On Tuesday, January 17, the European Court of Human Rights found that Greek Coast Guard officials tortured Necati Zontul when he was raped in detention at the port of Chania, Crete, in 2001, and ordered Greece to pay 50,000 euros in compensation.
The judgment in Necati Zontul v. Greece confirmed that Greece breached Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture) through the actions of the Coast Guard officials, as well as the failure of Greek authorities in internal investigations and the criminal proceedings against the officials.
The Court considered that the rape of a detainee by an official of the State was an especially grave and abhorrent form of ill-treatment, amounting to torture in this case.
In 2001, Mr. Zontul was in a boat travelling to Italy when it was intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard and towed to Chania Harbour in Crete. Once there, the migrant detainees were kept in poor conditions of detention, with severe overcrowding and limited access to basic amenities. A coast guard trapped Mr. Zontul in the toilets and forced him to remove his clothes. He then raped him with a truncheon.
The Greek authorities were heavily criticised for their internal investigation of the incident, in which they falsified the Applicant’s evidence, recording the rape as a “slap” and “use of psychological violence”.
The Court also found that the criminal penalty imposed on the perpetrator of the rape, a suspended sentence commuted to a small fine, was insufficient. The perpetrator was not charged with torture and the Court took the view that the Greek criminal justice system had not had a deterrent effect to prevent the torture of Mr. Zontul, nor had it provided him with adequate redress for his suffering.
The Court also found that the Greek authorities had failed in their duty to keep the Applicant informed of the proceedings, to the extent that he was unable to exercise his rights as a civil party and claim damages. Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS, who brought the application to court on behalf of Mr. Zontul, said: “The Court recognised that rape can be a particularly cruel form of torture, and that Greece didn’t adequately punish the perpetrators or afford redress to Mr Zontul. We hope this judgment will lead to changes in the way that Greece handles such cases in future.”
REDRESS was assisted with final pleadings by Tim Otty Q.C. and Simon Pritchard of Blackstone Chambers.