The right to assembly is enshrined in both the Greek Constitution (Article 11) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 11). Although the police have the legal authority to attend public gatherings and to disperse them for specific reasons such as a threat to public order, the measures they take must be proportionate. The indiscriminate use of violent means that threaten the life or physical integrity of citizens is illegal in a state that adheres to the rule of law.
In addition, the ability of police officers to use violence is governed by the same guarantees as in any other case, as reflected in the Code of Criminal Procedure (Article 256), Presidential Decree 141/1991 (Article 120), Presidential Decree 254/2004 (Code of Police Ethics) and in the 2005 Circular issued by the Headquarters of the Hellenic Police Force.
The presence of the media at such demonstrations is an important way of holding the authorities responsible for their behaviour towards demonstrators and the public in general. Whilst generally the use of unprovoked and unnecessary violence by police forces is not consistent with the standards of the rule of law, when police violence is directed towards journalists in the course of their duties it also becomes a matter of the freedom of the press.
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