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Greece, EU: Move Asylum Seekers to Safety, End Containment Policy, Organize Transfers Now

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The Greek government and its European Union partners should urgently ensure that all asylum seekers on the Aegean islands are transferred to suitable accommodation on the mainland or relocated to other EU countries as winter approaches, 20 human rights and other organizations said today.

Despite the Greek government’s recent efforts to transfer asylum seekers from the islands to more suitable accommodation in the mainland, as of December 3, 2018, over 12,500 people were still living in tents and containers unsuitable for winter in five EU-sponsored camps known as hotspots on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos, and Leros – almost triple their capacity. In addition to serious overcrowding, asylum seekers continue facing unsanitary and unhygienic conditions and physical violence, including violence based on gender.

The lack of basic protection measures leaves women and girls, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) people, particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault, and afraid to use site facilities including bathrooms and showers. Medical care, trauma counseling, and psychosocial – or mental health – are insufficient, as is legal counseling and support during the different stages of the asylum procedure. Mental health among asylum seekers has deteriorated amid harsh living conditions and emotional distress.

The humanitarian crisis in the hotspots is the result of Greece’s EU-backed policy of containing asylum seekers on the Aegean islands, until their asylum claims are adjudicated or until it is determined that they fall under one of the “vulnerable” categories listed under Greek law. “Vulnerable” asylum seekers are exempted from the border procedures, and they are allowed to move to the mainland. Greek authorities have periodically accelerated the transfer of “vulnerable” asylum seekers to the mainland but as of late November, an estimated 2,200 people identified as eligible for transfer are still waiting because accommodation facilities on the mainland have similarly become overcrowded during past months, amidst the ongoing lack of an EU-wide responsibility sharing mechanism. Others have fallen through the cracks of lengthy and inefficient vulnerability assessments and are confined to the dire conditions on the islands.

The containment policy was designed and justified as a means to carry out the March 2016 EU-Turkey deal that would return to Turkey asylum seekers who reached the Greek islands by crossing the sea, for their asylum claim to be processed there. The policy imposes unjustified and unnecessary suffering on asylum seekers, while unduly limiting their rights to have their case examined on its merits – as opposed to its “admissibility” – the organizations said.

Speeding up returns, a measure foreseen under the deal, would not solve the crisis on the islands. Many of those trapped on the islands are protected against return and could not be sent back to Turkey, other third countries, or their countries of origin under EU law.

Greece and other EU countries should share responsibility to provide an adequate standard of living for asylum seekers, guaranteeing their subsistence and protecting their physical and mental health throughout a fair and efficient asylum procedure. A recent pledge to move 6,000 asylum seekers to the mainland to provide them with an adequate standard of living is a first step, albeit not one that can ensure sustainability in the long-term.

Greece, with the support of EU institutions and countries, should end its inhumane containment policy and facilitate the transfer of asylum seekers from the Aegean islands. Special care should be given to the needs of children, women survivors of violence, pregnant women and new mothers, and LGBT+ people, among other groups.

European governments should be ready promptly to relocate asylum seekers from Greece and ensure their access to adequate living conditions while their asylum applications are being processed. Portugal’s recent agreement to transfer 100 asylum seekers and potentially up to 1,000 through 2019 is a positive step that other EU countries should follow.

EU governments should follow the lead of the European Parliament in reaching an agreement on a functioning and fairer EU asylum system, which supports Member States, including through a mandatory distribution mechanism; protects people in need; and enables families to reunite in the EU.

The Greek and European authorities should show genuine, humane leadership in addressing the deplorable conditions for the people trapped on the Greek islands. Women, men, and children seeking protection in Europe should be treated in accordance with their rights and not be forced to spend another winter in squalid and unsafe camps.

The Organizations Supporting This Statement:

Amnesty International
ASB – Arbeiter Samariter Bund
Campfire Innovation
Caritas Hellas
CEAR – Spanish Commission for Refugees
Centre for Research on Women’s Issues – DIOTIMA
Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe
Greek Council for Refugees
Greek Forum of Refugees
Greek Helsinki Monitor
HumanRights360
Human Rights Watch
Jesuit Refugee Service
Legal Centre Lesvos
Medecins Du Monde – Greece
Oxfam
PRAKSIS
Refugee Support Aegean
SolidarityNow
Terre des hommes Hellas

For interviews and further information, directly contact: Natasha Dailiani, Coordinator, natasha@legalcentrelesvos.org, +30 694 425 1704

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Ελλάδα και Ευρώπη: Μετακινήστε τους αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο σε ασφαλές μέρος Να Τερματιστεί η Περιοριστική Πολιτική, να Οργανωθούν οι Μεταφορές Τώρα

(Αθήνα, 6 Δεκεμβρίου 2018) – Η ελληνική κυβέρνηση και οι εταίροι της στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση πρέπει επειγόντως να διασφαλίσουν πως όλοι και όλες οι αιτούντες και οι αιτούσες άσυλο που βρίσκονται στα νησιά του Αιγαίου, θα μεταφερθούν σε κατάλληλα διαμορφωμένους χώρους διαμονής στην ηπειρωτική χώρα ή θα μετεγκατασταθούν σε άλλες χώρες της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, καθώς πλησιάζει ο χειμώνας, σύμφωνα με σημερινή κοινή δήλωση 20 οργανώσεων ανθρώπινων δικαιωμάτων και άλλων οργανώσεων.

Παρά τις πρόσφατες προσπάθειες της ελληνικής κυβέρνησης να μεταφέρει τους αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο από τα νησιά σε καταλληλότερους χώρους διαμονής στην ηπειρωτική χώρα, μέχρι τις 3 Δεκεμβρίου 2018, πάνω από 12,500 χιλιάδες άνθρωποι διαμένουν ακόμα σε σκηνές και κοντέινερ, ακατάλληλα για τον χειμώνα, σε πέντε χώρους διαμονής προσφύγων, γνωστά και ως hotspots, που επιδοτούνται από την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, στη Λέσβο, τη Σάμο, την Χίο, την Κω και την Λέρο – δηλαδή περίπου τριπλάσιος αριθμός πάνω από την χωρητικότητά τους. Επιπρόσθετα του σοβαρού υπερπληθυσμού, οι αιτούντες και οι αιτούσες άσυλο εξακολουθούν να αντιμετωπίζουν ανθυγιεινές συνθήκες και φυσική βία, συμπεριλαμβανομένης της έμφυλης βίας.

Η έλλειψη βασικών μέτρων προστασίας, αφήνει τις γυναίκες και τα κορίτσια, καθώς και τις λεσβίες, τους ομοφυλόφιλους, τους αμφιφυλόφιλους και τα τρανς άτομα (ΛΟΑΤΚΙ), ιδιαίτερα ευάλωτα σε σεξουαλικές παρενοχλήσεις και επιθέσεις, και υπό τον φόβο να χρησιμοποιήσουν τις εγκαταστάσεις, συμπεριλαμβανομένων της τουαλέτας και του μπάνιου. Η ιατρική περίθαλψη, η συμβουλευτική τραύματος και η ψυχοκοινωνική υποστήριξη – ή ψυχική υγεία – είναι ανεπαρκής, όπως και η παροχή νομικών συμβουλών και η νομική υποστήριξη στα διάφορα στάδια της διαδικασίας αίτησης ασύλου. Η ψυχική υγεία μεταξύ των αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο έχει επιδεινωθεί λόγω των σκληρών συνθηκών διαμονής και της συναισθηματικής φόρτισης.

Η ανθρωπιστική κρίση στους χώρους διαμονής προσφύγων είναι το αποτέλεσμα της πολιτικής της Ελλάδας, που υποστηρίζεται από την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, του περιορισμού των αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο στα νησιά του Αιγαίου, μέχρι να εκδικαστούν τα αιτήματα ασύλου τους ή μέχρι να αποφασιστεί ότι εμπίπτουν σε κάποιες από τις «ευάλωτες» κατηγορίες που αναφέρονται στον ελληνικό νόμο. «Οι ευάλωτοι/ες» αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο εξαιρούνται από τις διαδικασίες στα σύνορα, και τους επιτρέπεται να μετακινηθούν στην ηπειρωτική χώρα. Οι ελληνικές αρχές επιταχύνουν, κατά περιόδους, τις μεταφορές «ευάλωτων» αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο στην ηπειρωτική χώρα, αλλά από τα τέλη Νοεμβρίου, περίπου 2,200 άνθρωποι που έχουν αναγνωριστεί ως ότι πληρούν τις προϋποθέσεις για μεταφορά, βρίσκονται ακόμα σε αναμονή, επειδή ο πληθυσμός στους χώρους διαμονής στην ηπειρωτική χώρα έχει επίσης ξεπεράσει την χωρητικότητά τους τους τελευταίους μήνες, εν μέσω της συνεχιζόμενης έλλειψης ενός μηχανισμού επιμερισμού της ευθύνης σε όλη την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση. Άλλοι/ες παραμένουν στην αφάνεια, λόγω των μακροχρόνιων και αναποτελεσματικών διαδικασιών για την αξιολόγηση της ευαλωτότητας, και βρίσκονται υπό περιορισμό στις φρικτές συνθήκες στα νησιά.

Η περιοριστική πολιτική σχεδιάστηκε και δικαιολογήθηκε ως ένα μέσο υλοποίησης της συμφωνίας ΕΕ–Τουρκίας του Μαρτίου 2016, που προέβλεπε την επιστροφή στην Τουρκία των αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο που έφταναν στα ελληνικά νησιά διασχίζοντας την θάλασσα, ώστε τα αιτήματα ασύλου τους να εξεταστούν εκεί. Οι οργανώσεις δήλωσαν ότι η πολιτική αυτή επιβάλλει μια αδικαιολόγητη και περιττή ταλαιπωρία στους αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο, ενώ περιορίζει αδικαιολόγητα το δικαίωμά εξέτασης των υποθέσεών τους κατά περίπτωση – αντί της κρίσης επί της «παραδεκτότητας».

