Greek prisons so bad ‘lives are being lost’, claims rights report

Korydallos Prison's hospital was criticised for being dirty and lacking staff. Inmates went on hunger strike in protest. Picture: AP
Korydallos Prison's hospital was criticised for being dirty and lacking staff. Inmates went on hunger strike in protest. Picture: AP
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Conditions in Greek prisons and the handling of police abuse allegations have been slammed by a leading European human rights body.

According to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture the situation has “further deteriorated to the point where lives are being lost”.

Its 76-page report, based on a visit to Greece by a delegation in April last year, highlighted severe overcrowding, with some prisons at double their capacity, a lack of health care and major staff shortages as well as often appalling hygienic conditions.

“Currently, many prisons in Greece are merely acting as warehouses in which to hold people until they are eligible to be released back into the community,” the report said. “It is high time to change the way prisons function in Greece.”

Over the years, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled against Greece in complaints filed by inmates claiming inhuman and degrading treatment in Greek’s detention facilities.

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture had previously criticised conditions, most recently in reports in 2014 and 2012, each time saying its recommendations for improvements had not been implemented.

“The situation has now deteriorated to the point where over and above the serious ill-treatment concerns there are very real right to life issues in as much as vulnerable prisoners are not being cared for and, in some cases, are being allowed to die,” the report said.

Greece’s justice ministry and police, in responses released today, noted improvements in several areas and said efforts were being made to address other issues, while investigations had been ordered into allegations of police mistreatment of suspects detained in police cells.

The government said new laws have led to a reduction of the overall prison population, and it set out a series of targets to be achieved over the next three years. While the justice ministry said some parts of the report “seem like an exaggeration of the overall situation, this doesn’t lessen our serious concerns about the disappointing situation at Korydallos Prison Hospital.”

The prison hospital, the only one of its kind in Greece, was singled out for particular criticism for unhygienic conditions and a lack of staff. Inmates in the facility, which is part of the country’s largest prison complex and is located near Athens, have previously gone on hunger strike to protest against conditions, and have posted photographs of the interior on social media to back up their claims.

The report welcomed commitments from the justice ministry to tackle the issues and improve the healthcare facilities.