Greece: Break-in and arson attack of the Afghan Community Centre and threats targeting the Hellenic League for Human Rights by an extreme right-wing group
URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY
GRE 001 / 0318 / OBS 036
Arson attack / Break-in / Threats
March 30, 2018
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Greece.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the break-in and arson attack of the Afghan Community Centre’s premises in Athens as well as about threats targeting the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) and originating from an extreme right-wing group, calling itself Krypteia.
According to the information received, on March 22, 2018, at around 1 pm, an arson attack with racist motives was perpetrated against the Afghan Community Centre’s premises located in central Athens.
The assailants broke into the Afghan Community Centre’s premises and smashed computers, speakers and framed photos on the wall, before starting the fire by pouring flammable liquid in the office. The arson attack caused significant damages to the premises, but luckily no injuries, since at this time the office workers had left on their lunch break. A complaint has been filed before the department engaged in the fight against racial violence of the Hellenic police in Athens, which is currently investigating the incident.
On March 23, 2018, a little-known extreme right-wing group, calling itself Krypteia claimed responsibility for the arson attack on the Afghan Community Centre, in a call to the Greek newspaper “Ethnos”.
The Observatory recalls that this not the first racist incident targeting the Afghan Community Centre and its work advocating for the respect of the Afghan migrant and refugee community’s human rights. The arson attack comes after the Afghan Community Centre received a swell of death threats from far-right groups. Moreover, in 2010, the Afghan Community Centre had already been attacked by a band of far-right assailants armed with sticks and knives, who kicked in the door of its premises, broke in, destroyed and beat Mr. Yonous Muhammadi, who was president of the Afghan Community in Greece at the time.
In addition, on March 22, members of HLHR’s staff were threatened by members of Krypteia at their office in central Athens. They hit the doorbell at the entrance of the block where the office is located and threatened HLHR’s staff over the interphone and advised them to take great care. Shortly after the incident, HLHR filed a complaint before the department engaged in the fight against racial violence of the Hellenic police in Athens, which is currently investigating the incident. Prior to this incident HLHR had already been threatened by Krypteia over the phone in relation to their work on migrants and refugee rights and in particular their collaboration with Racist Violence Recording Network.
The Observatory highlights that the situation of minority rights defenders in Greece has been critical for years. Human rights defenders dealing with this matter are consistently targeted for their legitimate work and face different types of attacks, surveillance, arbitrary arrests, detentions, ill-treatment, entry bans and expulsion. The Observatory is also concerned by the fact that several complaints related to racism and minority’s rights have not been investigated and/or have been sent to the “archive of unknown perpetrators”.
The Observatory expresses its deep concern for the overall situation of minority rights defenders in Greece, and urges the Greek authorities to conduct an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned incidents against the Afghan Community Centre and HLHR in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law.
Please write to the authorities of Greece asking them to:
- Put in place all necessary measures to guarantee the security and the physical and psychological integrity of the staff members of the Afghan Community Centre and HLHR, as well as of all minority rights defenders in Greece;
- Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the events described above in order to identify all those responsible, and sanction them as provided by the law;
- Put an end to all acts of harassment against the Afghan Community Centre and HLHR, as well as all minority rights defenders in Greece, so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance or fear of reprisals;
- Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;
- Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments ratified by Greece.
- Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Alexis Tsipras, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Minister of Justice Mr. Stavros Kontonis Email: email@example.com
- Alternate Minister for Citizens Protection of Greece, Mr. Nikolaos Toskas, Fax: +30 210 692 9764, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
- General Secretary for Transparency and Human Rights, Ms. Maria Yannakaki, Fax: Email: email@example.com
- Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece, Mr. Ioannis Tsaousis, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 732 21 50; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ambassador of Greece, H.E. Eleftheria Galathianaki, Embassy of Greece in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: (+32) 2 545 5585, Email: email@example.com
- Permanent Representative of Greece, H.E. Papastavrou Andreas, Permanent Representation to the European Union (EU), Fax: +32 2 5515651, 5127912
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Greece in your respective countries.
