Saturday, November 07, 2009

Greek police turn blind eye to hotel tragedy

Riot police ready to go into action in Thessaloniki, Greece

As anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows I'm no fan of the Greek police. I have seen their senseless brutality too often to believe that they are the "thin blue line" between us and chaos. There have been too many cases in which officers have attacked and beaten those they are supposed to be protecting, asylum seekers, protesters and minorities being their usual targets as reports by the UNHCR, Amnesty International, EU attest to again and again.

The flip side of this willingness to turn a blind eye to the law is incompetence and corruption. The cop who can beat detainees with impunity is also free to indulge in any other number of "extra curricular" activities, knowing that oversight is non - existent and chances of being punished slight.

Case in point being yesterday's double tragedy in the four star Nefeli hotel in the upscale Panorama neighbourhood in Thessaloniki. Within 24 hours two young men died of carbon monoxide poisoning, most probably caused by a faulty heater. After finding the body of a 27 year old man on Thursday the coroner, suspecting CO asphyxiation asked the police to call in experts to examine the hotel.

According to the police reports the case was investigated and finding no problems they gave it a clean bill of health. Neither the police nor the hotel management ordered an evacuation of the building despite the coroner's concerns. If they done so the second young man, a 28 year old athlete from the northern Greek town of Karditsa most most certainly be alive today. Instead he became the second victim of CO poisoning during the early hours o Friday morning. Only then was the hotel finally evacuated and the source of the leak found.

Now when you read about such cases you have to wonder how sch a tragedy can happen. It seems clear that the hotel was negligent in its maintenance procedures and that lead to the first death. However, how was the second person allowed to die? What "experts" were called in? Which officers handled this case? What promises were made by whom to whom?

Of course we will learn little or nothing of what really happened this week, the police are not going to let one of their own go to the wall for this. No, the culture of silence and complicity will make sure that even if charges are brought they will come to nothing. And so the cycle goes on unbroken, all the meanwhile crime rates go through the roof, terrorists operate with impunity and many have to live daily with fear of the police.

This is by no means an exclusively Greek phenomenon, just yesterday the British riot squad was condemned by the Guardian newspaper for upholding just nine complaints out of more than 5000 lodged.

"A former Royal Marine, Jones has had 31 complaints lodged against him since 1993. Twenty-six were assault allegations, most of which had been lodged by black or Asian men, but none were substantiated."

For more on the story in Greek click here and here.

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