Crime Victims – Greece

1. Before Reporting to the Police
2. Making a Police Statement
3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings
4. Court Proceedings
5. After the Verdict

In August 2003, there was passed a Presidential Decree to improve the protection and aid for crime victims.
The legal changes due to this decree will be incorporated in the website as soon as possible. In the meantime, when you are looking for information about victims’ rights and victims’ protection in Greece, please take into consideration that the information on the website about these issues is not up to date.

1. Before Reporting to the Police

A. Consult a Counsel!

If a sex worker becomes the victim of violence or trafficking in women, the police may be interested in her statements as a victim or as a witness – for instance against the perpetrators of trafficking in women, against persons who have brought her into the country or to whom she has had to give part of her earnings.

However, women who work as sex workers without the appropriate residence permits and/or without the appropriate work permits (“certificate of profession”, Law No. 2734/1999 amended as revised) are committing an offence themselves. In these cases, the woman is – as far as the police is concerned – both the victim of a crime and an accused. For further information, see sections Sex Work, Leaving Greece and

She should therefore always seek advice before going to the police. In some cities advisory centres exist which offer confidential advice. Advisory Centres will not forward the name, address or other information regarding the woman to the police or aliens authorities. Their advice is always confidential.

B. Confidential Legal Advice

Some advisory centres give legal advice, which is free of charge. They can also arrange contact with specialist lawyers.

However, in criminal proceedings against perpetrators of trafficking or violence, the woman is entitled to legal representation and to an interpreter. These services are provided freely by the state (although the newly adopted anti-trafficking law does not specify the practical details).

C. Confidential Medical Examination

In cases of violence against a woman, a medical examination can be very important in order to document injuries and traces of the deed. This means that evidence of the deed is recorded and the woman has time to think about whether or not she wishes to report the crime.

In Greece, doctors and medical personnel are no longer obliged to report to the authorities all cases of illegally resident foreigners. However, they are obliged to report incidents of crimes such as assault and battery or physical harm. These incidents are prosecuted automatically by the public prosecutor’s office. Rape, on the other hand, is prosecuted only after an indictment filed by the victim.

Medical fees for services provided by state hospitals must be paid for by the woman, due to an administrative guideline issued by the Ministry of the Interior.

D. Police and Justice Prejudices against Prostitutes

Nowadays, prejudices against victims of rape or against sex workers who are victims of crimes are rare. Although prejudices against prostitutes may sometimes exist, a woman who has been the victim of crime can assume that the interrogating individuals will take the crime and the investigations seriously and will not generally doubt her credibility.

In some cities there are special departments trained to interrogate women who have become victims of violence. In addition, the woman may always say that she would rather speak with a female officer, but it is in the police officer’s discretion to decide.

E. Trafficking in Women

1. Trafficking in Women is….
  • when a woman is actively encouraged – through false promises regarding work possibilities and earnings – to come to Greece, regardless of whether a job in another field was promised or whether she was willing to work in prostitution
  • when a sex worker’s identity papers or earnings are taken away from her
  • when a woman is forced into prostitution or into giving sexual services
  • when a sex worker is blackmailed, threatened, humiliated, beaten, raped or imprisoned.In the above instances it is irrelevant whether the woman previously worked as a sex worker or whether she was willing to work as a sex worker because/while she was misinformed about work conditions and earnings. In Greece, the so-called anti-trafficking legislation contains only general definitions, without any further specifications. Several legislative texts on criminal and administrative law contain regulations that could explain and specify the above-mentioned definition, but only in an auxiliary manner.
2. Special Rights for Victims of Trafficking

Women who are victims of trafficking in human beings have special rights and are entitled to special support services.

First of all, they are entitled to a residence permit until the start of legal proceedings, in order to decide whether she wants to act as a witness. How long this will take depends on the decision of the authorities.

For details on the special conditions for and rights of victims of trafficking in women, see below.

