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Greece lawmakers approve DNA database and surveillance camera law

[JURIST] The Greek Parliament [official website, in Greek] voted Wednesday to approve legislation that would create a DNA database and allow the use of surveillance cameras in fighting crime. The measure, supported by the ruling conservative New Democracy [party website, in Greek] party, would allow for the collection of DNA samples from all criminal suspects. Upon acquittal, the sample would be destroyed, but upon conviction, even for a misdemeanor [Ethnos report, in Greek], the sample would be stored for the rest of the defendant's life. The legislation also allows for surveillance camera footage to be stored for seven days. The measure was strongly opposed by members of various opposition parties, including the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) [party website, in Greek], which cited UK surveillance programs [JURIST news archive] to argue that surveillance cameras do not improve public safety [Ta Nea report, in Greek]. The legislation was also opposed by the Athens Bar Association [association website, in Greek], which argued [press release, in Greek], "[t]he constitutional principle of proportionality requires the legislature to restrict the taking of DNA material only to serious crimes such as homicide, organized crime, drugs, etc."

The new legislation comes partly as a result of last December's violent protests [BBC backgrounder] in Athens and other parts of the country, which were sparked when police officers shot and killed 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos [BBC report]. Reports indicated that Grigoropoulos and other youth were throwing stones at a police car and that the police believed he was throwing explosives. Demonstrations and riots protesting the shooting took place for weeks after Grigoropoulos' death. Last month, a council of judges in Athens ordered two police officers to stand trial [JURIST report] for Grigoropoulos's murder. In March, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said that Greek authorities were not doing enough to ensure that the nation's police respect human rights [JURIST report], and urged the government to investigate and address "long-standing problems of policing." AI said allegations of human-rights abuses, including torture, the use of excessive force, arbitrary detentions, and denial of prompt legal assistance, continue to be lodged against Greek police. Earlier that month, the Greek government said that it would revamp its police force [JURIST report] in light of the riots. The Greek police have been accused of being both ineffective and unnecessarily violent [JURIST op-ed] in their response to the protests.

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