Η επιτάχυνση των επιστροφών, ένα μέτρο που προβλέπεται από την συμφωνία, δεν θα επέλυε την κρίση στα νησιά. Πολλοί/ες από όσους/ες βρίσκονται παγιδευμένοι/ες στα νησιά προστατεύονται από την επιστροφή τους και δεν θα μπορούσαν να σταλθούν πίσω στην Τουρκία, σε άλλες τρίτες χώρες ή στις χώρες καταγωγής τους, σύμφωνα με το ευρωπαϊκό δίκαιο.
Η Ελλάδα και άλλες χώρες της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης πρέπει να διαμοιραστούν την ευθύνη της παροχής ενός επαρκούς επιπέδου ζωής των αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο, της εγγύησης της διαβίωσής τους καθώς και της προστασίας της φυσικής και ψυχολογικής τους υγείας, μέσω μιας δίκαιης και αποτελεσματικής διαδικασίας άσυλου. Η πρόσφατη δέσμευση μετακίνησης 6.000 αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο στην ηπειρωτική χώρα, όπου θα τους παρασχεθεί ένα κατάλληλο επίπεδο ζωής, είναι ένα πρώτο βήμα, αν και δεν είναι αυτό που μπορεί να διασφαλίσει, μακροπρόθεσμα, τη βιωσιμότητα.

Η Ελλάδα, με την υποστήριξη των θεσμών και των κρατών της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, πρέπει να τερματίσει την απάνθρωπη περιοριστική πολιτική και να διευκολύνει την μεταφορά των αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο από τα νησιά του Αιγαίου. Χρειάζεται ειδική μέριμνα στις ανάγκες των παιδιών, των γυναικών που έχουν επιβιώσει από βία, των εγκύων γυναικών και των νέων μητέρων, και των ΛΟΑΤΚΙ ατόμων, μεταξύ άλλων ομάδων.

Οι ευρωπαϊκές κυβερνήσεις θα έπρεπε να είναι έτοιμες να επανεγκαταστήσουν άμεσα τους αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο από την Ελλάδα και να διασφαλίσουν την πρόσβασή τους σε κατάλληλες συνθήκες ζωής, όσο εξετάζονται οι αιτήσεις τους για άσυλο. Η πρόσφατη συμφωνία της Πορτογαλίας να μεταφέρει 100 αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο, και πιθανά έως 1000 μέσα στο 2019, είναι ένα θετικό βήμα που θα έπρεπε να ακολουθήσουν και άλλες χώρες της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης.

Οι κυβερνήσεις της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης θα έπρεπε να ακολουθήσουν το παράδειγμα του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου, για την επίτευξη μιας συμφωνίας για ένα πιο λειτουργικό και πιο δίκαιο σύστημα ασύλου μέσα στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, το οποίο θα υποστηρίζει τα κράτη μέλη, μεταξύ των άλλων μέσω ενός υποχρεωτικού μηχανισμού καταμερισμού · της προστασίας των ανθρώπων που βρίσκονται σε ανάγκη · και της διευκόλυνσης της διαδικασίας οικογενειακής επανένωσης στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση.

Οι ελληνικές και ευρωπαϊκές αρχές θα έπρεπε να δείξουν γνήσια και ανθρώπινη ηγετική ικανότητα στην αντιμετώπιση των απαράδεκτων συνθηκών για τους ανθρώπους που βρίσκονται παγιδευμένοι στα ελληνικά νησιά. Γυναίκες, άνδρες και παιδιά που αναζητούν προστασία στην Ευρώπη θα έπρεπε να αντιμετωπίζονται με τρόπο που θα βρίσκεται σε συμφωνία με τα δικαιώματά τους, και να μην εξαναγκάζονται να περάσουν έναν ακόμη χειμώνα σε εξαχρειωμένους και επικίνδυνους καταυλισμούς.

Οι Οργανώσεις που υποστηρίζουν την παραπάνω δήλωση:

Διεθνής Αμνηστία
ASB – Arbeiter Samariter Bund
Campfire Innovation
Caritas Hellas
CEAR – Spanish Commission for Refugees
Διοτίμα – Κέντρο Γυναικείων Ερευνών και Μελετών
Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe
Greek Council for Refugees – Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες
Greek Forum of Refugees
Greek Helsinki Monitor
HumanRights360
Human Rights Watch
Jesuit Refugee Service
Legal Centre Lesvos
Γιατροί του Κόσμου – Ελλάδα
Oxfam
PRAKSIS
Refugee Support Aegean
SolidarityNow
Terre des hommes Hellas

The case of the Moria 35: a 15-month timeline of injustice and impunity

On Thursday 18th October, the last of the Moria 35 were released from detention. Their release comes one year and three months – to the day – after the 35 men were arbitrarily arrested and subject to brutal police violence in a raid of Moria camp following peaceful protests, on July 18th 2017.

While the Legal Centre Lesbos welcomes the fact that all 35 men have finally been released, we maintain that none of them should ever have been imprisoned to begin with –– let alone for the 10 to 15 months the majority of the Moria 35 spent in punitive, unlawful incarceration.

And while freedom from unjust imprisonment is one thing, freedom in any broader sense is a different matter. The legal status of all 35 men is precarious. Six of them have been granted asylum in Greece, but the majority are now fighting the rejection of their asylum cases; on appeal or through subsequent applications which are subject to admissibility. Three individuals have been deported. One individual was illegally deported without having exhausted his legal remedies in Greece, while another individual, having spent 9 months in pre-trial detention only to be subject to a gross miscarriage of justice at criminal trial, signed up for so-called ‘voluntary’ deportation.

Despite an abject lack of evidence against any of them, 32 of the Moria 35 were convicted of the crime of Dangerous Bodily Harm against police officers in grossly unjust criminal trial proceedings that took place in Chios in April 2018. Although their criminal conviction is being appealed, these men now live under the shadow of 26-month suspended prison sentences. By contrast, despite numerous videos, reports and eyewitness testimonies evidencing brutal police violence against the Moria 35, the public prosecutor decided to closed its investigation into police brutality in June 2018. Their basis for closing the investigation was that any use of force on the part of the police was justified, because the Moria 35 had resisted arrest. This despite the fact that all 35 men had just been found innocent on the charge of resisting arrest.

From the Greek police’s brutally violent, racist mass-arrest of these 35 men; through the grossly unjust, punitive criminal procedure that they were subject to; to their release from pre-trial detention in April only for the majority to be transferred directly into immigration detention in Moria; the case of the Moria 35 over the past 15 months constitutes a catalogue of the forms of institutional racism and gross human rights abuses with impunity that are enabled by the intersection of violent immigration and criminal justice systems in Europe. The following timeline sets these out to the best of our knowledge, with links to more detailed reports.

           

  • 18 July 2017: Police brutality and arrests

At approximately 10:00 on Tuesday 18th July 2017, refugees of different nationalities gathered in Moria for the second day in a row of peaceful protests, denouncing inhumane living conditions and demanding the right to freedom of movement for everyone trapped in Lesvos. The protest remained peaceful and calm until police arrived at around 13:00 and began to use tear gas. Many refugees were trapped outside the camp, some were trapped inside, there was confusion and inside Moria there were clashes between a handful of protesters and police officers shooting teargas and throwing rocks. By 15:00 the camp was calm. However, at approximately 16:00 several dozen riot police who had just arrived on the scene entered Moria and violently raided the African section of the camp. They pulled people out of the iso-box containers they lived in, brutally assaulted seemingly anyone they encountered including a pregnant woman, and by 16:15 had made 35 arrests. 34 of the 35 individuals arrested were black. One of the arrestees was urgently hospitalized due to severe injuries sustained at the hands of arresting officers.

=> Detailed reports, video footage, and an Amnesty International report urging investigation into police violence amounting to possible torture can be found here: https://freethemoria35.wordpress.com/media-reports/

  • 19 July: Criminal proceedings initiated

The 34 individuals who had spent the night in Mytilene police station were brought into Mytilene court in order for the public prosecutor to initiate criminal proceedings against them. The individual who had spent the night in hospital due to police violence remained in hospital. Arrestees reported having been beaten by the police again in the police station overnight. Some of the men were still bleeding from visible injuries and had been denied medical attention. Many were brought into the courthouse barefoot. Criminal proceedings against the Moria 35 were initiated by the public prosecutor, on a catalogue of identical charges:

  1. Arson with intent to endanger life – contrary to Article 264 of the Greek Penal Code
  2. Dangerous bodily harm – contrary to Article 309
  3. Damage of foreign property – contrary to Article 382
  4. Using or threatening violence to force an authority or public official to execute an act within his capacities or to refrain from a legitimate act – contrary to Article 167

=> http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2017/07/20/hearing-tomorrow-at-mytilene-court-for-moria35/

  • 21-22 July: Preliminary inquiry

Interrogations by the Investigating Judge took place over the course of two days. Four of the Moria 35 had this procedure postponed due to the state’s inability to produce translators in their languages. The procedure was also postponed for the individual who remained hospitalized.

There were solidarity protests outside the courthouse on both days. Many of the 35 arrested had not even been present at the morning’s peaceful protest, let alone the clashes between a small number of protesters and riot police that ensued following the police’s excessive use of tear gas. This led witnesses to conclude the arrests were arbitrary: that people were targeted because of race, nationality, and location within the camp at the time of the police raid; which itself seemed intended to collectively punish refugees for organised, peaceful resistance. There was an absolute lack of evidence against any of the Moria 35.

However, despite all this, the 30 individuals who were interrogated by the Investigating Judge were formally indicted on the catalogue of exaggerated crimes detailed above and the case was referred to trial. Many still had visible injuries and their access to food, water and medical care had been limited. Given the 48-hour window between arrests and preliminary inquiry, and the lack of lawyers on Lesvos, all 30 defendants were represented by one lawyer from the Legal Centre.

12 of the defendants filed official complaints in court against the police for excessive use of force. Many had vulnerability status and/or serious mental and physical health conditions that should have precluded pre-trial incarceration, which in any case should be a matter of last resort under both Greek and International law. Yet pre-trial detention was ordered for all 30 men pursuant to Article 282 of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure due to the gravity of the charges and their deemed lack of appropriate address, despite all being registered residents of Moria camp.

=> http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2017/07/30/free-the-moria-35/

  • 25-26 July: Transfer to prisons outside Lesvos

Amidst misinformation, lack of translation and defendants’ reports of police intimidation and racism, the 30 individuals for whom pre-trial detention had been ordered were transferred from Lesvos and divided between a prison on the island of Chios, and Korydallos and Avlona prisons in Athens, which were ill equipped to deal with non-Greek speakers and made visits from friends, family and lawyers extremely difficult.

