Manolada: The Chronicle of a judicial failure

Following the recent ruling of the Mixed-Member jury court of Patras on the case of the Manolada strawberry field workers, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), which represented th: e plaintiffs for the civil claims in this case of labor trafficking and gun shooting against the migrant workers, hereby points out the following issues regarding both the process as well as its final outcome:

1. Although the case was widely publicized, causing public outrage both in Greece and abroad, the Court’s ruling and the procedure followed during the preliminary investigation and the trial reveal a number of shortcomings in the administration of justice, which led almost inexorably to the final outcome. GCR had duly noted in November 2013 that “the full investigation of the case remains a continuing challenge for the criminal trial especially in this particular incident where serious violations of human rights have occurred.”[1]


2. Procedural flaws were committed both during the investigation stage and the trial. Regarding the pre-trial stage, which started on 18.04.2013, despite the intervention of the Supreme Court Prosecutor, several errors were committed which essentially hindered the thorough follow-up of the case. Firstly, the specialized anti-trafficking unit of the Hellenic Police was never called upon to conduct the preliminary investigations after the attack on the immigrants, despite the fact that the Supreme Court Prosecutor had – correctly - ordered the territorially competent Amaliada Public Prosecutor to conduct the investigations on the shooting of Manolada within the framework of labor trafficking that has long been dominant in the area. The involvement of the anti-trafficking unit of the Hellenic Police could have potentially avoided the granting of the status of "Victim of Trafficking" only to those migrants who had been wounded in the attack, rather than to all those who worked for the business and whose number approached, according to the trial documents, 200; a decision with no precedent in the judicial treatment of victims of trafficking worldwide.

3. Moreover, the preliminary investigation - erroneously conducted by the local police - also presented serious flaws. In particular, the investigating police authorities never sought to use independent interpreters for the examination of the victims. Instead, the local police authorities used fellow nationals of the victims who lived in the area for a longer period of time and who had close business and other links with the defendants. In fact, one of them was proposed as a defense witness and, at the same time, was asked to act as an interpreter in the proceedings before the Patras Court; this blatant shortcoming from the judicial authorities, which would have led to the absolute nullity of the court proceedings, was avoided through an initiative taken by the lawyers for the civil claims.

4. In addition, the State never took any steps to guarantee the safety of the victims of trafficking – not even for the 35 victims of the shooting - by placing them either under police protection during the pre-trial or during the trial period. Furthermore, the State did not take any steps to ensure that the victims would be transported to Patras in order to attend the trial.

5. The trial that followed was conducted under the weight of these flaws, only some of which are aforementioned. It should be noted that criminal proceedings for victims of trafficking should be governed by specific procedural guarantees clearly outlined in Article 12 of Directive 2011/36 /EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims which binds all state institutions. A mere reading of these provisions attests of the inordinate discrepancies between the conduct of the Greek state institutions and its legislative obligations[2].

6. Despite the fact that during the hearing none of these procedural guarantees were respected, one would expect the members of the court – and the judges in particular - to take into account the reasoned pleading by the Public Prosecutor in the case. Specifically, in his closing arguments, he explained the orientations taken by case-law in other EU national courts which apply a similar legal framework in order to substantiate the existence of exploitation in the context of trafficking (article 323a of the Greek Criminal Code) and how this offence is distinguished from the illegal employment of aliens (article 86 of law 3386/2005) with which it is often confounded. The criterion used in order to describe a service or a job as a form of labor exploitation is not linked to the kind of activity pursued (which may be entirely legitimate), but rather to the victim's relationship with the employer and the conditions under which s/he works. According to the legislation, a trafficker is a person who, while has every opportunity and obligation to provide some form of protection to his workers, never pays the agreed wages and enforces the continuation of the supply of labor with threats of violence and use of firearms, taking full advantage of the absence of the State for his own profit and at the expense of defenseless people – for all purposes - his slaves.

The events in Manolada and society’s reaction to these demonstrate that such forms of exploitation are no longer morally sustainable, nor acceptable. However, the inability of the judicial authorities to deal with such working conditions in Greece requires the intervention of the lawmaker for the regularisation of the victims of the attack - also victims of labor exploitation - and in order to address the reasons behind such an attack. This regularisation cannot of course compensate for the attacks or the trafficking; however, it should at least ensure that the workers who were victims of dangerous bodily harm (article 309 of the Greek Criminal Code) remain within the legal framework through the judicious use of the recent Joint Ministerial Decision 30651/2014 concerning the issuance of residence permits on humanitarian grounds, which we hope will remedy this judicial failure.


[2]  The said Article stipulates that “1. The protection measures referred to in this Article shall apply in addition to the rights set out in Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA.”

2.   Member States shall ensure that victims of trafficking in human beings have access without delay to legal counselling, and, in accordance with the role of victims in the relevant justice system, to legal representation, including for the purpose of claiming compensation. Legal counselling and legal representation shall be free of charge where the victim does not have sufficient financial resources.

3.   Member States shall ensure that victims of trafficking in human beings receive appropriate protection on the basis of an individual risk assessment, inter alia, by having access to witness protection programmes or other similar measures, if appropriate and in accordance with the grounds defined by national law or procedures.

4.   Without prejudice to the rights of the defence, and according to an individual assessment by the competent authorities of the personal circumstances of the victim, Member States shall ensure that victims of trafficking in human beings receive specific treatment aimed at preventing secondary victimisation by avoiding, as far as possible and in accordance with the grounds defined by national law as well as with rules of judicial discretion, practice or guidance, the following:


Unnecessary repetition of interviews during investigation, prosecution or trial;


Visual contact between victims and defendants including during the giving of evidence such as 

interviews and cross-examination, by appropriate means including the use of appropriate

communication technologies;


The giving of evidence in open court; and


Unnecessary questioning concerning the victim’s private life.



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