2. Making a Police Statement

If the authorities find out that a woman has been the victim of a crime she will be asked to make a statement in the police station: The crime victim is also a witness to the crime and can testify against the offending person – for example against perpetrators of trafficking in women, against persons who brought her into the country or against a person to whom she had to give her earnings.
Please note:
A woman who works without the appropriate residence and/or work permit (“certification of profession“) or is suspected of having committed a crime in another matter (e.g. theft, fraud) is committing an offence. She is then an accused party and has different rights than when merely a witness. For details, see Prosecution.

A. Right to Remain Silent

A victim of crime is not obliged to testify when questioned by the police. If she remains silent when questioned by the police, though, she will lose her attribute as a witness and, in addition, the special rights for victims of trafficking.

In any case, witnesses can refuse to testify on incidents that may incriminate them.

Hint: Contact a lawyer!

B. Female Officer

If the woman wishes to make a statement, she is entitled to be interrogated by a female officer. This is not always adhered to in practice, however.

C. Interpreter

Also, she is entitled to the services of an interpreter into her own language. If she feels unable to trust the interpreter, she is entitled to refuse him or her. She must state the reasons for this mistrust to the judicial authorities.

D. Lawyer

The woman is entitled to refuse to answer except when her lawyer is present if she so wishes.
Hint: Memorise a lawyer’s telephone number!

E. Trusted Person

She is not entitled to the presence of a trusted person (e.g. a female friend or advisor) at the questioning – legally, this is even forbidden. In practice, there is a chance of being accompanied by a trusted person, especially if this person could act as an informal interpreter. But this could only be an exception to the rule.

F. No Custody

As a witness, the woman cannot be held in police custody. She may only be held in the police station for her own protection.

G. Special Rights for Trafficked Women

If the woman’s statement or other evidence leads the police to believe that she may have been a victim of trafficking in women, she has special rights.
1. Consideration Period

The woman may be granted a residence toleration to enable her to think about whether to give evidence as a witness against her perpetrator(s) in court proceedings. It is granted for as long as the authorities think it is needed. During this time administrative deportations are also postponed.

2. Right to Residence

If the woman decides to give evidence, she is granted a temporary residence permit at least until the case is finally concluded (including possible reviews of the sentence).

If she decides against giving evidence and does not have a right to residence for other reasons, she must leave the country. It is at the discretion of the authorities to decide when these women must leave the country. Administrative deportations can also be enacted on these women (incidents of this kind of treatment have been reported).

3. Advice and Support

During the consideration period and at least until she gives evidence as a witness, the woman may obtain advice from a non-state advisory centre. In Greece, such advisory centres do exist, but they are not regulated by law. For that reason they are not considered officially responsible for the woman’s support. Further legislation is expected to determine the organisations responsible and the way they are supposed to work with victims of trafficking.

a) Accommodation and Help

The advisory centres offer safe accommodation, socio-psychological care and support in dealing with authorities.

In reality, many women are moved to state social welfare institutions, shelters, and municipal organisations, but no official state service is considered to be responsible for their support. Judicial and police authorities decide where they will be housed

b) Legal Advice

Advisory centres can put the woman in contact with a female lawyer to inform her of her rights, so that the woman may decide for or against giving evidence. A few legal teams provide services free of charge. The advisory centres have no funds to pay legal fees; therefore the women must pay for their legal representation themselves. In some special cases various state programs provide legal representation (bar associations, the Department of Justice).

c) Criminal Proceedings Against the Victim/Witness

Even though the woman is the victim or witness of a crime, the authorities are not prevented from prosecuting crimes or offences that were committed by her. She may have to undergo criminal court proceedings. She should therefore always seek legal advice before making a police statement. If the woman is able to prove that the offence committed by her is related to another crime of which she was a victim, she will not be punished.

3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings

After the questioning of the woman and other witnesses, the police and the public prosecutor decide whether to initiate legal proceedings against the perpetrator(s). During these proceedings, police and public prosecution gather evidence against the perpetrator(s). During these hearings, a woman who is the victim of a crime may be questioned yet again as a victim/witness. At the end of legal proceedings the public prosecutor decides whether to accuse the perpetrator(s) before the criminal court.