  • Late July: Preliminary inquiry

Immediately upon being discharged from hospital, the individual hospitalized for a week due to police violence faced the investigating judge. Though indicted with the same charges, he was not given a pre-trial detention order and was released pending trial – though confined to the island of Lesvos with reporting conditions.

  • September – November: Conclusion of pre-trial proceedings

The right to free trial under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) makes it an obligation on the state to provide translation in a language a defendant understands. However, given the Greek state’s continued failure to do so in the case of 4 of the Moria 35, by the end of September, the Wolof-speaking defendant himself produced a translator and was interrogated by the Investigating Judge. By November, the 3 Bambara-speaking defendants had done the same. Thanks to arguments from the defense team coordinated by the Legal Centre and HIAS, regarding residency in Moria, health conditions, and the fact that these men had duly showed up to court once a month for as long as the state had failed to produce appropriate translators, the 4 defendants were released with restrictive conditions pending trial.

All 5 defendants – including the individual hospitalized by police violence – who had been given restrictive measures were forced to remain within the open-air prison of Lesvos, and to live in Moria camp: the very place they had been subject to brutal police violence.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2017/09/30/september-report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance-in-lesvos/ Section 5

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2017/11/09/october-report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance-in-lesvos/ Section 6

  • 13 December: Pre-trial detention extended

Despite applications for release on the basis of severe health conditions being made by defense lawyers, the Municipal Court renewed the pre-trial detention conditions for 30 defendants for a further 6 months. There was no legal basis for denying the 30 defendants their right to liberty and presumption of innocence (Article 5 and Article 6(2) ECHR) by ordering pre-trial detention to begin with, particularly given that none of the defendants had previous convictions and the prison-like character of the island of Lesvos itself precludes flight. Pre-trial detention is disproportionately used against foreign national defendants in Greece. Renewing such pre-trial detention was unduly harsh and unlawful. The trial date had still not been announced.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/02/10/january-2018-report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance-in-lesvos/

  • Late February 2018: Trial date and location announced

The trial date was finally set for 20 April 2018, before a ‘mixed jury Court’ in Chios. There was no apparent explanation for authorities’ decision to move the trial of the Moria 35 to the island of Chios: away from the solidarity groups that had been supporting them and the many witnesses to the events on the day of their arrest present in Lesvos.

  • 14 March: Joint statement

The five members of the Moria 35 under restrictive measures on the island of Lesvos released a collective statement ahead of their trial.

[Excerpt]:

 “Our humanity has been denied since we stepped foot in Europe, the supposed cradle of democracy and human rights. Since we arrived we have been forced to live in horrible conditions, our asylum cases are not taken seriously, and most Africans are denied residency in Europe and face deportation. We are treated like criminals, simply for crossing a border that Europeans can freely cross.

Now 35 of us have been accused of rioting, destroying property, and violence, however it was actually the police who attacked us in a violent and racist raid on the African section of Moria… It was the police in full riot gear who attacked unarmed migrants with stones, batons and tear gas… It was the police who damaged property by breaking the windows and doors of the containers where we were living. Without concern for people who were inside they threw tear gas into the closed containers. They dragged people by their hair out of the containers. They beat anyone they found with batons, their boots, their fists, including a pregnant woman. It seems we were targeted only because of our skin colour – because we are black.”

 => https://freethemoria35.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/statement35en.pdf

  • 10-17 April: International solidarity

In the week running up to the Moria 35 trial there were events, protests and documentary screenings in solidarity with the Moria 35 across Europe, using the hashtag #FreetheMoria35.

The mobilisations in Greece linked the case of the Moria 35 to the case of the Petrou Ralli 8, which was on trial the week after the Moria 35 and which shared many characteristics: refugees detained in inhumane conditions in a notorious detention centre peacefully raising questions in protest at their conditions, a police response of brutal violence causing serious injury (broken bones, head injuries), followed by seemingly arbitrary arrests, indictment on a catalogue of extreme criminal charges, and dispersal across prisons in Greece for unlawfully lengthy periods of pre-trial incarceration. These cases were also linked to a further analogous case known as the ‘Moria 10’, which involved 10 individuals indicted for clashes in Moria one week before the Moria 35 arrests. The patterns of state violence and institutional racism in these cases, which shared similar timelines, were seen as evidencing the systematic nature of repression and criminalization of migrant resistance to border violence in Greece.

=> https://musaferat.espivblogs.net/en/2018/03/13/call_for_solidarity/

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/04/16/release-of-documentary-moria-35/

=> https://www.facebook.com/pg/freemoria35/posts/

=> https://cantevictsolidarityenglish.noblogs.org/post/2018/09/07/petrou-ralli-8-a-conversation-with-the-8-of-petrou-ralli/

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/05/10/a-second-trial-to-begin-in-chios-in-continued-criminalization-of-asylum-seekers-in-lesvos/

  • 20-27 April 2018: Trial in Chios

The Moria 35 trial finally began on 20th April 2018, before the ‘Mixed Jury Court’ on Chios. There were only 4 days of proceedings, which ended on 27th April. The Legal Centre Lesvos coordinated the defense and at trial the legal defense team was made up of 6 lawyers from the Legal Centre, Musaferat, HIAS, Lesvos Solidarity, and Aitima. All defendants were acquitted of the following charges:

Arson with intent to endanger life – contrary to Article 264 of the Greek Penal Code

Damage of foreign property – contrary to Article 382

Using or threatening violence to force an authority or public official to execute an act within his capacities or to refrain from a legitimate act – contrary to Article 167

However, 32 defendants were found guilty of the following charge:

Dangerous bodily harm – contrary to Article 309

All convicted defendants were given a 26-month suspended prison sentence.

A trial observation committee representing 6 international human rights organisations attended proceedings, and published a detailed Trial Observation Report of their findings. Greece is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and is therefore obliged under international law to ‘secure to everyone within (its) jurisdiction the rights and freedoms’ contained therein. The Trial Observation Committee found gross breaches of the ECHR to have taken place in respect of the defendants in the Moria 35 trial. In brief these were as follows––

Article 3 – Prohibition of inhuman treatment

The Committee found the treatment of the Moria 35 defendants to breach the prohibitions of inhumane treatment under Article 3 ECHR. During the trial the defendants were given no breaks when they had to go to the toilet the trial continued without them. They were not provided with food by the authorities during the duration of each long trial day.

Article 6  – Right to a fair trial

The disproportionate 9 month delay that the Moria 35 were subject to between arrests and trial constituted a breach of Article 6(1) of the ECHR, particularly given that 30 of them were subject to detention conditions which should entail prioritization.

The Greek state systematically failed to provide competent interpreters in a language the Moria 35 defendants understood. This was the case from the preliminary inquiry and through the course of proceedings at trial. At no point were any of the defendants ‘informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail of the nature and cause of the accusation against him’ Article 6(3)(a) and Article 5(2) ECHR. At the trial stage, none of the defendants were accorded their right to ‘have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court’ as per Article 6(3)(e) ECHR. Translation was grossly inadequate throughout proceedings. It was not individual: there was, for example, one translator for 20 French-speaking defendants; and it was not competent: none of the interpreters were trained or professional. At one point in proceedings the English translator left and was replaced by a police officer. There was no Bambara translator provided for the Bambara-speaking defendant, who was expected to understand the Wolof translator, himself a refugee, despite not speaking Wolof.

Lack of translation restricted defendants’ other rights under the right to free trial, such as their ability to present their case, equality before the law and equality of arms. These rights under Article 6(1) ECHR were further violated at trial by the shockingly limited amount of time each defendant was given to present their testimony. The president of the court only asked three questions of each of the 35 defendants and prevented them from saying more. Despite letting the prosecution witnesses speak for 45 minutes each on average, each of the 35 defendants was only given an average of 7 minutes to speak. Some spoke for only 3 minutes. Given that all 35 defendants faced maximum prison sentences of 10 years, and that half of the minutes they were permitted were taken up with translation; this was deeply unjust. In addition, the 35 defendants shared 6 lawyers. Each lawyer was limited to 11 minutes for the multiple clients they were representing. This amounted to an average of 108 seconds of legal defense per defendant.

The report also evidences breaches of the presumption of innocence under Article 6(2) and impartiality of the tribunal per Article 6(1) ECHR stemming from the fact that there was no prosecution case against individual defendants. Evidence on individualized circumstances and alibis was not permitted. Prosecution witnesses could produce no proof of the involvement of individual defendants. In the verdict, defendants were not mentioned individually. Instead the Moria 35 were treated throughout proceedings as a “guilty group”.

Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination

Such treatment as a “guilty group” also goes to breaches of the prohibition of discrimination under Article 14 ECHR. The Committee report raises concerns that the police raid of solely the ‘African section’ of Moria despite individuals of various nationalities having participated in protests was racially biased. Official guidelines for identification and recognition of suspects were not followed. The report cites evidence of racist remarks made by the police during arrests: “black dog”, “this is not Africa”; and racist remarks made by police officers giving evidence at trial: “they all looked much the same”. In its conclusion, the Trial Observation Committee report states that “The 35 defendants were not treated in the way other defendants are treated before the Greek courts, or in the way the ECHR specifies that defendants should be treated in Europe”.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/04/28/the-moria-35-trial-results-in-conviction-of-32/

=> Trial Observation Report of the Moira 35 case: http://legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Observation-report-Moria-35-VERSION-COMPLETE-AVEC-LES-ANNEXES.pdf

  • 28 April: From pre-trial incarceration to immigration detention

Following the trial, 5 individuals who had been in prison in Avlona were transferred to Petrou Rally in Athens. 25 were transferred directly to detention in Moria, and the 5 who had been confined to Lesvos awaiting trial traveled back to the prison-like island of Lesvos. The Legal Centre took on the representation of the men in their asylum cases, with some support from HIAS.

  • 5 May: Release subject to immigration status

Only the 4 individuals among the Moria 35 who had been granted refugee status were freed from incarceration. All others were transferred from penal detention to administrative detention, with recommendations for their continued detention as asylum seekers because they were seen as a threat to public security, despite the fact that the court had granted suspended sentences for all individuals convicted.

