Athens, June 21, 2023: Greece must guarantee independent and effective monitoring of violations of the human rights of refugees and migrants to restore the rule of law, following the European Commission request to the Greek authorities for an investigation of a push back of refugees by the Hellenic Coast Guard on Lesvos island, documented by the New York Times. The Greek authorities have entrusted the National Transparency Authority (NTA) with the investigation.
Effective investigations of human rights violations and of ill-treatment by law enforcement bodies should ensure independence, impartiality, thoroughness and victim involvement in line with European and international law standards. Non-compliance of the Greek justice system therewith has led to a series of condemnations against Greece by the European Court of Human Rights, including in the recent cases of Safi, Torosian and Β.Υ.
However, the investigations carried out so far by the NTA do not comply with effectiveness requirements, as illustrated in the case of investigations into the use of Predator spyware and of the report on allegations of push backs further to Lighthouse Reports publications. We recall that the NTA has not yet released its report on the investigation launched in December 2021 regarding the push back of a Frontex interpreter to Turkey from the Evros region, albeit completed since the end of November according to the Greek government.
Serious concerns as to the effectiveness of the NTA are corroborated by the European Parliament. Its Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee noted last March that the Authority “does not seem to be effective and concerns have been raised about its independence”, while the recent report of the PEGA inquiry committee urged the Greek government to “ensure the independence of the National Transparency Authority (EAD) leadership”.
Whereas the European Commission systematically refers to additional mechanisms for monitoring of push backs in Greece such as the Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO) of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs recently confirmed that the independent monitoring mechanism promised by the Greek government to the EU is “still not there”.
As regards the FRO in particular, we recall the severe objections levelled by state institutions in relation to the body’s impartiality and effectiveness. The FRO is a single-member administrative body selected by a commission composed by a majority of the competent Ministries of Migration and Asylum, Citizen Protection, and Shipping and Island Policy. Moreover, the FRO’s mandate does not cover border management, as the legal framework solely refers to “reception of third-country nationals and procedures for granting international protection”. Finally, seven months after the announcement of the FRO’s appointment on 2 December 2022, no information or contact details have been published and secondary legislation specifying his functions and responsibilities has not yet been issued.
Without independent and effective institutions lawfully and credibly investigating human rights violations, Greece cannot guarantee monitoring in line with rule of law principles.
Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
Doctors Without Borders – Greek Section
Equal Rights Beyond Borders
Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
I Have Rights
International Rescue Committee (IRC) Hellas
Legal Centre Lesvos
Network for Children’s Rights (NCR)
Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)
Yoga and Sports with Refugees