A. Duration of Legal Proceedings

Often a long time passes between the woman’s first hearing as a witness, the beginning of legal proceedings and her statement as a witness. This is because proceedings relating to trafficking in human beings and similar offences are often large-scale processes involving many accused parties. It is impossible to make a prediction as to how long this overall period will be.

B. Trafficked Women

1. Right to Residence
A woman who has been a victim or witness of trafficking in women and is living in Greece without a residence permit can obtain a residence permit before the opening of legal proceedings in order to decide whether she wants to act as a witness. The residence permit granted is valid for as long as the judicial and police authorities decide. It is impossible to predict the period of time that will be decided on. For this time, administrative deportations are halted.

During the legal proceedings, the woman will receive a residence permit which will be valid until the proceedings are finally concluded (including possible reviews of the sentence). After the proceedings it depends on any threats by the perpetrators/their associates or other humanitarian reasons whether the woman will receive a residence permit.

Hint: Contact a lawyer!
2. Living Conditions
During the proceedings, advisory centres will give support to crime victims. They might offer accommodation, professional training courses and the like.

If the woman decides to act as a witness, there are special provisions by the police/prosecutors for her protection. If she feels that it is necessary, the woman should always ask for such protection.

3. Decision to Appear as Witness or Civil Party
a) Role as Witness

1. Limited to the Giving of Evidence as Witness
As a witness, the woman is invited to the court only to give evidence. She may neither participate in earlier appointments nor may she obtain information regarding the contents of the files. She is not informed about the courses of proceedings, nor is she able to influence these.

2. Lawyer
The witness may not be accompanied by a lawyer at her hearing. However, if she is suing for civil damages, she is entitled to the presence of a lawyer. Nevertheless, she should always seek legal advice before the hearing.

3. Lawyer’s Fees
Legal advice may be provided free of charge by volunteer lawyers.

b) Rights as Civil Party or Joint Plaintiff

1. Right to View Documentation
The lawyer of a civil party is entitled to view the documentation during the initial enquiry and during the main proceedings. Thus, the woman will find out early on what character the court proceedings will take, e.g. how many accused parties there are, whether further witnesses are to give evidence or whether she will be the chief witness, what evidence the public prosecution has gathered etc.

2. Participation in All Appointments
The lawyer and – if she so wishes – the woman herself may participate in all court appointments. This provides another opportunity for the woman to prepare in detail for her testimony as a witness.

3. Lawyer’s Rights of Procedure
The woman’s lawyer files her/his own petitions during proceedings and is entitled to sum up the case before the court. In this way s/he can ensure that the court and public prosecutors take into consideration the woman’s interests and rights.

4. Lawyer’s Fees
Participation as a joint plaintiff for civil damages does not give the woman the right to a pro bono attorney. On the other hand, many lawyers may agree to provide legal services and be paid by a percentage of the compensation that will be granted in favour of the woman.

Only if the woman is an accused party, she can be provided a pro bono lawyer by the Department of Justice.

As a witness, legal advice might be provided free of charge by volunteer lawyers.

c) Conditions for Civil Party Status

If the woman wants to participate in the proceedings as an accusing party, she or her lawyer may apply for this at any moment between the woman’s statement to the police and the end of the court proceedings.

4. Court Proceedings

When criminal proceedings are opened, the crime victim is invited to give her evidence as a victim or witness in front of the court.

At the end of the proceedings the court issues a verdict on whether the perpetrator(s) is/are guilty or not.

A. Duration of Court Proceedings

Proceedings relating to trafficking in human beings and similar offences are often long-winded, large-scale processes. Many details have to be dealt with and sometimes many accused parties are prosecuted at once. For this reason, main court proceedings – that is, the period between the first court hearing and the verdict – generally last(s) a few months or years. If an appeal is lodged against the verdict, the final decision may be delayed by several years. It is impossible to make an accurate prediction.

B. A Witness Gives Evidence

1. Duration

The statement is given either in the course of one day or over several days. Occasionally the woman may also be asked to attend again later in the proceedings because new questions concerning her have arisen.

2. Questions

The woman will be questioned by the judges, the public prosecutor, the perpetrator’s lawyer and under certain circumstances also by her own lawyer.