  • 10 May 2018: Attempted deportations

The 7 individuals among the Moria 35 whose cases had been rejected on appeal were scheduled for deportation on 10th May. This despite the fact that: two of them had been denied legal representation on appeal, which is a right under Article 44(3) of Greek law 4375; none of them had exhausted their legal remedies; their criminal convictions were being appealed; and all of them had claims to residence permits on humanitarian grounds as victims and/or important witnesses to a serious crime (police brutality) that was the subject of ongoing proceedings, as per Article 19A of the amendments to Greek Law 4521 detailed in Law 4332.

However, the deportations of all 7 men were halted at the last minute thanks to a mobilization of the Legal Centre, the Free the Moria 35 campaign, interventions of the Ombudsman office and the UNHCR, and petitions to file subsequent asylum applications being made by the legal team.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/05/05/moria35-update-26-of-the-35-remain-detained/

  • 17 May: ‘Voluntary’ deportation

Having spent 9 months incarcerated only to be subject to a gross miscarriage of justice, one of the Moria 35 gave up on the Greek ‘justice’ system altogether, signed for ‘Assisted Voluntary Return’ and was deported to Turkey.

  • 13 June: Deportations

Another 2 of the Moria 35 were deported to Turkey on the morning of 13th June. Both men were had not exhausted their legal remedies in Greece. One individual was deported on this day despite still having the legal recourse of appealing in administrative court open to him. He had received new evidence in the form of original documents corroborating his claim for asylum or subsidiary protection. The other individual had been declaring his express desire to exercise his right to appeal the rejection of his asylum claim to police for days preceding his deportation. Lawyers had also spoken to the police department informing them of their intention to submit an appeal to the asylum service on his behalf. Yet despite this, both men were deported to Turkey and within a few weeks to their home countries.

=> http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2018/06/14/report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance/

  • June: Impunity in the police brutality case

Despite the fact that all of the Moria 35 had been found innocent on the charge of resisting arrest, and despite extensive evidence of police violence; in June the public prosecutor closed the investigation into the police brutality that took place on 18th July 2017, on the basis that there was a lack of evidence, and that the individuals who had submitted claims against the police had been resisting arrest so the police’s use of force was necessary.

  • May – July: Gradual release

In the months that followed the trial, 16 of the Moria 35 were gradually released. All of the individuals released within a year of their initial arrest still had pending asylum cases, either at first instance or on appeal. The 7 who remained incarcerated had cruelly had their imprisonment due to criminal proceedings seamlessly substituted for imprisonment due to asylum proceedings: one man whose case had been closed while he was in prison and unable to reopen it, and 6 who had been rejected at second instance, but had submitted subsequent applications.

  • 1 September

One of the Moria 35 was finally released, on his asylum case finally being reopened.

  • 5 September

Of the 6 of the Moria 35 who remained imprisoned in September, 2 men were particularly vulnerable. They were desperate, suicidal, and had both attempted suicide on different occasions during the 14 months they had been incarcerated. One of the individuals was quoted as saying; “We are not alive in here, so why would we continue to live?”

Both men were finally released on 5th September.

  • 9 – 18 October 2018

The final 4 of the Moria 35 were released over the course of 10 days.

 

The Legal Centre Lesvos will continue to document the institutionalized racism, impunity and gross human rights violations associated with this case, and to fight for justice for the Moria 35. The criminal convictions of 32 of the Moria 35 have been appealed. At the time of writing an appeal date has not yet been given.

…the authorities can not stop the truth from coming out about how Greece and Europe treat migrants in Lesvos. It is the violent attack by the police against African migrants which must be investigated. It is the police who must be brought to justice.”

(Statement of 5 of the Moria 35, March 2018)

Trial Observation Report – Moria 35

Observation report – Moria 35 – VERSION COMPLETE AVEC LES ANNEXES

Earlier in the year a delegation of lawyers and jurists from Avocats Sans Frontières (France), Gisti (France), Migreurop (France), European Democratic Layers (The Netherlands), Dutch League of Human Rights (The Netherlands) and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (UK), attended the trial of the ‘Moria 35’, which ended with the conviction of 32 of the 35 defendants for dangerous bodily harm.

Serious concerns have since been raised regarding the way in which the trial was conducted, with numerous human rights violations being identified by the observers present.

The above constitutes the final report from the Trial Observation Committee.  For updates as to what has occurred since the trial, please see the latest updates on our website: www.legalcentrelesbos.org

Legal Centre Lesvos calls for urgent action on Greek island hotspots

We join 19 organisations working in Greece in demanding immediate action to address the shameful reception conditions on the Greek islands:

Over 17,000 people remain crammed in Greek island reception centers with a total capacity for only 6,000, living in desperate conditions which do not meet humanitarian standards. This, despite public assurances from the Greek Minister of Migration Policy, Dimitris Vitsas, that the islands would be decongested by September and that thousands of new places would be created on the Greek mainland. As conditions continue to deteriorate, 19 civil society organisations once again urge authorities to engage in the creation of sustainable solutions for the decongestion of the islands and to immediately improve reception conditions for refugees. It is nothing short of shameful that people are expected to endure such horrific conditions on European soil.

Moria, the first reception centre on the Greek island of Lesvos, recently described in a BBC report as “the worst refugee camp in the world,” is currently hosting almost three times its capacity. The sewage system does not work and filthy toilet water reaches the tents and mattresses where children sleep. This, despite funds for sewage system improvement having been approved for some time. Reports of sexual violence and abuse are on the rise. The first reception centre on Samos is six times over its capacity.

In addition, chronic shortages in crucial staff are further exacerbated by the constant resignations of health professionals working in the island sites, who are resigning as a result of untenable working conditions. The Keelpno coordinator on Samos was recently quoted in the Greek press as saying that, despite Greece’s ongoing financial struggles, “medical staff prefer taking the road of unemployment, rather than having to work under such conditions”.  Earlier this week, staff at Moria staged a strike to protest conditions at the site. Also this week, the Prefecture of the Northern Aegean described Moria as “unsuitable and dangerous for public health and the environment,” and warned that the site would be closed in 30 days if sanitary conditions are not improved dramatically. In this environment, civil society organisations working on the islands also find it increasingly difficult to do their work.

There is no excuse for the shameful conditions in which thousands of people remain trapped in limbo while they wait out their asylum claims. The Greek authorities must take immediate and urgent action to ensure that refugees benefit from full access to their basic rights and that they are accommodated in dignified conditions, in accordance with national and international law. The relief measures promised by the Greek authorities to create thousands of additional safe and dignified accommodation spaces on the mainland and transfer people off the islands to the mainland must be implemented immediately as a matter of urgency. At the same time, EU leaders should urgently renew efforts to unblock discussions on the implementation of a fair and permanent mechanism of responsibility allocation within the European Union.

For interviews and information, directly contact:
Natasha Dailiani (Greek, English), +30 694 425 1704

The following organisations have signed the statement:

ActionAid

ASB

Caritas Hellas

CEAR

Danish Refugee Council

Diotima

Greek Helsinki Monitor

Hellenic League for Human Rights

HIAS

International Rescue Committee

JRS

Legal Centre Lesvos

MDM

Oxfam

Praksis

Solidarity Now

Terre des Hommes

Detention Monitoring Aegean and Legal Centre Lesvos Publish Joint Report

STOP DEPORTATIONS TO TURKEY

People trapped on the Greek Islands are deprived of basic rights

Κείμενο στα Ελληνικά

Since the EU-Turkey Statement, more and more people seeking protection in Europe are deported directly from the Greek Islands to Turkey. According to the European Commission, at least 2,224 people have been deported to Turkey since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal on 20th of March 2016. Under constant threat of being deported, many people have to stay in a state of limbo for more than a year. They have to wait in the dehumanising living conditions of the barbed wired European hotspot camps on the Greek Islands that are unable to meet their fundamental needs. The deadlock situation drives people to despair. Already in 2017, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounced a “mental health emergency” on the Greek islands. In winter 2016/17 at least six people died in Moria camp (Lesvos) alone because of the terrible living conditions. According to a more recent MSF report the situation has deteriorated even further. Many people trapped in camps experience strong violence by the authorities and peaceful resistance against the situation is strongly criminalized. The EU-Turkey Deal has transformed the Greek Islands with the European hotspot camps into open air prisons. In these desperate conditions, a rising number of people agree to “voluntary return” back to their home country. After signing the return agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the individuals are normally arrested and brought in handcuffs to a pre-removal centre where they have to wait for up to several months to be deported. Between June 2016 and April 2018 more than 10,000 persons have been returned from Greece to their place of origin (regardless of the safety of the country), through the voluntary return programme funded by the EU and Greece.

Detention based on nationality

Others are deported quicker under a so-called pilot-project that targets migrants from countries with low recognition rates for international protection. They are detained upon arrival in a prison (a so-called “pre-removal center”) and in most cases have to undergo their asylum procedure without any preparation and legal support. As a result, they get caught in the cycle of unjust detention and foreseeable deportation. Some people do not even get the chance to explain their need for protection before being deported as their asylum claims are categorized as “inadmissible” under the so-called fast-track border procedure implemented on the Greek Islands. After a 2017 ruling by the Council of State finding that Turkey was a safe country for two Syrians, Syrian nationals are under threat of being deported back to Turkey because their asylum claims are categorized as “inadmissible”.

If an asylum seeker’s claim is rejected or declared inadmissible, the person is given two choices: either to appeal the rejection or to “voluntarily return” to their country of origin with the IOM. Appealing the rejection has been reduced to a mere formal act: Since the appeal committees composition shifted under pressure of the European Commission, the acceptance rate of appeals that was by the end of November 2016 at 97.9%, dropped to close to 1%. Many people know that the chance of having their case fairly examined on appeal is limited, and feel forced to sign up for the so-called “voluntary return” as their only option to escape the deportation to Turkey.

While Greek law entitles asylum seekers to have the right to appeal a second time in administrative court, in reality this is practically impossible because of the lack of sufficient asylum lawyers in the hotspot camps and the costs of a second-instance appeal.

The asylum procedure on the Greek Islands fails core legal standards

The asylum procedure carried out by the Greek Asylum Service (GAS) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has been under the investigation of the Ombudsperson and was repeatedly criticized by observers. The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) concluded that “EASO fails core legal standards” and “EASO officers fail to respect core standards of fairness”. Whilst the Ombudsperson acknowledged serious concerns with EASO’s conduct, it was then concluded that no further action would be taken.

