grounds of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the detainees.

June 28, 2013

World Organisation Against Torture: Police harassment of lawyer Electra Koutra

GRE 001 / 0613 / OBS 050
Arbitrary arrest / Police harassment
June 13, 2013

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Greece.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the police harassment of Ms. Electra Koutra, President of the Hellenic Action for Human Rights (HAHUR) and GHM legal counsel, in the framework of police profiling operation against transgender persons in Thessaloniki.

According to the information received, in the night of June 4 to June 5, 2013, around midnight, Ms. Electra Koutra was arbitrarily detained at the Democratias Square police station in Thessaloniki, where she had gone in her capacity of lawyer for the Greek Transgendered Support Association (GTSA) to defend a transgender person who was abusively detained for the third time in four days, following an extensive police operation leading to the arbitrary arrest of many transgender persons on the eve of the Thessaloniki LGBT Pride, on June 14 and 15, 2013.

June 2, 2013



Athens, 2.6.2013

On Thursday 30.05.2013 at 9.30pm, Bulut Yayla, a 24 years old, Turkish political refugee was detained, beaten and violently abducted by people aboard a private car at the center of Athens - Greece.

Through eyewitness testimonies and research conducted by the victim's comrades and lawyers, it was revealed that the license plate of the car in question belongs to the Greek Police. However, the police still claim they have nothing to do with the incident, despite the persistent and constant allegations of his comrades, lawyers and political actors.

Yesterday 01.06.2013, Bulut Yayla's family announced that he is kept in custody at Istanbul's Antiterrorist Unit. According to the victim’s allegations, a group of people speaking Greek, pushed him inside a car, using extreme violence, shutting his mouth and eyes. Then he was transferred in another car by a second group of people speaking Greek and Turkish and then a third group who spoke Turkish and English.

Par rapport au cas de «disparition forcée» de Bulut Yayla



Jeudi 30.05.2013, à 21h.30, Bulut Yayla, 24 ans, réfugié politique d’ origine turque, a été immobilisé, violamment battu et enlevé en plein centre d'Athènes, et ce devant une multitude de témoins.

Les plaques d'immatriculation relevées par les témoins correspondent à des véhicules de la police grecque. Pourtant, la police nie tout lien avec l'incident, malgré l'insistance de ses camarades, d'avocats et d'acteurs politiques.

Hier, samedi 1 Juin 2013, à midi, les proches de Bulut Yayla ont annoncé qu’il est détenu au département Anti-Terroriste de la police à Istanbul. Bulut Yayla dénonce que des personnes qui parlaient grec l’ ont mis de force dans une voiture, en couvrant sa bouche et ses yeux. Par la suite, il a été transféré dans une seconde voiture. Cette fois, ses détenteurs parlaient grec et turc. Il est enfin passé aux mains d' un troisième groupe qui parlait turc et anglais.

Pendant toute la durée d’ otage B.Y. a été maltraîté, et a subi des violences extrêmes.

Annuncio urgente sulla sparizione forzata di Bulut Yayla

Annuncio urgente sulla sparizione forzata di Bulut Yayla*

Αtene, 2.6.2013

Alle 21:30 di Giovedì 30.5.2013, Bulut Yayla, un rifugiato politico turco di 24 anni, è stato arrestato, picchiato e brutalmente rapito da persone a bordo di una macchina privata nel centro di Atene – Grecia.

Dai testimoni oculari e dalle ricerche svolte dai compagni della vittima e da alcuni avvocati, è stato scoperto che la targa della macchina in questione appartiene alla polizia greca. La polizia, però, continua a sostenere di non aver niente a che fare con l’incidente, nonostante le accuse persistenti e costanti da parte dei suoi compagni, degli avvocati e di esponenti politici.

Ieri, 1.6.2013, la famiglia di Bulut Yayla ha annunciato che il ragazzo è detenuto presso l’Unità Antiterrorismo di Istanbul. Secondo le accuse della vittima, un gruppo di persone che parlavano greco lo ha trascinato su una macchina, usando una violenza estrema, chiudendogli la bocca e gli occhi. È stato poi trasferito su un’altra macchina con un secondo gruppo di persone che parlavano greco e turco, e poi con un terzo gruppo di persone che parlava turco e inglese.

Durante la sua detenzione, Bulut Yayla ha subito violenze, abusi e maltrattamenti. La sera di venerdì, Bulut Yayla è stato consegnato al Dipartimento di Polizia di Edirne, da dove poi è stato trasferito all’Unità Antiterrorismo di Istanbul.

April 16, 2013

Press Release - No Political Refugee must be extradited to Turkey




The deterioration in the protection of civil, political and social rights and freedoms has been continuing under the current Greek Government, partially due to the economic crisis. Against this background, and following Prime Minister Samaras' visit to Ankara and the announcement of closer co-operation between the Greek and the Turkish Government, the Greek authorities, which in the past only reluctantly enacted international arrest warrants against Turkish refugees, have over the past two months engaged in a real witch hunt against all those wanted for their political actions in Turkey.