3. Obligation to Testify

The witness must answer questions truthfully and must omit nothing; otherwise she risks committing an offence herself. However, she may remain silent on anything which might incriminate herself.

Hint: Consult a lawyer!
4. Lawyer

When giving evidence the woman may be accompanied by a lawyer only if appearing jointly as injured party/civil party.

5. Interpreter

The woman is entitled to the services of an interpreter into her own language. If she feels unable to trust the interpreter, she can refuse her/him. The court then decides whether to provide another interpreter.

C. Protection of the Witness

1. Right to Police Protection

In the court the woman can be protected by the police during the whole proceedings. In cases in which the woman is in serious danger, she may also receive protection on her way to the court or on her way home. The public prosecutor decides on the necessity for police protection.

2. Giving Evidence Anonymously

The witness has no right to give evidence anonymously. She has to state her name and address when giving evidence. A new legislation on organised crime gives the witness the right to withhold personal identification data. The judges are obliged to protect the witness` identity. Nevertheless, the witness is obliged to reveal her identity if the defence attorney(s) ask(s) for such information.

3. Change Identity

The woman is not entitled to change her identity.

4. Evidence in a Non-Public Hearing

The public is excluded from court sessions if personal or intimate questions are to be put to the witness (in cases where minors are concerned, cases concerning sexual crimes, etc.).

Hint: Consult a lawyer!
5. Giving Evidence by Video

It is up to the judge to decide whether evidence is to be given by video. This can be done in cases of organised crime. No such use of video testimony has yet occurred in Greek courts.

6. No Replacement of Evidence by Written Statement

The witness also does not have the right to replace giving oral evidence in the hearing by a written statement which is read by the court or by her own lawyer during the proceedings. The general rule is to testify in an open court hearing in front of the judges. If testimonies by the same witness or by other victims contradict each other, the judges evaluate them accordingly.

7. Evidence Without the Presence of the Accused

The accused will stay in court while the witness is giving evidence. She does not have the right to have him excluded from the proceedings.

8. Ban on Soliciting Certain Evidence

Questions that may morally or materially harm the victim or her relatives are not forbidden. The same applies to leading questions. The witness is not obliged to answer them, however. The court is free to interpret a refusal to answer questions as it sees fit.

9. Waiver of Giving of Evidence in the Court

A waiver of giving evidence in the court is not allowed in Greece. The witness is obliged to testify in court.

D. Compensation for the Victim

1. From the Perpetrator
a) During Criminal Proceedings

The woman in question may already make claims for damages and compensation against the perpetrator during the criminal proceedings. In most cases the criminal court will also decide the amount of payments to be made at this stage of the proceedings; a criminal conviction can include an amount for damages in favour of the victim if she has been a joint plaintiff during the criminal proceedings.

b) During Civil Proceedings

The woman may make her claims simultaneously with the criminal proceedings or after the criminal proceedings are over, in front of a civil court.

2. From the State

Victims of crime cannot claim any compensation from the state.

E. Trafficked Women

Regarding the woman’s residence permit, living conditions and rights during court proceedings, the same rules apply as detailed above.

Illegally resident foreigners that have been victims of trafficking can be granted a temporary toleration of their residence in Greece. They can also be provided with practical aid (shelter, cultural mediators, interpreters, psychological and medical care etc)

5. After the Verdict

A. Right to Residence

A woman who has been a victim or witness of trafficking in women can under certain conditions obtain a residence permit (see above).
Please note:
Note there is no law that gives the woman an automatic right to such a residence permit. The victim of trafficking in women is not entitled to an extension of residence in order to enforce compensation claims.
The duration of the tolerated residence is decided upon by the authorities.

B. Support in Leaving the Country

1. Travel Costs

If a woman is officially expelled and deported, the state pays for the homeward journey.

No public means are available to help the woman meet the costs of her homeward journey, the procuring of documents or the costs of setting up in her own country in cases where she has not been deported.

2. Contacts

Advisory centres in Greece help clients organise their homeward travel and supply contact information for support in their home country.

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