09 May YANNIS KAFKAS’S CASE: THE COURT FINDS THE PUBLIC RESPONSIBLE FOR EXCESSIVE POLICE VIOLENCE – AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORTS
The Administrative Court of First Instance of Athens, with its decision no. 3947/2021, introduces a decision as a jurisprudential model for the justification and treatment of cases of police violence and arbitrariness. The court awarded a sum of € 50.000 to Yannis Kaukas as compensation for the moral damage he suffered when on 11 May 2011 he received unprovoked almost fatal head injuries from the special police units during a demonstration in Athens. Due to the unprecedented brutality, the case was also raised by Amnesty International in its 2014 report on Greece, entitled “State within a State: A culture of abuse and impunity in the Greek police”. AI also published a public statement regarding this decision.
The criminal and disciplinary investigation of the case lasted 6 years and were not successful, cementing an image of impunity for the perpetrators. Kafkas reported to AI while the consequences of his injury were still visible: “What happened to me is too dark and heavy a burden to carry … There is a certain police officer who picks up a fire extinguisher and hits a human being who is not a threat to him. Why did this happen? … Because this man [the policeman] knew from the beginning that nothing would happen to him … If this man is held accountable [called to account], he will think again …”
In its decision, the Administrative Court of First Instance ruled that in the Kafkas case “the indiscriminate use of force by the police officers on demonstrators, whom they beat with batons straight up or upside down and with their feet, while spraying them with their blowers on their faces” and in particular that he “was injured by a policeman of the special police units who were operating on University Street, between Bucharest and American Streets, at about 13:55 to 14: 00, on 11-5-2011, who (policeman), amidst the firing of tear gas and flash grenades and the use of a blowgun for firing chemicals at close range, wearing the special uniform with the necessary protective means of various parts of his body (helmet, boots, fire extinguisher, shield, bulletproof vest, gas mask with appropriate filter), with part of his equipment, he beat him, whose face and head were uncovered. (…). Such conduct of the police officer not only violates his duty to ensure public order, security and physical integrity of the citizen, (…), but also meets the special status of the crime of grievous bodily harm (…). Following this, (…), the civil liability of the defendant, the Greek State, is established on the basis of the provisions of Article 105 of the Greek Civil Code. Moreover, the objective liability of the Greek State’.
This is a landmark decision in the investigation of police arbitrariness, which, with its thorough reasoning, reinforces and honours the role of administrative justice in the investigation of related cases. A decision that we hope will be a milestone in the current period, where police violence is experiencing a new upsurge.