The US State Department’s annual report on human rights in countries around the world has been published, with 46 pages devoted to Greece. The report notes that there have been no significant changes in the human rights situation in Greece during the past year. “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of prison detainees and of migrants and asylum seekers by law enforcement authorities; crimes involving violence targeting members of national, racial, or ethnic minority groups; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

The government regularly took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. There were, however, complaints from nongovernmental organizations and international organizations regarding government failures to effectively investigate allegations of forced returns of asylum seekers and to hold those responsible to account,” the report’s executive summary notes.

The State Department report also uses publications as sources to corroborate the allegations that have been made. Specifically, an article was used from the Spanish newspaper El Pais which refers to 374 pushback incidents involving Greek security forces on the Evros border with Turkey which allegedly took place between 2017 and 2022. The report also references a video published in the New York Times allegedly showing the Hellenic Coast Guard moving 12 migrants and asylum seekers, including young children, from a van into a raft, taking them out to sea, and abandoning them. Reference is also made to the report published in February by the Border Violence Monitoring Network, a consortium of 12 NGOs across Europe, which presented findings based on interviews with 50 detainees in Greek preremoval centers. 65% claimed to have experienced or witnessed violence by the authorities, while 25% claimed that the authorities used physical violence, including the use of tasers, as a form of coercion or punishment.

Spyware and surveillance

The US State Department also notes that “A May report from the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) found the country did not use spyware ‘as part of an integral authoritarian strategy,’ but applied spyware against ‘journalists, politicians and businesspersons,‘ and ‘exported spyware to countries with poor human rights records’.”

It adds that “During the year, Artemis Seaford, a former Meta employee with dual Greek and U.S. citizenship who, according to a March 20 New York Times report, worked on cybersecurity policy issues, alleged she was monitored by the National Intelligence Service via Predator spyware on her mobile phone from September to November 2021. In July the Hellenic Data Protection Authority presented findings suggesting that in 2022 at least 92 Greek citizens had been subjected to attempts to install Predator spyware on their personal devices.

The authority said it did not have data pointing to the origin of these attempts, but added the investigation remained ongoing.”