Civil society representatives brief Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on situation in Greece

3 August 2016

Greek Helsinki Monitor expressed concern about the 2013 blanket amnesty for crimes, including racist speech punished by Article 2 of the Law 979/79, and about the complete abolition of Article 2 in 2014, which had effectively decriminalized hate speech in Greece and had led to the dropping of charges in several criminal cases and trials, including against Golden Dawn leaders and Greek Navy Seals officers. After a protest by the non-governmental organization, a new and wider amnesty for crimes which had entered into force last week, did not include incitement to racist violence and discrimination through mid-2014, as had been called for in the draft bill. There were concerns that the new law 4285 of 2015 and the new provisions of the Penal Code would hinder the investigation and prosecution of racial crimes and racial hatred. Laws that had been introduced in the country to fulfil the obligations arising from international treaties or international court judgements were rarely or not at all applied.

Minority Rights Group Greece raised concern about institutional or de facto discrimination on the enjoyment of civil and political rights by all those who were not adult males, were not ethnic Greek, did not adhere to the official Orthodox Christian religion, did not have a majority sexual orientation or gender identity, or were persons with disabilities. Anti-discrimination and anti-racism legislation was rarely applied and judgements or recommendations by intergovernmental institutions were often ignored. National minorities were a taboo, with Greece fervently rejecting any reference to a Turkish or Macedonian minority, which required the Committee to address the concerns of the almost completely ignored Turkish minority in Rhodes and Kos who were denied the minority status of the Muslims and ethnic Turks. (…)

Responding to Experts’ questions, Greek Helsinki Monitor said that data collection was excellent, but there was no database on racially motivated crimes, while Racial Violence Recording Network mainly focused on crimes against refugees, migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and not on all victims of racist crimes. Special units of the police were doing a remarkable job, but only for the cases that actually reached them – not all police units knew that cases involving racial hatred and violence should be referred to the special police unit. Non-governmental organizations were not involved in the preparation of the report, said a non-governmental organization representative, who also stressed the reluctance of Greek authorities to conduct human rights assessments on any of its initiatives and programmes.

Minority Rights Group Greece explained that there were about 100,000 “integrated” Roma, who lived in organized settlements, their children went to school and they were represented by a number of non-governmental organizations. At the same time, there were about 100,000 Roma who were not integrated, and who lived in informal settlements and in unacceptable conditions – it was this group that was of concern to the non-governmental organization. On the question of a difference between Macedonians and Greek Macedonians, the non-governmental organization explained that Greek Macedonians were people who originated from the area of Macedonia in Greece but were ethnic Greeks, while Macedonians lived in Greece but were ethnic Macedonians. (…)

The Greek Government had deliberately removed Article 2, which prohibited hate speech, and nobody in the country had objected to this decriminalization. It was highly regrettable that hate speech had been decriminalized, and the Committee should address this issue with Greece. Every minority language should be integrated in the school curriculum, but this had not been done, including for the Romani language.”

There is more in the attached text.

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