People deported from Europe face imprisonment and further deportation: Turkey is not a safe third country

The declaration of asylum claims as inadmissible and the rejection of asylum claims under the fast-track border procedure leading to deportations of asylum seekers to Turkey is based on the assumption that Turkey is considered a safe third country. However, the majority of deportees are in fact detained in removal prisons upon arrival where they are held in horrifying conditions for up to 12 months. Most of them are eventually deported to their home countries without having had the opportunity to apply for international protection. Turkey signed the 1951 Refugee convention, but maintains a geographical limitation meaning Turkey only guarantees ‘refugee status’ to citizens of member states of the Council of Europe. As for people coming from other countries, Turkey only recognizes a ‘temporary protection’. In theory only Syrians can get this temporary protection status, which provides very limited rights, while people with other national backgrounds can theoretically only get weak subsidiary protection status, while they wait for relocation as refugees in third countries.

According to the European Commission, since the EU-Turkey agreement came into force, only two out of all non-Syrian deportees have in fact been granted protection status in Turkey until September 2017. Many people fleeing war, persecution, and poverty do not get a fair hearing for their asylum claim in Europe or Turkey. Moreover, after a lengthy period of detention in Turkey or Europe, people are deported back to their country of origin. In several cases detainees are forced to sign return papers, or do so willingly in order to escape imprisonment. A person deported from Turkey to Nigeria reported that he had been gagged and threatened with a stun gun by Turkish police during his deportation flight.

Serious lack of transparency by the authorities

In several cases, the deportation procedures are carried out in secrecy. It is almost impossible for human rights organizations and independent actors to monitor the deportation procedure and to provide support to those being deported to Turkey. While the UNHCR is informed about the number and nationality of the deportees, in most cases neither the Hellenic Asylum Service, the Hellenic Police, the EU, nor FRONTEX are willing to share information regarding the deportees prior to their deportation, except with their attorney – if they are lucky enough to have one. Vital information is made inaccessible. Throughout the deportation, the view of the deportees is obstructed and in many cases no contact to the public is allowed. Independent volunteers who are monitoring these activities are frequently checked for documentation, detained on short terms, and intimidated by police.

Inhumane deportation practices: even sick people and people who are still in the asylum procedure are deported

People have been deported despite serious health conditions such as chronic disease, disability, and life-threatening illness. Several cases have been reported by migrants who stated that they had been woken up by the police in the early hours of the morning, given fifteen minutes to pack their belongings, brought to the police station, and were then deported. People are often prohibited to communicate with their lawyers or friends. As a result no one can provide support or legal intervention as they do not know about their situation. In other cases, deportees have been falsely told that they would be transferred to the Greek mainland and have ended up in prison in Turkey. In a few cases where the names of deportees were known, it was found that they had been deported without getting the chance to apply for asylum or were still in an ongoing asylum procedure. Directly after the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement, Human Rights Watch and Pro Asyl highlighted that asylum claims had not been considered and no legally binding deportation notices had been issued to people seeking protection prior to their deportation. In addition, lawyers have reported administrative mistakes such as mixing up case numbers. On rare occasions deportations could be stopped last minute when their lawyer insisted that their client was still in an ongoing appeal against their second rejection and only if the lawyer had arrived on time at the police station to stop the deportation.

These current practices of deporting and detaining people seeking protection violates basic human rights. We the undersigned strongly oppose these dehumanizing and oppressive actions.

We demand the European Union and the Greek State to:

• Provide transparency and information about deportationsStop deportations to Turkey - It is not a safe countryStop inhumane “voluntary” return practicesStop the EU-Turkey Deal and allow migrants to leave the Greek IslandsStop the detention of migrants 

Deportation Monitoring Aegean                                 Legal Centre Lesvos

                  September 2018

Stop Deportation To Turkey

ΣΤΑΜΑΤΗΣΤΕ ΑΠΕΛΑΣΕΙΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΤΟΥΡΚΙΑ

Police coerce community leaders to turn over individuals responsible for violence in Moria Camp

Expanse of makeshift tents in the “olive grove” outside Moria Camp

With over 8000 individuals living in Moria Camp, in Lesvos, it is at the highest population since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. Despite media fatigue, the resultant inhuman conditions have gained renewed international attention due to the extremity and desperation of the current situation. Tensions are high, and it is no surprise that this has led to increased flights and clashes in Moria. Rather than look to the root causes of these tensions, following clashes and fights in Moria, police are demanding from leaders in Moria Camp that they turn over to authorities individuals for criminal prosecution. Community leaders have been held by police during recent fights, throughout the night, and threatened that they will themselves face criminal prosecution if they refuse to give over names to the police.

This is not the first time the police have targeted community leaders. Following riots in Moria Camp in July 2017, one individual from Mali who was actively organizing to defend migrant rights was arrested and charged with arson, and was prevented from leaving the island of Lesvos until he was acquitted of all charges in his May 2018 trial. Eight individuals who were arrested in March 2018 will face trial for clashes with the police in Moria Camp in a few months. At least two of these individuals have alibi witnesses who confirm they were actually helping people who were injured in the clashes and by police use of tear gas, rather than taking part themselves, and sources have confirmed that the eight were arrested after being identified by the then Iraqi community leader.

The role of community leaders in Moria Camp, which involves appointment using various methods across different nationalities – and approval of the individual by authorities – is itself unorganized and leads to many different personalities filling this often thankless and exhausting position. The targeting of community leaders by police is dangerous both for the leaders, and migrant communities themselves, who are represented by individuals who have been forced into the contradictory role of both advocating for the rights of those forced to live in Moria Camp, and collaborating with the authorities who have created and administer the Camp. If the authorities truly want to hold individuals responsible for predictable tensions that lead to frequent fights and clashes in Moria Camp, they should not contribute to tensions within Moria Camp by using leaders against each other and against members of their communities. If anyone is responsible for the violence in the Camp, it is the Greek government’s violent policies of repression against those who stand up for their rights, and the hostile EU policies of containment and exclusion, which prevent people from leaving Lesvos and continuing their journey to the European continent.

Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

In the months since our last update on rights violations and resistance in Lesvos, our advocacy and campaigning resources were almost exclusively focused on the two trials for the Moria 35 and Moria 10 that took place in Chios in late April and early May 2018.

The situation has predictably worsened in Lesvos. On the 17 April 2018, the Greek Council of State (the highest administrative court in Greece) ruled that geographic restrictions imposed by the Asylum Service for asylum seekers arriving to the Greek islands was illegal. However, within a week, new legislation was proposed, which further limits the rights of asylum seekers and continues the practice of containing asylum seekers to the Greek islands. Moria Camp is now at three times its capacity, holding approximately 7000 individuals. Between 500 and 1000 Kurdish asylum seekers are still living outside Moria in temporary shelter provided by Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa, and Humans 4 Humanity, as they fear for their safety in Moria. Procedures are now so delayed that even individuals who are recognized as vulnerable, and whose cases should be prioritized under Article 51 of Greek Law 4375, are being scheduled for their interviews nearly a year after their arrival. This means that they are prohibited from leaving the island of Lesvos, and are denied freedom of movement during this entire time.

In one case we are following, an eleven year old child has a serious, undiagnosed digestive condition that causes her constant pain and seizures. Because they have been unable to diagnose her illness, the hospital in Mytilene has referred her for testing and treatment in Athens. Even the Mytilene police department has recommended that geographic restrictions be temporarily lifted so that she can travel to Athens for further tests and treatment, but the Regional Asylum Office has denied this request without an appointment in the Athens hospital. Her family is now in a constant state of fear that given her critical condition, their daughter will be unable to receive emergency medical care when needed, given the lack of testing and treatment for her on the island. Already once, when she had seizures and attempted to get treatment at the hospital in Lesvos, she was not admitted because they do not have means to treat her.

The Green Party published a report on 6 June 2018 exposing the inhumane conditions that systematically violate refugee rights in the Greek hotspots. On the 1 June 2018 the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) also published preliminary observations of its visit to detention facilities in Greece from 10 to 19 April 2018, with damning findings.

Treatment of Moria35 defendants highlights lack of procedural safeguards for detained asylum seekers in Lesvos

In the last month and a half since the conclusion of the Moria 35 trial, we have been closely following the administrative process related to the detention and processing of the asylum claims of these individuals. It has become a near full time job of our Greek attorney based in Mytilene to ensure that Greek authorities comply by their own laws and respect the rights of these asylum seekers. Despite the fact that the UNHCR, the Ombudsman’s Office, and the Legal Centre have been closely monitoring their cases, there have been rampant violation of their rights at every step of their procedures. Unfortunately despite this close monitoring, two individuals were deported to Turkey on the morning of 13 June 2018. The violations we have observed in the individual cases of these 35 men highlight the lack of procedural safeguards to protect the rights of asylum seekers, particularly those who are being detained.

Below we outline some of the observed violations of Moria 35 defendants’ rights as asylum seekers:

  • Two individuals whose cases were rejected were denied the representation of a lawyer on appeal. The appeal of a rejected asylum claim is the one stage in the asylum procedure where asylum seekers have the right to a lawyer, under Article 44(3) of Law 4375. Although both requested the representation of a lawyer, the examination of their case on appeal occurred without them having been assigned an attorney.

  • Another individual signed for voluntary departure, but then changed his mind and decided to continue his claim for international protection. He requested that his case be reopened. While that request was being processed, he was placed by police on the list to be deported on the 1 June 2018. It was only after advocacy from the Legal Centre that he was removed from the deportation list. He remains in detention, despite the lack of legal grounds to hold him there.

  • Another individual was held for over a month in detention, after transfer to Lesvos following the trial in Chios. There was no recommendation for his continued detention either from the Regional Asylum Office, as required by Article 46(3) of Law 4375. After daily follow up from the Legal Centre, eventually the police admitted that they were holding him by mistake and he was released.

  • Two additional individuals had their asylum cases rejected, but were unable to appeal because they were detained. With advocacy from UNHCR and Legal Centre lawyers, one of the individuals was able to lodge his appeal. However, he remains in detention, and it is not clear if the Appeals Committee will review his case on the merits or deny the appeal as untimely filed.