Geneva-Paris, March 30, 2018
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
- E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
- Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29
- Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
 The Afghan Community Centre is the main non-governmental organisation representing and defending human rights of the Afghan migrant and refugee community in Greece. Its office is also the community Centre where classes, celebrations and gathering with children and adults usually take place.
 This group was largely unknown until it took credit for an attack on Emir, an 11-year-old Afghan boy’s home in November 2017, where they left behind a note urging him to “go back to [his] village”.
 The Racist Violence Recording Network primarily focuses on monitoring and recording of racist attacks against refugees and migrants in Greece and has received similar threats by Krypteia.
 See OMCT’s Written Submission to the 35th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation of minority rights defenders in Greece of May 25, 2017.
 See OMCT’s Urgent appeal “Greece: Impunity regarding the attacks perpetrated in December 2016 against minority human rights defenders”, issued on February 21, 2018.
On 2 April 2018, in response to this appeal, Maria Yannakaki asked the Supreme Court Prosecutor to see that a criminal investigation is launched (http://www.efsyn.gr/arthro/eisaggeliki-paremvasi-gia-ton-emprismo-tis-afganikis-koinotitas-zita-i-m-giannakaki)
ΑΠΑΝΤΗΣΗ ΟΡΓΑΝΩΣΕΩΝ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑΣ ΤΩΝ ΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ
ΣΤΟ ΠΟΡΙΣΜΑ ΤΗΣ ΓΕΝΙΚΗΣ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΕΙΑΣ ΙΣΟΤΗΤΑΣ ΤΩΝ ΦΥΛΩΝ
ΓΙΑ ΤΗΝ ΕΡΓΑΣΙΑ ΣΤΟ ΣΕΞ ΣΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΑΔΑ
Αθήνα, 29 Μαρτίου 2018
Με αφορμή το πόρισμα της Γενικής Γραμματείας Ισότητας των Φύλων του Υπουργείου Εσωτερικών για την εργασία στο σεξ στην Ελλάδα, οι συνυπογράφουσες οργανώσεις της κοινωνίας των πολιτών καταδικάζουμε τη μονομέρεια των συμπερασμάτων του και τον αποκλεισμό μας από τις εργασίες της επιτροπής που ανέλαβε την εκπόνησή του.
Σε αντίθεση με το υφιστάμενο νομοθετικό πλαίσιο που αναγνωρίζει την εργασία στο σεξ ως νόμιμη παρά τους υπέρμετρους περιορισμούς που θέτει για την άσκησή της, η Γ.Γ.Ι.Φ. προτείνει με το πόρισμα τη μερική ποινικοποίηση του επαγγέλματος.
Θεωρεί εκ προοιμίου την εργασία στο σεξ ως εκμετάλλευση και συνεπώς την εξισώνει με τη σωματεμπορία, αγνοώντας το θεμελιώδες δικαίωμα του ατόμου στην αυτοδιάθεση, όταν δεν συντρέχουν συνθήκες βίας. Ακολούθως, δε λαμβάνει υπ’όψιν την επιχειρηματολογία και την τεκμηρίωση διεθνών οργανισμών όπως ο Παγκόσμιος Οργανισμός Υγείας, που υποδεικνύουν την πλήρη νομιμοποίηση της εργασίας στο σεξ, ως εργαλείο κοινωνικής ενσωμάτωσης. Η συγκεκριμένη στρατηγική υπηρετεί παράλληλα τη διαφύλαξη της δημόσιας υγείας. Η Γ.Γ.Ι.Φ. διακηρύσσει τέλος, πως «η πορνεία συνιστά μια πολύ προφανή και παντελώς απεχθή παραβίαση της ανθρώπινης αξιοπρέπειας» αναπαράγοντας στερεοτυπικούς χαρακτηρισμούς που πλήττουν τα πρόσωπα που εργάζονται στο σεξ.
