Extensive police profiling against trans people and unlawful detention of lawyer of trans organisation

26/06/2013

On 5 June, the lawyer Electra Koutra, President of the Hellenic Action for Human Rights and Greek Helsinki Monitor legal counselor, was unlawfully detained in Thessaloniki when she tried to defend a trans person who had been arbitrarily caught and abusively detained in that police station, for the third time in four days after incidents of police profiling operations targeting trans people.

In her capacity of lawyer of Greek Transgender Support Association, Ms. Koutra went to the Police Station in Democratias Square, in the late evening of the 4 June, to defend a trans person who had been arbitrarily caught and abusively detained in that police station, for the third time in four days, in the framework of police profiling operations targeting trans people. At least three trans persons declared that they have been stopped while driving their car, although they were not committing any violation of the law, on the pretext of ID verification and identification as sex workers. Furthermore, they claimed the police officers’ behaviour to be offensive, humiliating and detrimental to their dignity.

According to her declarations, at the Democratias Square Police Station Ms. Koutra was prevented from meeting her client. Thus, at 00.25 of the 5 June she called the police emergency number in order to protest the violation of her right of lawyer to communicate with her client.

After the call she managed to enter Democratias Square Police Station. Once in, she got locked in the Station without receiving any explanation and detained in a cell, together with several other detainees. Most of the detainees in the cell were prostitutes.

During her detention, Ms. Koutra has been repeatedly teased and mocked by Police officers. In particular, when she asked for the reason of her detention, their answer was “you asked to be locked in”, as she had insisted to see her client.

Ms. Koutra demanded to file a formal complaint for unjustified detention, but one of the Police officers replied that he would have sued her for defamation, instead. However, as Ms. Koutra insisted for her formal complaint to be registered, the policy officer decided to set her free and let her go.

Once out of Democratias Square Police Station, Ms. Koutra went to Lefkos Pygros Police Station to file a formal complaint against the Police officers in Democratias Square Police Station for abuse of authority, unlawful detention, offense to human dignity, abductions, threats, violence and unprovoked insults.

Urgently informed of the incident, the Public Prosecutor responded that the perpetrators could not be prosecuted, as they were acting on duty.

Ms. Koutra has been recently informed of the fact that the police officers of Democratias Square Police Station that were on duty on the night of the 5 June sued her for false accusation and aggravated defamation. Their claim is that Ms. Electra Koutra was not put in the detention cell, but taken to the waiting area standing in front of the detention cells.

OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION

  • Read the Media Release from Transgender Europe here
  • Read the Media Release from the Greek Transgender Support Association here
  • Greek Transgendered Support Association and other 18 LGBT organisations accused the Police of Thessaloniki of having abused of authority by perpetrating systematic arrests of transgender people under the pretext of ID controls and profiling operations. In a joint public statement issued on the 18th of June, the organisations claim that several transgender people have been arrested and detained for hours in jail without being duly informed on the reason for their detention.
  • Two queries on the issue have been raised in the Greek Parliament by political parties SYRIZA (Radical Left Coalition) and DIMAR (Democratic Left).
  • Many LGBT organisations suspect that the extensive police operation conducted against transgender people was somehow connected to the upcoming LGBT Pride (held in Thessaloniki on June 14 and June 15).
  • Already in July 2012, Amnesty International issued a comprehensive report titled Police Violence in Greece – Not just “isolated incidents”.
  • 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), calls on the Greek Government to put an end to the extensive use of police profiling against migrants, Roma and transgender persons, as well as to the general climate of impunity.
  • The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, states that:
    • “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”:
    • “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
  • On the 16th of April 2013, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights issued a Report on human rights issues in Greece. Notably, the third section of the Report is devoted to “The role of law enforcement authorities in combating racist and other hate crimes” and it includes a chapter on “Measures to combat impunity concerning human rights violations by law enforcement officials”’.
  • Greek Helsinki Monitor recalls on a similar case regarding Theodore Alexandridis, GHM legal counsel. On 13 October 2005, after having reached the Aspropyrgos Police Station to file a complaint for the obstruction to Roma children’s access to a public school by non-Roma children’s parents, Alexandridis was detained unlawfully because the police advised the parents sued by the lawyer to file a counter-complaint against him. Protests were then filed by two international NGOs, but not by any Greek NGOs. The European Court of Human Rights convicted Greece for the exclusion of Roma children from school (Case of Sampanis v. Greece), making reference to the 13 October 2005 events. However, Greek justice did not find any wrongdoing in the children’s exclusion from school or in Alexandridis’ detention, despite the ECtHR judgment.
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