Post-examination Addendum to the Parallel Report on Greece’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

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Post-examination Addendum to the Parallel Report on Greece’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

7 August 2016

This post-examination addendum supplements the Parallel Report on Greece’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination submitted on 13 July 2016 by the same NGOs,[1] as well as the Addendum to it submitted on 28 July 2016.[2]  It contains information to counter some inaccurate allegations by Greece during the examination of its report by CERD, as well as an important document. It is submitted to the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for consideration during the review of Greece during its 90th Session.

1. Roma education

First, as mentioned in the press summary, Greece claimed that “In the coming school year, 800 teachers would be recruited to staff reception classes which were frequented by Roma children, which would facilitate their transition to primary education.”[3] To a subsequent Rapporteur question why there are no such teachers for immigrant/refugee pupils, Greece did not reply.

Secondly, Greece stated that “it was difficult to have precise statistical data on the number of Roma students because they were Greek citizens and as such were not obliged to declare their ethnicity.” [4]

However, it is widely known in Greece and has been repeated over and over by the Minister for Education and even by the Prime Minister that 800 teachers will be hired in the framework of a very commendable program to staff reception classes for children of refugees and not for Roma children. From the Ministry’s website: 27-07-16 Tsipras names education as key priority in social reconstruction… Alexis Tsipras also stressed ongoing intensive efforts and programmes to integrate the children of refugees in the regular Greek school system, with the hiring of 800 substitute teachers over the summer, many of whom will specialise in teaching Greek as a second language.” [5] Reception classes for Roma pupils had been held under the special program for Roma children which, after several extensions, ended in 2016: Greece provided no information on possible renewal, preferring instead to mislead CERD by falsely claiming that Roma pupils would benefiting from that program.

Moreover, it is evidently false that there is a difficulty to have precise statistical data as the Roma students [sic] were not obliged to declare their ethnicity! Greece has for a long period provided such statistics based on data collected by schools usually through the Roma education programs, without any Roma student or parent having ever to declare his/her ethnic identity. In the final comprehensive evaluation of the most recent such programs in 2014, the external evaluator has provided extremely detailed pages-long data by school and has concluded that the total number of Roma students from kindergarten through high school was 2,713 for Macedonia and Thrace and 10,556 for the rest of Greece, hence a total of 13,269 Roma students in pre-primary, primary and secondary education. All evaluations (including those of the programs for “Muslim minority children education” and “Greek language education in the diaspora”) are available in a well-known and very easily accessible Ministry of Education website.[6]

2. Trials with the antiracism Law 927/79

Greece claimed that “The 1979 anti-racism law had been adopted following the ratification of the Convention, but the law had only been applied by courts six times in 37 years, meaning that its applicability was very low.” [7] The information is inaccurate. GHM has litigated scores of cases using Law 927/79 and at least eleven reached the trial stage. In fact, in GHM’s April 2009 report to CERD, easily accessible inert alia on CERD’s website,[8] there is detailed reference to seven GHM litigated cases that has reached the trial stage from 2003 through that time, with one conviction sustained on appeal, two convictions at first instance reversed on appeal (including on the notorious Plevris anti-Semitic book), and four acquittals at first instance. Since then, in four GHM litigated cases, one more first instance conviction for an anti-Semitic article in 2010 was overturned on appeal in 2011; Golden Dawn and another fascist newspaper were acquitted in one first instance trial for anti-Roma articles in 2010; the Greek Navy Seals (OYK) officers convicted in 2011 at first instance for marching to racist slogans, with the current Secretary General for Migration Vassilis Papadopoulos who addressed CERD being then a witness along with GHM’s Panayote Dimitras, saw charges against them quashed because of the 2013 “amnesty” law thus cancelling the appeals trial; and finally, a Golden Dawn candidate convicted at first instance in 2014 for inciting xenophobic racist violence is waiting for his appeals trial: if the conviction is maintained on appeal it will be only the second final conviction under Law 927/79 in any of its amended versions.

Concerning the reasons for the few referrals to trial and the prevailing trend to acquit defendants charged with the ant-racism Law 927/1979, current Deputy of the Director of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe Nicholas Sitaropoulos had aptly described the situation in 2003:[9]

“Greek courts have never effectively applied anti-racism Law 927/1979. A series of recent criminal proceedings targeting the publication of anti-Semitic, xenophobic/racist texts in the press, brought before Greek criminal courts by an NGO (Greek Helsinki Monitor), have not had any effect, mainly due to misinterpretation by Greek courts of the above statute.”

3. Recurred empty promises for the abolition of blasphemy articles since July 2015

CERD is requested to take note of Greece’s “Note verbale dated 7 July 2015 from the Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations in Switzerland addressed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.[10] It was already stated that “certain articles of the Criminal Code, including the abovementioned ones, are currently under review by the competent law-drafting Committee,” the same argument Greece is making today and will go on making if not urged to promptly abolish the blasphemy articles.

Comments of the Government of Greece in relation to the written statement submitted by Reporters Sans Frontiers International – Reporters Without Borders International

With reference to the written statement submitted by the “Reporters Without Boarders International”, NGO in special consultative status (A/HRC/29/NGO/16) and, in specific, the “blasphemy” case mentioned therein, Greece would like to inform the Human Rights Council on the following:

A blogger was arrested, on September 2013, for parodying a well-known Greek Orthodox monk, said to have prophetic powers, and he was charged with “malicious blasphemy” (“punished by imprisonment up to two years”, art. 198 Criminal Code) and “insulting religion” (“punished by imprisonment up to two years”, art. 199 Criminal Code).

On January 2014, he was found guilty of “repeatedly insulting religion” (and not of “malicious blasphemy”) and was sentenced to a 10-month suspended sentence by the Criminal Court of First Instance. The case is currently pending before the Criminal Appeals Court.

According to Greek Criminal Law, for the completion of both crimes of “malicious blasphemy” and “insulting religion”, the “malicious” character of the criminal conduct of the perpetrator is required, as a mens rea element. Therefore, any mere expression of opinion, even in the form of objection, disapproval or disagreement, cannot be regarded as “malicious blasphemy” or “insulting religion”.

It should be noted that certain articles of the Criminal Code, including the abovementioned ones, are currently under review by the competent law-drafting Committee.

In conclusion, Greece emphasizes the substantial promotion and protection of freedom of expression -as a fundamental prerequisite for building inclusive democracies and enhancing intercultural dialogue, peace and good governance- by undertaking various initiatives towards this direction. In this context and as far as media freedom, online and offline, is concerned, Greece participates, in the core group of countries (Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, France and Tunisia), who annually submit, since 2013 onwards, thematic resolutions on the “Protection of Journalists” to the Human Rights Council (Resolution 27/5), as well as on the “Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity” to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly (Resolutions 68/163 and 69/185).

[9] Nicholas Sitaropoulos, at the time he wrote this, was the Legal Research Officer for the Greek National Commission for Human Rights and Independent Expert for Greece in the context of a relevant program of the European Union and the Migration Policy Group, Brussels. See “Executive Summary on race equality directive, state of play in Greece, 12 October 2003”, section 5, document available at

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