Upon condition that the applicant consents to it, the law provides for the possibility for the competent authorities to refer him or her for a medical and/or psychosocial diagnosis where there are signs or claims, which might indicate past persecution or serious harm. These examinations shall be free of charge and shall be conducted by specialised scientific personnel of the respective specialisation and their results shall be submitted to the competent authorities as soon as possible. Otherwise, the applicants concerned must be informed that they may be subjected to such examinations at their own initiative and expense. Any results and reports of such examinations had to be taken into consideration by the Asylum Service. The new IPA provides that any results and reports of such examinations are taken into consideration, in order for the deciding authorities to establish if the applicant’s allegations of persecution or serious harm are likely to be well-founded”.
Specifically, for persons who have been subjected to torture, rape, or other serious acts of violence, a contested provision was introduced in 2018, according to which, such persons should be certified by a medical certificate issued by a public hospital or by an adequately trained doctor of a public sector health care service provider. The provision has been maintained by the IPA.
The main critiques against this provision are that doctors in public hospitals and health care providers are not adequately trained to identify possible victims of torture and that the law foresees solely a medical procedure. According to the Istanbul Protocol, a multidisciplinary approach is required – a team of a doctor, a psychologist, and a lawyer – for the identification of victims of torture. Moreover, stakeholders have expressed fears that certificates from other entities than public hospitals and public health care providers would not be admissible in the asylum procedure and judicial review before courts.
Few such cases of best practice, where Asylum Service officers referred applicants for such reports, were recorded by GCR in 2020. However, several cases have been reported to GCR where the Asylum Service officer did not take into account the medical reports provided (see Special Procedural Guarantees).
As reported by several civil society organisations, “Certain categories such as victims of torture are systematically not identified as such, where certification does not take place. Certification of victims of torture is impossible in the country in practice, given that public health authorities do not have the processes and capacity in place to carry out certification. The authors have contacted public health institutions on the islands on various occasions to inquire whether they certify victims of torture in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, victims of rape of other serious form of violence, as well as whether hospital staff is appropriately trained for such a certification and whether the victims are able to receive the necessary care for their rehabilitation. The following replies have been provided by authorities:
Lesvos: In response to requests inter alia by RSA, HIAS and METAdrasi in the course of 2020, the “Vostanio” General Hospital of Mytilene has stated that it does not operate a specialised service for the certification of victims of torture. The hospital referred the applicants to the Northern Aegean Forensic Service (ιατροδικαστική υπηρεσία). Said authority, however, has stated that it solely conducts examinations upon order from police authorities or the prosecutor.
Regarding the other islands, in response to written requests by METAdrasi lawyers: The “Skylitsio” General Hospital of Chios responded that it does not operate a specialised service for the certification of victims of torture; The General Hospital of Samos did not provide information on certification and rehabilitation of victims of torture, albeit stating that it applies the practices and guidelines on handling sexual and gender-based violence inside RIC; The General Hospital of Leros responded that persons are referred to a forensic examination at the nearest hospital that carries out such examinations. In any case, the medical and nursing staff of the General Hospital of Leros would treat anyone who needs medical help; The General Hospital of Kos stated that the Dodecanese Forensic Service of Kos is able to certify torture and other serious forms of sexual or physical violence only upon order from the prosecutor. According to the Forensic Service, however, the outcome of such an examination is not reliable where a relatively long lapse of time and where offences have been committed in an unknown place.” The Northern Aegean Forensic Authority has explained in turn that it only conducts examinations for certification of victims of torture upon order from police authorities or the prosecutor. For its part, the prosecutor refuses to issue such orders on the ground that the IPA entrusts responsibility for certification to public health authorities. Due to this, it is currently impossible for victims of torture to be certified as such by the authorities in practice.”
On 18 June 2020, in a case supported by GCR, the Administrative Court of Appeal of Piraeus accepted the application for annulment of a woman from Ethiopia – victim of human trafficking and sexual violence in her country of origin – and annulled the second instance decision of the 2nd Committee of the Appeals Authority (Decision Α252/18-6-2020). Specifically, the Court held that the applicant’s Appeal was illegally rejected, as the Committee did not take into consideration neither the documents certifying that she is a vulnerable person and specifically that she is a victim of human trafficking and victim of sexual violence nor her relevant allegations. Also, according to the Court, the fact that the Committee did not examine if the applicant belongs to the special social group of “women from Ethiopia, victims of violence and human trafficking, who lack supportive family or any other network and do not have professional training” violated the law. Moreover, it was held that the Committee should have examined if the violence she was subjected to amounted to persecution and also the risk that she would face in case of return to her country of origin.
 Article 53 L 4375/2016.
 Article 72(2) IPA.
 Article 23 L 4540/2018.
 Article 61(1) IPA.
 RSA, p.16
 RSA & Stiftung PRO ASYL, Submission in M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece and Rahimi v. Greece, July 2020, para 48, available at: https://bit.ly/2VAa31T HIAS, Communication in the M.S.S. and Rahimi groups v. Greece, August 2020.
 HIAS Greece, Submission in M.S.S. / Rahimi, August 2020, 9, available at: https://bit.ly/34T72zz; RSA & Stiftung PRO ASYL, Submission in M.S.S. / Rahimi, July 2020, para. 48, available at: https://bit.ly/3fgLFLH.
 Decision of file with the author.