SPIEGEL research suggests that Greek soldiers shot a migrant at the Turkish border in March. Now politicians are demanding consequences.
In a letter to the EU Commission, more than 100 members of the European Parliament are calling for an investigation into the fatalities Gunfire at the Turkish-Greek border.
“We expect the Commission to live up to its responsibilities and to launch a thorough investigation,” the SPIEGEL letter said. Failure to respond to the report by the Greek Government and the Commission would mean “impunity that cannot be tolerated in a Union based on respect for the rule of law.”
In a joint research with the teams from Forensic Architecture, Bellingcat and Lighthouse Reports, SPIEGEL had the death of the Pakistani migrant Muhammad Gulzar reconstructed. The researchers were able to view Gulzar’s autopsy report, talk to eyewitnesses and analyze around eight hours of video material.
The reconstruction of March 4 shows in detail that live ammunition was fired, most likely by Greek border guards. In all likelihood, Gulzar was hit by a Greek soldier’s bullet. Six other migrants were wounded at the border fence within 37 minutes that day. Several eyewitnesses reported that Greek border guards shot them.
The Greek government generally rejected the reports as “fake news” without addressing the allegations. Greece has the “right to protect its borders,” says a written statement.
This declaration is not enough for many EU parliamentarians. With the fake news allegations against investigative journalists, the Greek government is more oriented towards Donald Trump than European values and laws, says Erik Marquardt, MEP of the Greens. “If the Commission and the Greek government do not want to clarify the matter, we need a committee of inquiry in the European Parliament.”
The letter was signed by MEPs from the Green Group, the Socialists, the Left and the liberal “Renew Europe” group.
Conservatives are also calling for an investigation, but from the Greek authorities, not from the EU Commission. The events in Greece need to be dealt with under the rule of law, says Lena Düpont, CDU MEP in the EPP. If a fatal misconduct by the Greek border guards is confirmed, this must have disciplinary and criminal consequences.
In Greece it has NGO Greek Helsinki Monitor filed a complaint with the Supreme Court Prosecutor. “It obliges the Greek judiciary to carry out the investigation that it should have initiated on its own,” said Panayote Dimitras, a spokesman for the NGO.
Luise Amtsberg, Spokeswoman for refugee policy of the Greens parliamentary group, also sees the federal government in the obligation. It should work to ensure that the Greek government fully clarifies the events. The Greek reaction to Erdogan’s provocations was violent and contrary to international law, Amtsberg said. “The federal government must make it clear that protecting the European border must never pose a risk to human life.”
Gerald Knaus, Berlin political advisor and source of ideas for the refugee agreement between the EU and Turkey, fears that violence at the European external border could become normal. “Such an incident must not happen again, but it will repeat itself if we fail to establish a fair, sustainable asylum system in Europe,” says Knaus.
The EU must not leave Greece alone to deal with the refugee question and must distribute refugees from Greece across the continent. “And she has to talk to Turkey about how the migration agreement can be saved.”
Ursula von der Leyen is also criticized. She is now called upon to finally fulfill her role as guardian of the contracts, says Birgit Sippel, MEP of the SPD. At the beginning of March, the President of the EU Commission described Greece as a “shield” for Europe and was also unable to hear anything about her own promise of a “new pact migration”. Von der Leyen should not shy away from the conflict with national governments.
Von der Leyen even praised the violent crackdown on refugees by the Greek border guards on her visit to Evros on March 3, says Karl Kopp, European Director of Pro Asyl. An international investigation is essential. “The case of the killing of Muhammad Gulzar will also show whether the EU Commission is still ready to defend human rights and the rule of law.”
The European Commission Greece already had in December askedto initiate an investigation into the behavior of Greek border guards. Back then, SPIEGEL had videos reported, where suspected Greek border guards drag migrants back to the Turkish side of the border. Such illegal pushbacks have apparently been taking place systematically in Greece for years. The Greek government denies that.