Prisoners in jails across Greece are set to begin a hunger strike from tomorrow in protest against conditions.Included in their demands are calls for a reduction in sentences, the provision of basic medical services and the greater access to inmates by human rights groups.
A list of 16 demands drawn up by the Initiative for Prisoner Rights (click here for their Greek language blog) was published on the group's blog on 30th October. The blog also mentioned that the coming protests had triggered a "climate of terror" and that there had been mass transfer of prisoners over the previous 24 hours.
Last year the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) roundly condemned the Greek authorities for turning a blind eye to the violent treatment of prisoners and suspects by prison and police officers (click here to see report) . They documented numerous cases of abuse, especially of inmates from minority groups being threatened with beatings, reprisals and even rape by law enforcement officials.
The report was also scathing it its condemnation of the standards of health care in the system and the poor conditions in which many were held. Often without proper health care facilities available much of the medical treatment such as the keeping of records and provision of medication is carried out by the prisoners themselves in Greek jails. In addition prisoners often do not have access to hot water or soap and in some cases are allowed just one toilet roll per month.
It should be noted that in the high security Korydellos men's prison, Athens, 2043 prisoner are housed in a facility designed to take 645 and that despite repeated assurances by the Greek government little has been done to provide any form of vocational, educational or cultural activity.
Indeed the delegation noted that little had been done to improve conditions overall since their last visit in 2005.
The CPT also reported that their work was impeded by constant surveillance by the Greek police and in the case of a suspect who died in police custody files on the case were snatched from the visiting delegate's hand by the station commmander at the Omonia police station in Athens.
Earlier this year the Greek language newspaper, Eleutherotypia reported that on average in 2008 one person a week died in custody in Greece.
The Greek government however, denied that there was systematic maltreatment of prisoner and said that every possibe attempt was being made to improve deficiences in the prison system in its official reply to the CPT report ( click here).