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Greece still violating international law in the way people are imprisoned, UN finds

A GROUP of United Nations experts on arbitrary detention said today that Greece was still in violation of certain international obligations on how and where people are imprisoned.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention presented a preliminary report following visits to 20 detention facilities across the country this month.

It noted several areas of concern involving both the criminal justice system and migration.

A final report will be be issued in several months. The group, which visited Greece following an invitation by the six-month-old government, said Greek ministers had given unrestricted access to facilities and full co-operation from Greek officials.

The group’s concerns included prison overcrowding, the non-segregation of suspects held in pre-trial detention from those already convicted, the access of asylum-seekers to interpreters and legal help, and reports that migrants attempting to cross the Turkish border into Greece had been arbitrarily pushed back.

Greek prisons have suffered from overcrowding for years, but a recent change to the penal code reducing the length of custodial sentences and encouraging the use of alternatives such as community service “are positive steps forward,” the group said.

However, the experts added that “there is still considerable scope for their implementation,” noting that the conditions in prisons and police cells “do not generally meet international standards.”

The preliminary findings criticised the widespread use of pre-trial detention.

The report also said that holding people awaiting trial together with convicts runs contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and was “contrary to the presumption of innocence that all persons are entitled to prior to conviction.”

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