Urgent Interventions

Greece: background - severe beatings, injuries and/or killings of Albanian citizens at border areas

Annex to Case GRC 161003
Violation of personal integrity / Extrajudicial execution / Impunity

Background Information

Similar cases of ill treatment, injuries or death of 25 Albanians trying to cross either legally or illegally the Albanian Greek borders have been reported in the past, but most of them have either very inadequately or not been investigated, and the perpetrators have, as a result, never been punished. On 1/11/2000, Bledar Qoshku (23 years old), was killed after an exchange of fire, as claimed by Greek Police (ELAS), but the gun he was supposed to be carrying was never found, while the other six Albanians with him at the time claimed under oath that they were ill-treated during their custody in order to testify that the victim was armed. Albanian judicial authorities started a prosecution, while the Greek Ministry of Public Order stated that “the case was archived from both a legal and a disciplinary respect.” In addition, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Florina refused to submit the evidence requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tirana.

In another incident, Kreshnik Shenaj (17 years old), reported to have been shot at and then beaten when found by border guards on Greek territory on 16/11/2000. No investigation was carried out by the Greek authorities.

Blerina Meçe, was allegedly ill treated by police officers-border guards on 10/2/2001 during her transfer for deportation to the border-point of Kakavia, along with Luftim Krosi, a co-passenger who attempted to intervene. The administrative inquiry concluded that the incident that allegedly took place could not have happened as she had been arrested for theft and had been deported twice on 17/08/2000 and 11/07/2001 and not on 10/2/2001. It is believed that EL.AS. and the Ministry were probably referring to another individual with the same name, an argument strengthened by the fact that the Ministry claimed to have no information on the case of Luftim Krosi either.

On 4/6/2001, 15-year old Afrim Salla, was shot and consequently paralyzed from the waist down, after – as claimed by ELAS – the gun of a Border Guard went off accidentally when he tripped over while firing warning shots against unarmed Albanians trying to enter Greece. The Greek authorities stated that “From a criminal and disciplinary respect, the case is archived.”

Astrit Lleshi, from Rukaj village, Burrel district, Kastriot Rrapi, from Arëz village, Mirdita district and Dashamir Troshku, from Fier district, reported that on 13/6/2001, they were arrested by Greek border guards as they were attempting to cross into Greece. They were beaten and had their possessions, including money, taken away. As GHM was informed by ELAS on 16/8/2002, no involvement of any policeman or border guard was established, although the money was returned to the persons mentioned above.

On 26 July 2001 Greek coastguards opened fire on a speedboat carrying Albanian passengers trying to enter Greece illegally via the island of Corfu, injuring four of them, two of whom were women. The four were admitted to hospital in Corfu. The Corfu port authorities alleged that the passengers had initiated the shooting, with an AK-47 rifle, on the coastguard vessel. This account was reportedly disputed by the remaining passengers on the boat, who, upon their return to Albania, denied that there were any weapons onboard. Initial criminal charges against the Greek coastguards were quashed by the naval military court of Piraeus under ruling 91/2002.

Halim Munga from the village of Markat (Saranda district, Albania) was shot dead by a border patrol in the early hours of 1/12/2001 near the Greek border village of Palaba - according to the police in an exchange of fire initiated by the Albanians with a Kalshnikov weapon - reportedly after they had stolen and killed a calf which they were attempting to transport back to Albania on a mule. The judicial preliminary inquiry resulted in prosecution of his companion Veisi Beqir for animal theft and weapons possession, whilst those responsible for Halim Munga’s death were not finally prosecuted as they were found to have been acting in self defence.

Another fatal incident took place on 2/11/2002 at the Mesopotamia area of Kastoria, when AK, son of D, was shot dead by a border patrol. In its press release, ELAS had concluded, before any investigation took place, that the border guards were acting in legal self-defence. The judicial preliminary inquiry resulted in the prosecution and detention of the other three Albanians that were with AK and the discharging of those responsible for his death. Following a GHM intervention, a judicial inquiry was initiated, although the person responsible for AK’s death was eventually discharged from all accusations under a ruling made by the Misdemeanour Council of Kastoria.

The CPT (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment), in its CPT/inf (2002)31 report on Greece, has also mentioned two border cases of alleged ill treatment of Albanians, by ELAS and by the military. Two detainees at Igoumenitsa Police Headquarters (north-west Greece) – who, according to ELAS, had been arrested on September 28th 2001, near the Greek-Albanian border zone while trying to smuggle drugs into the country - complained to the CPT that they had been brutally beaten by police. One alleged that during interrogation he had been beaten on the back and legs with a truncheon. A medical examination confirmed that he had bruises on his shoulders and left leg. The other detainee complained that he had been beaten on the soles of his feet [falanga]. The Greek authorities replied that “The tenability of the allegations made to the Committee were not ascertained by the relevant investigation that was carried out, ” as the detainees had not made any allegations of ill-treatment to the police and judicial authorities before whom they were brought.

Moreover, two Albanians, that had arrested by a military patrol on border duty, complained to CPT in October 2001 that they had been ill-treated by army personnel while being detained on military premises; both of them bore injuries consistent with their allegations. No answer was given from the part of the Greek authorities concerning this case.

Finally, during conversations held with law enforcement officials in several of the establishments visited, the CPT delegation reported that it “could not fail to note the disrespectful attitude displayed by some officers when referring to detainees, particularly those of Albanian origin.” On one occasion, officials even reportedly admitted to the delegation that in certain cases some force was used during interrogation in order to extract information, especially if the detainee had been arrested for drug dealing, but said this was limited to some “slaps” and that severe ill-treatment was not permitted.

The only known exception to the rule where an investigation was launched before the involvement of GHM and related publicity is the case of Ferhat Ceka, an Albanian pensioner, who was shot and wounded near the border by Greek soldiers as he was attempting to illegally cross the Greek-Albanian border on 8/3/2002. The military’s administrative inquiry concluded that the soldier’s action was an “irregularity” for which he received a ten-day jail sentence as a disciplinary sanction, whilst no criminal prosecution was recommended. However, a prosecutor of the Military Court of Thessaloniki investigated the case and pointed to many irregularities and even criminal responsibilities of the officers involved in the handling of the incident and the ensuing administrative investigation, and asked for a disciplinary and criminal investigation of their actions. A court martial date was set for 3 April 2003, but was postponed as the Greek authorities failed to send the summons to Ferhat Ceka in Albania. Following a GHM intervention, Ferhat Ceka came to Greece and testified before the military court prosecutor on 11/6/2003. The prosecutor has, as a result, widened the investigation to include possible charges of ill-treatment.

Geneva, October 16th, 2003