Pursuant to this governmental agreement, the Greek authorities have so far arrested five refugees with a view to extradite them. Their detention continues until today. At least one of them has been deprived of his liberty since 12 February, more than two months.

Parallel to these arrests of Turkish and Kurdish activists, an alarming number of publications in the Turkish press have referred to agreements between the two governments on the extradition of the wanted people and to secret bilateral anti-terrorist agreements with financial rewards, while portraying specific refugees in Greece, publishing their names and predicting their arrests by the Greek authorities.

April 14, 2013

Greece Becomes Outpost in Turkey’s “Anti-Terror” Campaign

ATHENS, Apr 13 2013 (IPS) - Zeki Gorbuz, a Turkish asylum seeker in Greece, who was arrested on Feb. 12, remains detained today due to an international warrant that was transmitted by Turkish authorities to Greece just one day before his asylum interview. Turkish media were quick to report the arrest, describing Gorbuz as a radical leftist and regional leader of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLCP), which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government.

On the same day that Gorbuz was detained, Bulent Aytunc Comert, who arrived in Greece as an asylum seeker in 2002, was also arrested. His request for asylum was approved in 2003 but was never cleared by the ministry of police.

Branded by Turkish authorities as a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), Comert is a fugitive. He was imprisoned in the notorious solitary confinement units known as the “White Cells” on what he says was a fabricated murder charge.

March 31, 2013

Invitation to screening - Wednesday 3 April

The Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees
invites you to the screening of the award-winning documentary film ‘Nowhere Home’ made by the Norwegian film maker Margreth Olin.

The screening will take place on the 3rd of April 2013 at 7.30 pm in the group’s building Ktirio 11 at 11 Rethymnou street and Ioulianou opposite of the Park Hotel in Athens.
The documentary will be shown in Norwegian language with English subtitles.

March 16, 2013

Mass arrests of Lawyers in Turkey- Fact finding mission of 4 international lawyers' associations

A group of 8 lawyers from different European Countries (Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Switzerland), from Egypt, and the U.S.A. are visiting Turkey from 7th till 12th March to investigate the circumstances of the recent wave of arrests of lawyers and trade unionist. The lawyers have been sent by two European lawyers organisations, The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH)  and the European Democratic Lawyers AED-EDL , by the Arab Lawyers Union (Egypt) and by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)

The above mentioned lawyers organisation have taken notice of the new mass arrest of lawyers in Turkey, among them the President of ÇHD Selçuk Kozağaçlı, with utmost concern. For the same reason on February 11, IADL submitted a statement to the Human Rights Council to bring to its attention IADL’s grave concern over the arrest of lawyers in Turkey. Immediately after the arrests happened, ELDH and IADL alarmed the public with their protests. For many years ÇHD has been a member organisation of ELDH and also of IADL, struggling with both organisations for the defence of Human Rights. It is the duty of these organizations to give ÇHD all possible legal and political assistance for the exoneration of their president and their other arrested members.

Read here the rest of the Press Release of ELDH
Read here a relevant report by ÇHD

January 22, 2013

Human Rights Watch: Summary Returns to Greece Violate Rights

(Rome) – Italy is summarily returning unaccompanied migrant children and adult asylum seekers to Greece, where they face a dysfunctional asylum system and abusive detention conditions, Human Rights Watch said in a report published today. Stowaways on ferries from Greece, including children as young as 13, are sent back by Italian authorities within hours without adequate consideration of their particular needs as children or their desire to apply for asylum.

January 21, 2013

Detainees' rights overrule absconding and rioting charges, courts rule

Two recent judgments in Italy and Greece have found detainees innocent of the charges that were brought against them by the local authorities following escape from one migration detention centre and rioting in another. Courts ruled that the actions of detained migrants in opposing their detention conditions were legitimate.

Greece: Escaping undignified conditions

The first judgment was rendered by the Criminal Court of First Instance of Igoumenitsa, Greece, on 2 October 2012 but was only made widely available when it was published online on 11 January 2013.

Fifteen migrants who had entered Greece illegally escaped from the Thesprotia Police Headquarters where they had been detained for a period ranging from 9 to 45 days. They were later arrested and charged with escaping under the Criminal Code,[1] but the judge ruled that their actions constituted a legitimate defence against their "deplorable" conditions.

January 16, 2013

Greek Court Acquits Immigrants who Escaped Appalling Detention Conditions

In the midst of ever deepening economic woes, Greece is struggling with yet another crisis, this time of a humanitarian character. It is no secret that thousands of immigrants crossing into Greece mainly from Asia and Africa are held in appalling conditions in Greek detention centres. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants visited such centres just before the end of 2012 and faced a bleak situation (the relevant report is still forthcoming, but see the Reuters report here), while the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found already in January 2011 that returning an asylum seeker to Greece under Dublin II violates Article 3 of the ECHR (see M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece, paras 344 seq, along with a description of the horrible conditions of detention facing immigrants and asylum seekers in Greece).