Το πόρισμα της Γενικής Γραμματείας Ισότητας εκπονήθηκε κατά πλειοψηφία από μία επιτροπή στην οποία αποκλείστηκαν εκπρόσωποι σωματείων εργαζομένων στο σεξ και οργανώσεων που ασχολούνται με την προάσπιση των δικαιωμάτων τους και την ενδυνάμωσή τους. Επιπλέον, η συγκεκριμένη επιτροπή ήταν από τη σύστασή της προκατειλημμένη υπέρ της ποινικοποίησης της εργασίας στο σεξ, όπως προδήλως αποτυπώνεται στον τίτλο της «Ομάδα Διοίκησης Έργου για την Αντιμετώπιση της Πορνείας». Πέραν τούτων, εξ αρχής η αντιμετώπιση της εργασίας στο σεξ στην χώρα ως ζήτημα που αφορά αποκλειστικά cis γυναίκες και η ίδια η ανάθεση των εργασιών στη Γ.Γ.Ι.Φ. αφενός παραβλέπει την πραγματικότητα, αφετέρου αφήνει ουσιαστικά περιθώριο σε ελλιπή αντιμετώπιση του προβλήματος, αλλά και άνιση -και δη από πλευράς της Πολιτείας- μεταχείριση των cis ανδρών και των διεμφυλικών ατόμων, εργαζόμενων στο σεξ.
Η ανάγκη αναθεώρησης του αναχρονιστικού νομοθετικού πλαισίου για την εργασία στο σεξ στην Ελλάδα καθίσταται επιτακτική, προκειμένου να υπηρετήσει παραμέτρους όπως η εξάλειψη του στίγματος, η καταπολέμηση της βίας και η κοινωνική ενσωμάτωση της συγκεκριμένης ομάδας, καθώς και η διαφύλαξη της δημόσιας υγείας. Ο νομοθέτης από τη μία πλευρά αναγνωρίζει τη νομιμότητα στην εργασία στο σεξ και από την άλλη θέτει υπέρμετρους περιορισμούς που καθιστούν τη νόμιμη εργασία σχεδόν αδύνατη και ουσιαστικά ωθούν τα εργαζόμενα πρόσωπα να ζουν και να εργάζονται σε καθεστώς παρανομίας. Τούτο αναπόφευκτα οδηγεί τα άτομα σε άκρως επισφαλείς εργασιακές συνθήκες που τα εκθέτουν σε άμεσο και διαρκή κίνδυνο άσκησης βίας σε βάρος τους και ασφαλώς τα καθιστά εξαιρετικά ευάλωτα στον ιό HIV, αλλά και στα λοιπά σεξουαλικώς μεταδιδόμενα νοσήματα. Η απάντηση σε αυτή την πραγματικότητα δε μπορεί να είναι η νομοθέτηση της ποινικοποίησης της εργασίας στο σεξ.
Στο παραπάνω πλαίσιο, ο δημόσιος διάλογος για το νομοθετικό πλαίσιο που ρυθμίζει το συγκεκριμένο θέμα θα πρέπει να γίνει χωρίς προειλημμένες αποφάσεις, ιδεολογικά στεγανά και διάθεση άκριτης υιοθέτησης μέτρων που αγνοούν την ελληνική πραγματικότητα. Καλούμε συνεπώς, το Υπουργείο Εσωτερικών που είναι ο αρμόδιος φορέας, να οργανώσει ένα θεσμοθετημένο και ανοιχτό διάλογο, με τη συμμετοχή όλων των εμπλεκόμενων μερών όπως τα ίδια τα άτομα που εργάζονται στο σεξ, τα συναρμόδια υπουργεία, η ακαδημαϊκή κοινότητα και οι οργανώσεις της κοινωνίας των πολιτών.