  • The second individual was deported on the morning of 13 June 2018. This was despite the fact that for days he had been expressing to the police his desire to appeal the rejection of his asylum claim. Lawyers from HIAS and the Legal Centre also spoke with the Mytilene police department the day before he was deported and informed the police that they would be filing an appeal on his behalf. On the morning of 13 June 2018, he was deported to Turkey. This individual, a Guinean national, claims that he was a victim of torture, and will be subject to persecution if returned to his country. Regardless of whether his claim is credible, he has the right to appeal the rejection of his claim. Even though untimely, it is not the police who have the authority to accept or reject his appeal, but the Asylum Service. His right to appeal was clearly denied, and his deportation was illegal as police were aware that he would be appealing the denial of his claim and they proceeded with the deportation in any case.

  • A second Moria 35 defendant was also deported on the 13 June 2018. His case had been rejected in the second instance. In 2017 this Ghanean national had been rejected and scheduled for deportation, but he lodged a subsequent application. It was the denial of this subsequent application that led to his deportation. While the Regional Asylum Service again scheduled for him to file a subsequent application on 14 June 2018, on 11 June 2018, we were informed that they would not accept a second subsequent application, since he had already submitted a subsequent application in 2017. However, he still had the option of appealing the denial of his claim in administrative court. Less than two days after being informed that he could not file a subsequent application, he was deported to Turkey. This individual has recently received original documents from Ghana that were not previously submitted to the Asylum Office. These documents corroborate his claim that he will be imprisoned 10-15 years if returned to Ghana. Prison conditions in Ghana according to human rights reports are “generally harsh and sometimes life threatening due to physical abuse, food shortages, overcrowding, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care” meaning he should be eligible for subsidiary protection, if not refugee status. Both individuals that were deported on the 13 June 2018 are also eligible for humanitarian protection as important witnesses to a serious crime that is still being investigated in Greece (the brutal police attack against the 35 arrestees on 18 July 2017). The swift move of the police to deport these individuals show that while procedures to grant protection and ensure that refugee rights are respected are constantly delayed, the State is able to mobilize and act swiftly to deny these same rights.

The trampling of the rights of these individuals by the police has followed their brutally violent arrest, their unjust prosecution, and lengthy imprisonment in the case of the Moria 35. It is not clear if the police have targeted these individuals precisely because they were part of the Moria35 case, or if the violation of detained asylum seekers rights is systematic. What is clear is that there is a lack of sufficient transparency, oversight, and monitoring of detention and deportation practices.

Legal Centre Successes

Despite this hostile environment, we continue providing legal aid and individual consultation to all foreign nationals who seek our counsel. We conduct approximately 10 individual consultations daily, and through the assistance of our volunteer lawyers and interpreters, hundreds of individuals have been granted international protection in Greece, or have successfully had geographic restrictions lifted so they can legally travel to mainland Europe.

We also continue to have success in assisting individuals in reuniting with family members in second European States under the Dublin III Regulation. In one case, a single young man from Haiti who is seriously ill was approved to be reunited with his family in France. While in Haiti, he had attempted to apply for a visa to join his parents and younger siblings in France, but was denied because he was over 18. France finally admitted, through our advocacy, that he was dependent on the care of his family, and that he should be able to join them in France. The fact that this individual was forced to take a lengthy, expensive, and dangerous journey to Europe through Turkey and the use of smugglers, only to be later admitted as an asylum seeker in France, shows that European immigration policies are broken.

We will continue our work to assist and help navigate individuals through this broken system, and to monitor and expose the violations of these individuals’ rights when they occur.

 

Community Leader Targeted in Chios Trial Acquitted on all Charges

Moria10 Defendants Acquited on All Charges!

16 May 2018

In a case that never should have gone to trial, the #Moria10 trial ended with a verdict of not guilty! The verdict was unanimously reached by the Mixed Jury Court in Chios after even the prosecution’s witnesses testified that one defendant was a community leader who tried to peacefully solve problems in Moria Camp. The prosecutor also recommended acquittal after none of the State’s witnesses could credibly identify the three defendants who were on trial.  Only three of the ten accused were tried today, as the other seven were never arrested. Two were present for the trial, the third was tried in absentia.

This decision comes after one defendant, a community leader from Mali, was prevented from leaving Lesvos during the ten months while awaiting trial. The other was imprisoned for seven months awaiting trial. Both have been granted international protection in Greece – but their freedom has been limited while they awaited the outcome of this unjust prosecution.

The acquittal is a welcome verdict, and we hope will deter prosecutors and judges from continuing to prosecute and imprison migrants and refugees with baseless accusations and limited evidence. This decision comes just a few weeks after the unjust conviction in the #Moria35 case, in which 32 were found guilty in a case where State witnesses were similarly unable to identify any defendants as having taken part in any of the crimes they were accused of. We will continue monitoring the criminalization of migrants and refugees in Lesvos, as unfortunately these two prosecutions were not isolated incidents.

Trial in Chios Targets Community Leader

10 May 2018

Tomorrow, 11 May 2018, the trial will be held for ten asylum seekers who have been charged with arson and other lesser crimes, related to riots that took place in Moria Camp on 10 July 2017 in Lesvos.

Similar to the case of the Moria 35, we believe this prosecution is part of an ongoing policy to criminalize and silence those who question their hostile containment in Moria and on Lesvos island.

The Legal Centre has been closely following this case, as we witnessed the events on 10 July, and worked together with one of the defendants to advocate for the rights of asylum seekers in Lesvos in the months prior to his arrest. We will be monitoring the trial, in addition to appearing as a witness for the defense. Further information, from the Solidarity Assembly for the Moria 35 is copied below.

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Αύριο, 11 ΜαΪου 2018, μια ακόμα δίκη θα λάβει χώρα στη Χίο με κατηγορούμενους αιτούντες άσυλο που έχουν χρεωθεί με κατηγορίες για «εμπρησμό» και άλλες μικρότερα αδικήματα, σχετικά με τα επεισόδια της 10ης Ιουλίου του 2017 στη Λέσβο

Όπως και στην περίπτωση των 35 της Μόριας, πιστεύουμε πως αυτή η δίωξη είναι μέρος της συνεχιζόμενης πολιτικής να ποινικοποιούνται και να φιμώνονται εκείνοι που αμφισβητούν τον περιορισμό τους στη Μόρια και στο νησί της Λέσβου.

Το Legal Center Lesvos παρακολουθεί από κοντά την υπόθεση από τις 10 Ιουλίου, καθώς τα μέλη του είδαν όσα συνέβησαν εκείνη τη μέρα, και συνεργαζόταν με έναν από τους κατηγορούμενους, για την παροχή νομικών συμβουλών στους αιτούντες άσυλο, μήνες πριν από τη σύλληψή του.

Το Legal Center Lesvos θα παρακολουθήσει τη δίκη, ενώ μέλος του θα παραστεί ως μάρτυρας υπεράσπισης.

Παρακαλούμε διαδώστε, για να φτάσει παντού το μήνυμα ότι στα σύνορα της Ευρώπης, άνθρωποι φορτώνονται άδικα με κατηγορίες!

Originally published by the Solidarity Assembly for the Moria 35

The industry of criminalization of immigrant lives continues as just a few weeks after the trial of the #freethemoria35 another trial takes place in Chios. This time 10 people are accused for events that took place on the 10 of July of 2017, just a week before the riots that lead to the prosecution of the #Moria35.

The events that have put this “industry” in action were part of a series of protests by immigrants demanding freedom of movement from Lesvos to mainland Greece, and against the conditions in Moria camp and unfair asylum procedure. On 10 July 2017, a protest erupted in Moria Camp. The demonstration was a response to the rejection of asylum claims and systematic detention of asylum seekers in Lesvos. The police in Moria responded by attacking the crowd with tear gas. There were no serious injuries, but the containers of several NGOs were targeted, including Euro Relief, a religious Christian organization responsible for providing basic services in the Camp. EuroRelief has been denounced for collusion with the police, discrimination against and failure to protect LGBTQ+ immigrants, and for prosthelatysing inhabitants of Moria Camp.

It is this resistance to the repression against immigrant lives that triggered the prosecutions in this case.

The arrests in the case took place weeks after the events, and were not random as in the case of the #moria35. Among the prosecuted is a well known immigrant who has been organizing and assisting people to claim their rights for over a year. Mohamadou, who has received asylum, did not remain a passive observer of the situation and the treatment which he and other people were receiving.  Instead he tried to change things and empower his fellow immigrants. As one of the representatives for the Mali community, he attended meetings, discussed with people in the camp responsible for conditions and the asylum procedure, and organized along with other actors. It seems like that he is being punished for this role in organizing the migrants community and raising awareness of the dehumanizing treatment immigrants receive when they reach Lesvos.

The message behind this specific prosecution is that all the parts of the machine of Moria are essential for its function and continuity, and that none shall be contested  (resistance will be tolerated). Nor the place of the immigrants which is to passively accept what has been planned for them nor the role of the NGO’s which is encircled inside this detention – centered system.  And in order to ensure that, the responsible of the camp, the police, the prosecutors, try to make sure that every effort of the immigrants to organize and protest against any part of this machine, will be crushed. 

We have witness this kind of counterinsurgency politics before, as state repression has been a tool against our struggles in everyday life. Confronting these series of prosecutions we are going to stand in solidarity with the people that face the encriminilization of their lives and make sure that they don’t stand alone against this machine that is called European migration Policy.

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Η βιομηχανία εγκληματοποιησης των ζωών των μεταναστών/ριών συνεχίζεται, καθώς μερικές μόλις βδομάδες μετά τη δίκη των #freethemoria35 άλλη μια δίκη διαδραματίζεται στη Χίο. Αυτή τη φορά, 10 άνθρωποι κατηγορούνται για τα γεγονότα που συνέβησαν στις 10 Ιούλη του 2017, μόλις μια βδομάδα πριν από την εξέγερση που οδήγησε στη δίωξη των #Moria35.

