Greek Blasphemy Laws under the spotlight of UN CERD Committee

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Greek Blasphemy Laws under the spotlight of UN CERD Committee

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination endorses recommendations jointly submitted by the Humanist Union of Greece, the European Humanist Federation and the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the UN body that monitors the implementation by all UN countries of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It regularly publishes “concluding observations” where it summarizes positive developments as well as areas where concerns remain.

It is in this context that three Humanist organizations, the Humanist Union of Greece, the European Humanist Federation and the International Humanist and Ethical Union recently made a joint submission to the UN CERD asking for the repealing of blasphemy laws that still exist (and are sometimes even enforced) in Greece.

The Committee met on 3 and 4 August and included the following points in its concluding observations, thereby fully endorsing our organisations’ positions:

Blasphemy laws

18. The Committee is concerned about the continuing existence of blasphemy legal provisions and the risk that they may be used in a discriminatory manner that is prohibited under the provisions of the Convention (art. 5 (d) (vii)).

19. The Committee recommends the State party to abolish articles 198 and 199 on blasphemy from its Criminal Code.”

The three organisations had already managed to get a clear commitment from the Greek government in October 2015 but unfortunately the country has not yet transformed its promises into reality. The next step will be to call the attention of the UN’s Human Rights Council at the next “Universal Periodic Review” (a combination of the conclusions of half a dozen specialized UN committees).

If you ever wondered what a “blasphemy law” looks like, the Greek example is reproduced below.

Article 198 of Criminal Code (CC): “Malicious Blasphemy: 1. One who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes God shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years. 2. Except for cases under paragraph 1, one who by blasphemy publicly manifests a lack of respect for the divinity, shall be punished by jailing for not more than six months or by pecuniary penalty of not more than 3,000 euros.”

Article 199 CC: “Blasphemy Concerning Religions: One who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ or any other religion tolerated in Greece shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years.”

For more information on whether this law is still enforced, we recommend this short article: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-blasphemy-idUSBREA0G0O620140117

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