Οι συνυπογράφουσες οργανώσεις:
Ελληνικό Παρατηρητήριο των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι
Ομάδα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ Εργασιακής Υποστήριξης – LGBTQI+ Employment Support Group
Ομοφυλοφιλική και Λεσβιακή Κοινότητα Ελλάδας (Ο.Λ.Κ.Ε.)
Σύλλογος Οροθετικών Ελλάδας «Θετική Φωνή»
Σωματείο Υποστήριξης Διεμφυλικών (Σ.Υ.Δ.)
Athens Pride – Φεστιβάλ Υπερηφάνειας Αθήνας.
Proud Seniors Greece – Ομάδα υποστήριξης ΛΟΑΤΚΙ ατόμων ηλικίας 50+
Thessaloniki Pride – Φεστιβάλ Υπερηφάνειας Θεσσαλονίκης
It took Greek police a while to realize that crimes were being committed IRL.
The dawn of March 6th, anti-terrorist units of Greek Police began with arrests of people who allegedly participated in criminal neo-Nazi organisations. Until March 11th a total of 7 suspects were charged with participating in the so-called “Combat 18 Hellas” (C18) and “Unaligned Maeandrist Nationalists” (AME), both extremist nationalist organisations, and with other crimes. Four of the suspects remain in custody.
Their actions involve approximately 30 arson attacks mostly against anarchist and leftist squads and memorial vandalism, such as the of the Athens Jewish cemetery in 2015. While before the arrests, C18 and AME hadn’t been famous in the news, their activities were very well observed and documented by tireless bloggers and online watchdogs.
It’s not that the neo-Nazi organisation wanted to keep a low profile. On the contrary, the organization published videos on Youtube of the attacks and openly claimed responsibility for them.
Filling the court file
Combat 18 Hellas (C18) and AME criminal targeting towards people and property was openly published on the internet. Yet, the Minister of Citizen Protection, Mr Nikolaos Toskas, stated in a parliament meeting in 2015, regarding an MP’s question about the reluctance of authorities to take legal action, that they cannot proceed with arrests for anti-Semitic vandalism incidents, because, not only Greek but also other countries’ legislation is insufficient to deal with online delinquency.
However, the crimes were far from just being online occurrences. The webpage xyzcontagion.wordpress.com as well as the Greek Helsinki Monitor (EPSE) greekhelsinki.wordpress.com, gathered enough leads to bring the criminal cases to court. After the bloggers’ notable investigations, a court case was finally filed, which slowly led to the arrest of Neo-Nazi perpetrators in March 2018.
XYZ Contagion, a Greek investigative blog, monitors the local far right for years. As they told AthensLive “We had always have the Blood & Honors movements in the microscope, we read their magazines, got informed about their concerts, etc. When we first noticed that (C18/AME) passed from slogans and paintings to violence against people and property, we started monitoring them more intensely”.
Naturally, the two neo-Nazi organisations, C18 and AME, which seemed to have strong affiliations, if not being actually one entity, started becoming mutually interested for XYZ Contagion’s publications.
In the summer of 2015, Combat 18 Hellas/AME upgraded their actions introducing Molotov cocktails and other explosive materials. “Then, in the autumn of 2015, we said that something had to be done, we gathered whatever material we had, sent people to photograph cemeteries and other places that (the organisation) had attacked to” says XYZ Contagion adding “we also received material and pictures other people had taken and we finally put them all in an article”. The SYRIZA MP, Christos Karagiannidis who brought the case of Combat’s 18 Hellas activities to the Greek Parliament relied on the work the bloggers had carried out.
At that time the Greek Observatory of the “Helsinki Federation of Human Rights” (Greek Helsinki Monitor — EPSE) had conducted equivalently thorough research on the activity of C18/AME and as XYZ Contagion puts it, “Credits mostly go to EPSE”, for pushing the case to the Public Prosecutor and constantly writing to the General Secretary for Human Rights.
Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson of EPSE, described to AthensLive the delays in procedure and major omissions regarding the charges: “There has been an unacceptable negligence since the filing of the first and main complaint against AME/Combat 18 in November 2015. Twice the Athens prosecuting authorities have filed the complaint, as well as a subsequent Greek Helsinki Monitor (EPSE) complaint and a few other complaints to the archive of unknown perpetrators, refusing to seek judicial cooperation of the US, where Google has its headquarters, but also refusing to investigate activities of known individuals who had direct or indirect links with these groups”, Mr. Dimitras reveals. “It is telling that both operations leading to the dismantling of these groups were carried out by the counter-terrorism police, which, as they leaked to the media, at some point took over the investigation having evaluated that it had not been thoroughly carried out until then”.
He continues: “EPSE is still concerned that none of the 30 cases leaked to the media by police as being in the AME/Combat 18 file concerns attacks against minorities [Jews, Roma etc.]; this is why it filed with the prosecutor a request to join the archived investigations with the new one and also provided a list of more than 40 cases included in the EPSE complaints. EPSE intends to play an active role as a civil claimant in the investigation”
Bonus: The Golden Dawn parameter as seen by the neo-Nazi’s constant observers
It is not certain –and rather unlikely- that Combat 18 Hellas is the Greek delegation of the homonymous organisation that was first initiated in UK, given also that the Greek B&H skinhead scene in Greece is relatively small, as the XYZ Contagion notes. Besides, Golden Dawn (GD), the major Greek neo-Nazi organisation and legitimate political party, was the first to introduce C18 to the Greek nationalist audience, through the Golden Dawn’s youth magazine “Antepithesi” (Counterattack), in November-December 2001.
Kostas Skarmeas, attorney in the Golden Dawn trial in favor of the Afghan fishermen that were attacked by GD members, told AthensLive that while there is insufficient evidence to prove a top to bottom and well established connection between GD and C18/AME, one could say that they are communicating vessels, based on undeniable facts.
“Until 2013, [hate] attacks were conducted only by GD – there wasn’t any other organisation to claim the responsibility”, Mr Skarmeas told AthensLive. “In 2013, when the whole leadership of Golden Dawn was arrested, we saw a clear decline of violent incidents against immigrants, anarchists and antifascists. Since GD withdrew their street battalions because of the trial, the gap seems to have been filled by C18/AME. As evidenced by the court case publication, C18/AME seems to be in direct correspondence with Golden Dawn via a liason. For example, there are published evidence that Spyros Metallinos, one of the detained suspects who participates in C18/AME, is still an active GD member. There are pictures of him from 2017, giving speeches in the GD’s department in Piraeus, or he is photographed with GD’s MPs” he concludes.
Apart from the connection among perpetrators of these two groups and the similarities between GD and C18/AME’s ways of action, C18 has admitted its admiration for the infamous deputy head of GD in the 1990s, Periandros Androutsopoulos, who after serving sentence for crimes related to his GD role, has since stepped down. The public acknowledgment of a member that has broken with Golden Dawn could have various interpretations. For attorney Kostas Skarmeas, this indicates the level of close proximity among the organisations, rather than distance.
As Mr Dimitras concludes “both AME/C18 and Apella (another Nazi group that police dismantled earlier this year), have a key member each with known recent involvement in Golden Dawn, which has not denied the related information for both cases”.
The latest attacks
On Thursday, March 22nd, another neo-Nazi organisation, Krypteia, attacked the headquarters of the Afghan Community in Greece causing severe damage to their offices. Luckily, no people were there at the time. On the same day, the bell at the Hellenic League for Human Rights rang and through the doorphone a voice warned the employee who answered “We are from Krypteia and we are here to sing you the carols. (We will sing them to you) in the streets or whenever we find you”.
Hence, the crucial aspect in the story might be who finds whom, first.
- For more detailed information on the case of C18/AME, we recommend further reading from XYZ Contagion’s website (for Greek speakers):