Τα γεγονότα που έθεσαν σε κίνηση αυτή τη “βιομηχανία” αποτέλεσαν μέρος μιας σειράς διαμαρτυριών μεταναστών/ριών με αίτημα την ελεύθερη μετακίνηση από τη Λέσβο στην ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα, και ενάντια στις συνθήκες στο κέντρο κράτησης της Μόριας και τις άδικες διαδικασίες ασύλου. Στις 10 Ιούλη 2017, μια διαμαρτυρία ξέσπασε στο κέντρο της Μόριας. Η διαμαρτυρία ήρθε ως απάντηση στην αρνητική απάντηση στα αιτήματα ασύλου και στη συστηματική κράτηση αυτών που αιτούνται άσυλο στη Λέσβο. Η αστυνομία στη Μόρια απάντησε επιτιθέμενη στο πλήθος με δακρυγόνα. Δεν υπήρξαν σοβαροί τραυματισμοί, αλλά τα λυόμενα διαφόρων ΜΚΟ στοχοποιήθηκαν, μεταξύ των οποίων και της EuroRelief, μια θρησκευτική χριστιανική οργάνωση υπεύθυνη για την παροχή βασικών υπηρεσιών στο κέντρο κράτησης. Η EuroRelief έχει καταγγελθεί για συνεννόηση με την αστυνομία, διακρίσεις ενάντια σε ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ μετανάστες/ριες, οι οποίοι/ες δε λαμβάνουν καμία προστασία από την οργάνωση, και για προσυλητισμό αυτών που διαμένουν στο κέντρο κράτησης της Μόριας.

Αυτή η αντίσταση στην καταπίεση κατά των ζωών των μεταναστών/ριών είναι αυτό που οδήγησε στις διώξεις στην προκειμένη περίπτωση.

​Οι συλλήψεις σε αυτή την περίπτωση συνέβησαν εβδομάδες μετά τα γεγονότα, και δεν ήταν τυχαίες, όπως στην περίπτωση των #moria35. Μεταξύ των διωκόμενων είναι ένας γνωστός μετανάστης που οργανώνει και βοηθάει ανθρώπους να διεκδικήσουν τα δικαιώματά τους για πάνω από έναν χρόνο. Ο Mohamadou, που έχει πάρει άσυλο, δεν παρέμεινε ένας παθητικός παρατηρητής της κατάστασης και της μεταχείρισης που δεχόταν εκείνος και άλλοι. Αντίθετα, προσπάθησε να αλλάξει τα πράγματα και να ενδυναμώσει τους υπόλοιπους μετανάστες/ριες. Ως ένας από τους εκπροσώπους της κοινότητας του Μάλι, πήγαινε σε συναντήσεις, συζητούσε με ανθρώπους στο κέντρο κράτησης που ήταν υπεύθυνοι για τις συνθήκες και τη διαδικασία ασύλου, και οργάνωνε μαζί με άλλους. Φαίνεται πως τιμωρείται για το ρόλο του στην οργάνωση της κοινότητας των μεταναστών/ριών και επειδή ευαισθητοποιούσε τον κόσμο σχετικά με την απάνθρωπη μεταχείριση που δέχονται οι μετανάστες και μετανάστριες όταν φτάνουν στη Λέσβο.

Το μήνυμα πίσω από αυτή τη συγκεκριμένη δίωξη είναι ότι κάθε κομμάτι της μηχανής της Μόριας είναι ουσιώδες για τη λειτουργία και τη συνέχειά της, και οπότε κανένα κομμάτι της δεν θα αμφισβητείται (καμία αντίσταση δε θα γίνει ανεκτή). Ούτε η θέση των μεταναστών/ριών, η οποία είναι να δέχονται παθητικά αυτό που έχει προσχεδιαστεί για εκείνους/ες, ούτε ο ρόλος των ΜΚΟ που είναι εγγεγραμένος (εγκλωβισμένος) μέσα σε αυτό το σύστημα που επικεντρώνεται στην κράτηση. Και για να σιγουρέψουν αυτή την κατάσταση, οι υπεύθυνοι του κέντρου, η αστυνομία και οι εισαγγελείς προσπαθούν να καταστήσουν βέβαια ότι κάθε προσπάθεια των μεταναστών/ριών για οργάνωση και διαμαρτυρία ενάντια σε οποιοδήποτε κομμάτι αυτής της μηχανής θα καταστέλλεται.

Έχουμε γίνει μάρτυρες αυτού του είδους αντιεξεγερτικής πολιτικής και πρωτύτερα, καθώς η κρατική καταστολή έχει χρησιμοποιηθεί ως εργαλείο ενάντια στους αγώνες στην καθημερινή μας ζωή. Αντιμετωπίζοντας αυτή τη σειρά διώξεων, θα σταθούμε σε αλληλεγγύη με τους ανθρώπους που βιώνουν την εγκληματοποίηση των ζωών τους, και δε θα τους αφήσουμε να σταθούν μόνοι και μόνες απέναντι στη μηχανή που ονομάζεται ευρωπαϊκή μεταναστευτική πολιτική.

MORIA35 UPDATES

DEportation of 7 Cancelled, 2 Detainees released

10 May 2018

The scheduled deportation of 7 of the Moria 35 has been cancelled to allow consideration of their subsequent application for international protection. This comes as a result of a coordinated effort by Legal Centre Lesvos, Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa, and HIAS lawyers, the rapid mobilization of the #freethemoria35 campaign, and intervention by both UNHCR and the Ombudsman’s office. In another small victory in our fight to free the Moria 35, two additional detainees were released yesterday. This means that 24 of the 35 remain imprisoned, despite the lack of legal grounds to detain them. Our work to free the 35 continues.

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URGENT ACTION NEEDED – 7 face imminent deportation

7 May 2018

Seven of the #Moria35 face deportation on Thursday 10 May 2018. In a process fraught with procedural violations, they have had their applications for asylum rejected. After over a year of dehumanizing treatment, from Moria Camp, to the viscous attack by the police, followed by nine months of unjust imprisonment, they now face being sent to Turkish prison, and likely deportation to the countries they fled. Furthermore, all are eligible for humanitarian protection in Greece as victims or witnesses of a serious crime. Three have themselves filed complaints against the police for the attack against them, and there is an open ongoing investigation initiated by the public prosecutor against the police, for which all seven are important witnesses. Their deportation will not only violate their rights to due process, but will ensure the continued impunity of the police in their policies of violent repression in the Greek hotspots. To stop the deportation contact the Lesvos Police at +30 22510 37721, 58800, 58803 and the Regional Asylum Office at +30 2251032323 or pga.lesvou@asylo.gov.gr.

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Την Πέμπτη οι 7 από τους #Moria35 είναι για απέλαση ενώ οι αιτήσεις τους για άσυλο έχουν απορριφθεί. Ένα χρόνο απάνθρωπης αντιμετώπισης στον καταυλισμό της Μόριας, τη βίαιη αστυνομική επίθεση και την απαράδεκτη 9-μηνη φυλάκισή τους, τώρα θα σταλούν σε τουρκική φυλακή και ενδεχόμενη απέλαση πίσω στις χώρες απ’όπου το έσκασαν. Όλοι τους έχουν το δικαίωμα ανθρωπιστικής προστασίας στην Ελλάδα ως θύματα ή μάρτυρες σοβαρών εγκλημάτων. Οι τρεις έχουν καταγγείλει την αστυνομία για τις επιθέσεις εναντίον τους και ο Εισαγγελέας κάνει έρευνες κατά της αστυνομίας στις οποίες και οι εφτά είναι μάρτυρες. Οι απελάσεις τους όχι μόνο παραβιάζουν το δικαίωμα δίκαιων διαδικασιών αλλά έτσι διασφαλίζεται και η συνέχιση της αστυνομικής αυθαιρεσίας και της πολιτικής βίαιης καταπίεσης στους ελληνικούς προσφυγικούς καταυλισμούς. Για να σταματήσουν οι απελάσεις επικοινωνούμε με την Αστυνομία Λέσβου 22510 37721, 58800, 58803 και την Περιφερειακή Υπηρεσία Ασύλου 2251032323 ή pga.lesvou@asylo.gov.gr #freethemoria35 #lesvos #refugeesgr

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Continue reading “MORIA35 UPDATES”

Moria 35 Trial Ends in Conviction of 32 – But After 9 Months of Unjust Detention, the 35 will Finally be Free!

PRESS RELEASE

While all 35 defendants should soon be released from detention, a gross miscarriage of justice took place today at the Mixed Jury Court in Chios, Greece where a ruling of guilty was declared against 32 of the 35 defendants. The 35 were arbitrarily and violently arrested in Moria camp in Lesvos on 18 July 2017 following what started as a peaceful protest outside of an EASO office. This inherently unsafe verdict, reached despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, follows a week long trial which continuously violated fundamental principles of a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and brings into serious question the impartiality of both the Judges and Prosecutor in the case.

Ελληνική έκδοση παρακάτω

32 of the 35 defendants were found guilty of injury to public officials, but acquitted on all other charges. The three individuals detained by a firefighter outside Moria Camp were found innocent of all charges; the testimony against them discredited as inconsistent and lacking credibility as the firefighter misidentified the defendants in court.

While the evidence against the remaining 32 defendants was similarly inconsistent, the three judges and four jurors unanimously found the 32 guilty. This ruling was reached without the prosecutor proving the necessary elements of the crime: there was only evidence of superficial injuries to one police officer, and there was no credible evidence identifying any of the 32 as having assaulted any police officer. Police witnesses testified that all 32 defendants arrested inside Moria Camp were guilty simply because they were present in the African section of the camp after clashes between some migrants and riot police had ended. Confirmation by the court that guilt can be implied by race and location near to where alleged crimes took place sets an extremely dangerous precedent for arrests following riots and protests.

The defense witnesses included residents from Mytilene and Moria Camp, who  confirmed that Moria Camp was never evacuated, that people freely entered and exited the camp throughout the afternoon through back entrances and that the camp was calm for roughly an hour before the arrests took place. Many defendants testified about their participation in the protest calling for freedom of movement from Lesvos to mainland Greece, an end to unjust asylum procedures on the island, and against deplorable conditions in Moria. They explained that police responded violently, dispersing the protestors with excessive use of tear gas. Others testified that they entered Moria camp after it was calm, only to find themselves violently arrested during the police raid. The excessive police violence was confirmed in the trial through medical documentation of injuries to defendants, video evidence of the arrests, and the testimony of several witnesses and defendants. The public prosecutor in Mytilene has already opened an investigation against unknown police officers for causing serious bodily harm to 12 of the 35 defendants.

