Necati Zontul v. Greece
Necati is a Turkish-British national who was tortured in detention in Greece in 2001 because of his sexual orientation.
In May 2001, Necati boarded a boat from Istanbul to Italy with over one hundred other migrants. The boat was intercepted by the Greek coastguard and towed to the port of Chania in Crete. The migrant detainees were placed in a disused school in poor conditions of detention, with severe overcrowding and restricted access to the lavatory, food, and basic amenities.
A coastguard officer trapped Necati in the toilets and forced him to remove his clothes. He then raped him with a truncheon. Necati believes the coastguard officer targeted him because Necati is gay.
The Greek authorities were heavily criticised for their internal investigation of the incident, where they falsified Necati’s evidence, recording the rape as a “slap” and “use of psychological violence”. The perpetrator of the rape was given a suspended sentence commuted to a small fine.
ACTION FOR JUSTICE
In April 2008, REDRESS filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights on Necati’s behalf, in which we argued that Greek courts failed to treat what happened to Necati with the due seriousness that the circumstances require.
On 23 February 2010, the European Court communicated the case to the Greek government and asked it to respond. Speaking about this development at the time Necati said:
“The events of 2001 made me feel terrible, psychologically and emotionally. Now I feel much stronger because my case is progressing and because my true story is being told”.
The Centre of Justice and Accountability intervened in the case as a third party, on the basis that the case raised critical questions about State obligations to protect LGBTQ people from torture. CJA submitted that (i) States have a legal obligation to ensure that human rights protections, including the absolute prohibition of torture, are applied to LGBTQ people; and (ii) violence against individuals on account of their sexual orientation must be treated as an aggravating factor in determining the appropriate sentence for a crime.
The case was decided on 17 January 2012. The Chamber found that Greek coastguard officials tortured Necati and ordered Greece to pay €50,000 in compensation, which Greece subsequently paid.
The Court also found that the criminal penalty imposed on the perpetrator of the rape was insufficient. The perpetrator was not charged with torture, because the Greek definition of torture was incorrect under international law, and the Court took the view that the Greek criminal justice system had not had a deterrent effect to prevent the torture of Necati nor had it provided him with adequate redress.
The Court also found that the Greek authorities had failed in their duty to keep Necati informed of the proceedings to the extent that he was unable to exercise his rights as a civil party and claim damages.
“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,” said REDRESS.
Following the judgment, the Greek Government has given new powers to the Greek Ombudsman to investigate cases of illegal activity by Greek law enforcement that have a discriminatory motive, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
However, Greece is yet to implement certain general findings of the European Court of Human Rights about reform of the law on torture in Greece. REDRESS is continuing to work to ensure that the necessary changes are being made in Greece.
- Case name: Necati Zontul v. Greece
- Jurisdiction: European Court of Human Rights
- Date filed: April 2008
- Current status: Decision reached
- Legal representation: REDRESS