Understanding your rights during police checks is very important, especially for individuals who may appear to be foreigners in a different country. Read the article below to know your rights during police checks in Greece and know where to refer in case of rights violations.
What is police checks?
The police officers regularly stop and search individuals who appear to be foreigners to perform identity checks. In practice, that means that you might be stopped by the police and transferred to the police station, where you might be detained for hours while they verify your legal status and check if criminal charges against you are pending.
According to the law, police officers have the right to bring to the police station individuals who lack legal documents proving their identity or, because of the place, time and circumstances, as well as their behavior, create a suspicion of commission of a criminal act. That should mean that if you present a legal document proving your identity, you shouldn’t be transferred to the police station unless you were considered a suspect of committing a crime. Still, unfortunately, in practice, police broadly use the excuse that bringing a person in is necessary to identify forged documents, verify the validity of documents, verify the authenticity of photocopies of documents and check whether charges are pending against this person.
The law allows the police to stop individuals in public areas to check their identity or to conduct searches of persons, bags, and vehicles for preventive purposes, in the police’s discretionary powers. However, when police officers stop or arrest a person solely based on the person’s resemblance to a specific ethnicity or nationality, this is called ethnic and racial profiling and constitutes a discriminatory and unlawful practice.
Police investigations should always be based on reasonable suspicion of an actual or possible offence or crime.
Please also note that police officers are obliged to follow the relevant code of conduct, according to which they must:
- Follow the Greek Constitution, the laws and the legislations.
- Respect human values and human rights.
- Act to ensure public order and security, to serve the public interest and to safeguard the legitimate interests of the citizens.
- Act based on the principles of legality, proportionality, clemency, good administration, equal treatment and respect for the diversity of individuals
- Apply the law with social sensitivity and never exceed the permissible limits of the discretion granted. When they intervene, they are obliged to declare their status, identity and service.
- Respect the right to life and personal safety of every individual. They must not commit, incite or tolerate acts of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and duly report any violation of human rights.
Considering all the above, you are advised always to carry the documents proving your identity and legal residence in the country. If you lack them, police can take you to the police station for verification of your personal information.
What are my rights in case of a police check?
In case of police control, you have the following rights:
- You may ask a police officer wearing civilian clothes to show their police identity. They are obliged to do so.
- In case of a request for a body search, you have the right to ask for the reason why it is performed. Keep in mind that body searches, searches of means of transport and objects carried and investigations in private places (except for houses) shall be carried out only where there is a serious suspicion that an illegal act has been committed or where there is an absolute necessity.
- If a body search is going to take place, request to be done by a police officer of the same gender.
- If you are brought to the police station, you should only be kept there at the time necessary for the person to whom you were brought.
In case of arrest:
- Demand the reason for your arrest
- You have the right to make a successful phone call and have legal representation
- You are not obliged to answer any question (right of silence for non-self-incrimination)
- You can ask for your rights written in your tongue language
- You can ask for an interpreter
- If you have been injured during your arrest, ask for medical treatment and a medical examination
The police cannot:
- Search your house (without an order from the Prosecutor unless you give consent)
- Use violence (unless it is necessary and is not excessive)
- Point you with a gun. A police officer may only do that if there is a risk of an armed attack against him/her or a third person.
- Violate any human right.
- Act with racism
How can I report a violation of my rights?
In case you are a victim of inhuman treatment or violence, or if the police have violated your rights, or if you have reasons to believe that the practices followed by the police were arbitrary or that you were stopped and controlled solely because of your appearance, you have the following rights:
- You have the right to submit a report to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is an independent authority that will investigate your report. You can submit your report on your own at the Ombudsman’s offices (17 Halkokondyli Street, Postal Code 104 32 Athens) following your release from detention or through the online form via post at the address 17 Halkokondyli Street, Postal Code 10432 Athens or via fax at (+30) 213 1306 800 or (+30) 210 7292 129.
- Submit a telephone complaint to the line of the Internal Affairs Service of the Police at 10301 or (+30) 2108779700
- Contact a lawyer and press charges (penal procedure for the police officer and financial satisfaction for the victim)
- If it is a violation based on racism Racist Violence Recording: call (+30) 210 7233216, email email@example.com and via the contact form.
- You can contact the Racist Violence Service of Greek Police at 11414. This 24-hour hotline offers anonymous and confidential reporting.