The trial in Chios was fraught with serious procedural problems, including an absence of interpretation for the majority of the trial and the severely limited time the defendants and defence witnesses were given to present their side of the story.  An International delegation of legal observers were present throughout the trial and will be publishing a report regarding their assessment regarding its fairness in due course.  

It defies all logic, despite shocking video footage of police attacks against the defendants; and police witnesses unable to positively identify any of the 35 in court, that 32 were found guilty.

This ruling comes only four days after the 23 April 2018 arrests and criminal charges brought against 122 individuals – mostly Afghan – who had been peacefully protesting in Mytilene and were viciously attacked by fascist militant thugs before being arrested by the police. We are extremely concerned that the decision of the Chios Court will further encourage the State to continue criminalizing those who resist the State’s hostile policies against them.

The guilty verdict has been appealed by the 32, who were given a 26 month suspended prison sentence. This sentence itself is unreasonable as it is 19 months longer than the recommended 7 months proposed by the prosecutor at the conclusion of the proceedings.

As the 32 found guilty are eligible for a suspended prison sentence, the good news is that after nine months of unjust detention awaiting trial, the 35 will finally be freed.

Legal Centre Lesvos – a team of International and Greek Lawyers, Interpreters and Volunteers.  For more info contact info@legalcentrelesbos.org or +30 695 507 4724

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Αν και οι 35 κατηγορούμενοι θα αφεθούν ελεύθεροι σύντομα, έλαβε χώρα σήμερα μια κραυγαλέα κακοδικία στο Μικτό Ορκωτό Δικαστήριο της Χίου, όπου οι 32 από τους 35 κατηγορούμενους βρέθηκαν ένοχοι. Οι 35 είχαν συλληφθεί βίαια και αυθαίρετα στο κέντρο της Μόριας στην Λέσβο στις 18 Ιουλίου 2017 στο πλαίσιο επεισοδίων που ξεκίνησαν ως μια ειρηνική διαμαρτυρία έξω από τα γραφεία της Ευρωπαϊκής Υπηρεσίας Υποστήριξης για το Άσυλο (EASO). Αυτή η εγγενώς επισφαλής απόφαση, η οποία λήφθηκε παρά την συντριπτική έλλειψη αποδεικτικών στοιχείων, υπήρξε το αποτέλεσμα μιας δίκης που διήρκεσε μια εβδομάδα και στο πλαίσιο της οποίας σημειώθηκαν συνεχείς παραβιάσεις θεμελιωδών αρχών δίκαιης δίκης, όπως αυτή προβλέπεται στο άρθρο 6 της Ευρωπαϊκής Σύμβασης για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου και θετεί σημαντικά ερωτήματα για την αμεροληψία. τόσο των δικαστών όσο και της εισαγγελέως της έδρας.

32 από τους 35 κατηγορούμενους κρίθηκαν ένοχοι για τετελεσμένη σωματική βλάβη εναντίον αστυνομικών αλλά απαλλάχθηκαν από κάθε άλλη κατηγορία. Οι 3 εξ αυτών που πιάστηκαν από πυροσβέστη εκτός του κέντρου της Μόριας κρίθηκαν αθώοι για όλες τις αξιόποινες πράξεις για τις οποίες κατηγορούνταν. Η μαρτυρία που δόθηκε εναντίον τους δεν θεωρήθηκε αξιόπιστη καθώς ο πυροσβέστης προέβη σε εσφαλμένη αναγνώριση προσώπων κατά την ακροαματική διαδικασία.

Αν και τα αποδεικτικά στοιχεία εναντίον των υπολοίπων 32 κατηγορουμένων εμφάνιζαν παρόμοιες ασυνέχειες, οι 3 δικαστές και οι 4 ένορκοι έκριναν ομόφωνα ότι και οι 32 είναι ένοχοι. Αυτή η απόφαση ελήφθη χωρίς να έχει αποδείξει η εισαγγελέας ότι πληρώθηκαν τα απαραίτητα στοιχεία του εγκλήματος: υπήρχαν μόνο στοιχεία που καταδείκνυαν ότι υπέστη ελαφρά σωματική βλάβη ένας από τους αστυνομικούς και δεν υπήρχαν πειστικά στοιχεία από τα οποία να προκύπτει ότι οι συγκεκριμένοι 32 κατηγορούμενοι επιτέθηκαν σε αστυνομικό. Οι αστυνομικοί που κατέθεσαν ως μάρτυρες κατηγορίας, δήλωσαν πως οι 32 που συλλήφθησαν εντός του κέντρου της Μόριας ήταν ένοχοι απλώς επειδή ήταν παρόντες στο Αφρικανικό τμήμα του κέντρου αφού είχαν λήξει τα επεισόδια μεταξύ κάποιων μεταναστών και της διμοιρίας των ΜΑΤ. Το γεγονός ότι το δικαστήριο επικύρωσε με την απόφαση του το σκεπτικό ότι η ενοχή μπορεί να συναχθεί λόγω φυλής και τοποθεσίας κοντινής σε αυτήν όπου έλαβαν μέρος τα φερόμενα εγκλήματα θέτει ένα εξαιρετικά επικίνδυνο προηγούμενο για την σύλληψη στο πλαίσιο επεισοδιών και διαδηλώσεων.

Στους μάρτυρες υπεράσπισης περιλαμβάνονταν κάτοικοι από την Μυτιλήνη και το κέντρο της Μόριας, οι οποίοι επιβεβαίωσαν ότι το κέντρο δεν εκκενώθηκε ποτέ, ότι οι άνθρωποι εισέρχονταν και εξέρχονταν του κέντρου ελεύθερα καθ ΄όλη την διάρκεια εκείνου του απογέυματος μέσω των εισόδων στο πίσω μέρος του κέντρου και ότι στο κέντρο επικρατούσε ησυχία για σχεδόν μια ώρα πριν ξεκινήσουν οι συλλήψεις. Πολλοι κατηγορούμενοι κατέθεσαν ότι συμμετείχαν στην ειρηνική διαδήλωση, διεκδικώντας ελευθερία κινήσεως από την Λέσβο προς την ελληνική ενδοχώρα, να λάβει τέλος η άδικη διαδικασία ασύλου στο νησί και βελτίωση των συνθηκών στην Μόρια. Όπως εξήγησαν, οι αστυνομικοί ανταποκρίθηκαν βίαια, διασκορπώντας τους διαδηλωτές με υπέρμετρη χρήση δακρυγόνων. Άλλοι κατέθεσαν ότι εισήλθαν στην Μόρια όταν επικρατούσε ήδη ηρεμία, για να βρεθούν βιαία συλληφθέντες κατά την επιδρομή της αστυνομίας. Η υπερβολική χρήση βίας από τους αστυνομικούς επιβεβαιώθηκε κατά την διάρκεια της δίκης μέσω ιατρικών βεβαιώσεων των τραυμάτων που υπέστησαν οι κατηγορούμενοι, βιντεοληπτικό υλικό των συλλήψεων και την κατάθεση πολλών μαρτύρων και κατηγορουμένων. Η εισαγγελία της Μυτιλήνης έχει ήδη κινήσει την διαδικασία έρευνας κατά αγνώστων αστυνομικών για την πρόκληση σοβαρών σωματικών βλαβών σε 12 από τους 35 κατηγορουμένους.

Η δίκη στην Χίο έβριθε διαδικαστικών προβλημάτων, συμπεριλαμβανομένης της απουσίας διερμηνείας για το μεγαλύτερο κομματί της δικής καθώς και του ιδιαίτέρως περιορισμένου χρόνου που δόθηκε στους κατηγορούμενους και τους μάρτυρες υπεράσπισης να παρουσίασουν την δική τους σκοπιά των γεγονότων. Μια διεθνή αποστολή νομικών παρατηρητών ήταν παρούσα κατά την διάρκεια της δίκης, η οποία έχει ανάλαβει την εκπόνηση εντός του προσεχούς μέλλοντος μια αναφοράς σχετικά με το αν τηρήθηκαν κατά την ακροαματική διαδικασία τα εχέγγυα δίκαιης δίκης.

Αψηφά την λογική το γεγονός ότι παρά την ύπαρξη βιντεοληπτικού υλικού στο οποίο φαίνονται επιθέσεις αστυνομικών κατά των κατηγορουμένων και παρά την αδυναμία των αστυνομικών που κατέθεσαν ως μάρτυρες να αναγνωρίσουν οποιονδήποτε από τους 35 κατηγορούμενους στο δικαστήριο, οι 32 βρέθηκαν ένοχοι.

Αυτή η απόφαση ελήφθη 4 ημέρες μετά τις συλλήψεις της 23ης Απριλίου 2018 και τις συνακόλουθες προσαγωγές 122 ατόμων – κυρίως Αφγανικής καταγωγής – οι οποίοι διαδήλωναν ειρηνικά στην Μυτιλήνη και δέχθηκαν βίαιες επιθέσεις από ένοπλους φασίστες κακοποιούς προτού συλληφθούν από την αστυνομία. Ανησυχούμε ιδιαίτερα ότι η απόφαση του δικαστηρίου της Χίου μπορεί να αποτελέσει πάτημα για το κράτος να συνεχίσει να ποινικοποιεί τις διαδηλώσεις ανθρώπων που αντιστέκονται στις εχθρικές πολιτικές που υιοθετεί το κράτος εναντίον τους.

Οι 32 κατηγορούμενοι στους οποίες επιβλήθηκε ποινή φυλάκισης 26 μηνών έχουν ασκήσει έφεση κατά της απόφασης. Η ίδια η ποινή είναι παράλογη καθώς υπερβαίνει κατά 19 μηνές τους 7 μήνες που πρότεινε ως ποινή η εισαγγελέας κατά το πέρας της διαδικασίας.

Καθώς η ποινή των 32 υπόκειται σε αναστολή, το θετικό νέο είναι ότι μετά από εννέα μήνες άδικης προφυλάκισης ενώ περίμεναν να εκδικαστεί η υπόθεση, οι 35 θα αφεθούν επιτέλους ελεύθεροι.

Legal Centre Lesvos –  Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες επικοινωνήστε με το info@legalcentrelesbos.org ή το τηλέφωνο +30 695 507 4724