Constitutional Provisions

Greece's 1975 Constitution, as amended, guarantees that everyone "within the Greek State [shall] enjoy full protection of their life, honor, and freedom, irrespective of nationality, race, creed, or political allegiance".Art. 5(2), 1975 Constitution of Greece (as amended).It is further stipulated that: 

Torture and any kind of bodily ill-treatment, injury to health, or the use of psychological pressure or any other offence against human dignity are prohibited and shall be punished according to the law.Art. 7(2), 1975 Constitution of Greece (as amended).

The Constitution does not set out the powers and responsibilities of the police with respect to use of force.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties

1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1950 European Convention on Human Rights State Party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

According to the 2004 Code of Police Ethics, the Hellenic Police:

Shall respect the every person’s right to life and security. Police does not inflict, instigate or tolerate acts of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and reports cases of violations of human rights.

Wtih respect to the use of firearms, the relevant legislation is the Law No. 3169/2003 on the “Carrying and use of firearms by police officers, training of police officers in the use of firearms and other provisions”. This 2003 Law allows the use of firearms where there is a threat of an armed attack against a police officer or another person and the use of firearms is proportionate to the severity of the threat.Art. 3, Law No. 3169/2003 on the Carrying and use of firearms by police officers, training of police officers in the use of firearms and other provisions.The use of force with intent to kill or incapacitate is prohibited if

  • there is a serious threat of harming a third person from a missed shot or ricocheting bullet
  • the use of force is directed against an armed group and could hurt unarmed people
  • a child is the target of the use of force, unless using such force is the only means to avert death; or
  • a person flees after being asked to submit to a lawful search.

Greek law does not comply with international law and standards, which limit use of firearms to an imminent threat of death or serious injury or proximate and grave threat to life.

A police officer who uses a weapon on a superior’s orders that are in violation of the Constitution or clearly unlawful may still be held liable for illegal use of force.Art. 3(9), Law No. 3169/2003 on the Carrying and use of firearms by police officers, training of police officers in the use of firearms and other provisions. 

Police Oversight

Greece's National Ombudsman is competent to address complaints against the police, including of excessive or unnecessary use of force. A 2017 Council of Europe report notes that:

As a mediator, the Greek Ombudsman makes recommendations and proposals to the public administration. The Ombudsman does not impose sanctions or annul illegal actions by the public administration.

Caselaw

Global

VIEWS AND CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS OF UNITED NATIONS TREATY BODIES

In its 2015 Concluding Observations on Greece, the Human Rights Committee expressed its continuing concern about reports suggesting the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials at the time of arrest and against persons in police custody....Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Greece, UN doc. CCPR/C/GRC/CO/2, 3 December 2015, §15.

It was particularly concerned "about reports of police violence against Roma, migrants and refugees and the lack of effective investigation into such cases" as well as "about the reported reluctance of prosecutors to take legal action against alleged perpetrators and that only a few cases result in criminal investigations and sanctions....."Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Greece, UN doc. CCPR/C/GRC/CO/2, 3 December 2015, §15.

It called on Greece to

ensure that all allegations of unauthorized and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials are thoroughly and promptly investigated by an independent authority, that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted, that those found guilty are punished with sentences that are commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and that compensation is provided to the victims or their families. The State party should also ensure that the police receive appropriate professional training that includes full respect for human rights principles.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Greece, UN doc. CCPR/C/GRC/CO/2, 3 December 2015, §16.

Regional

Makaratzis v. Greece (2004)

In this important Grand Chamber judgment, the European Court of Human Rights exceptionally found a violation of the right to life even though the victim of a multiple police shooting survived. The case concerned an applicant who had driven through a red traffic light in the centre of Athens. He was chased by several police officers in cars and on motorcycles. After the applicant had broken through five police roadblocks set up to stop him, police officers started firing at his car. When the applicant stopped at a petrol station, the police officers continued firing. The Court accepted the government’s claim that the police did not intend to kill Mr Makaratzis, but observed that the fact that he was not killed was "fortuitous":

According to the findings of the ballistic report, there were sixteen holes in the car caused by bullets following a horizontal or an upward trajectory to the car driver’s level. There were three holes and a mark on the car’s front windscreen caused by bullets which came through the rear window; the latter was broken and had fallen in. In the end, the applicant was injured on the right arm, the right foot, the left buttock and the right side of the chest and was hospitalised for nine days.

The Court concluded that, "irrespective of whether or not the police actually intended to kill him, the applicant was the victim of conduct which, by its very nature, put his life at risk, even though, in the event, he survived."European Court of Human Rights, Makaratzis v. Greece, Judgment (Grand Chamber), 20 December 2004, para. 55.

National

In July 2017, Amnesty International called on the Greek authorities "to urgently investigate allegations that police used excessive force against asylum-seekers in the Moria camp near Mytilene during a protest on 18 July 2017 and ill-treated some of those who were arrested and detained in the Mytilene police station following the clashes that ensued". 

Downloads

1975 Constitution of Greece (as amended)

2004 Code of Police Ethics (Greece)

Law 3169/2003 on Police Firearms (2003) (Greek original)

Police Oversight Mechanisms in Council of Europe Member States (2017 Report)

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Greece (2015)

European Court of Human Rights Makaratzis v. Greece (2004)