Disappointing statement by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

Disappointing statement by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights: he praises decriminalization of hate speech in the 2014 anti-racism law which was on the contrary criticized by the UN Human Rights Committee in November 2015 and by ECRI in January 2015, and makes no comment on the complete absence of convictions with the anti-racism laws. Also there is no reference to the draft laws decriminalizing discrimination and undermining free legal aid by NGOs, and no reference to Roma and minorities (and to the (non-)execution of related ECtHR judgments although he dealt with them while in Greece).

Human Rights Committee: Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Greece (3 December 2015)

(…) Racism and xenophobia
13. While acknowledging efforts made by the State party to combat hate crimes, the Committee is concerned that the new Law 4285/2014 and the provisions introduced in the Penal Code may hinder investigations into and prosecutions of those responsible for racist hate crimes involving public insults and defamation against groups. The Committee is also concerned about continued reports of racist attacks and hate speech against migrants, refugees and Roma. The Committee notes with concern that cases of racism are underreported owing, allegedly, to lack of trust in the authorities and the absence of an effective complaints mechanism. The Committee regrets that sanctions imposed are insufficient to discourage and prevent discrimination (arts. 2, 19-20 and 26).
14. The State party should review its legislation with a view to ensuring that all advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred is prohibited by law, and that all cases of racially motivated violence are systematically investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished and that appropriate compensation is awarded to the victims. The State party should take effective measures to improve the reporting of hate crimes and should strengthen its efforts to eradicate stereotyping and discrimination against migrants, refugees and Roma, inter alia, by conducting public awareness campaigns to promote tolerance and respect for diversity.”

Paragraph 4 of ECRI’s report published in February 2015: “4. Article 1.1 of Law 927/1979 criminalises the intentional public incitement to acts or activities that may result in discrimination, hatred or violence against individuals or groups based on their racial, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. The creation or leadership of or participation in a group that promotes racism is banned by Article 1.4 of the law. While the law covers the recommendation contained in § 18 c of ECRI’s General Policy Recommendation (GPR) No. 7 on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination, which relates to racist threats, it does not address those in §§ 18 b, referring to insults and defamation, or 18 f, concerning the public dissemination, public distribution or production or storage of racist material[emphasis added].

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