Briefing Committee of Ministers on SAKIR GROUP v GREECE and HOUSE of MACEDONIAN CIVILIZATION AND OTHERS v GREECE


SAKIR GROUP v GREECE (48475/09), and
HOUSE of MACEDONIAN CIVILIZATION AND OTHERS v GREECE (1295/10)

by Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor and EIN Board member

 

On 22nd November 2019, EIN held its quarterly civil society briefing, ahead of the 1362nd CM-DH meeting. Over 40 participants attended the briefing, including participants from 29 Permanent Representations to the Council of Europe, the EU representation to the Council of Europe, the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and other CoE staff members. The main recommendations on the cases are available here.

 

The first case concerns ineffective investigations into alleged hate crimes. Mr Dimitras called upon the CM to ask Greece to amend its anti-racism Law 927/79, so as to implement the recommendations of ECRI, UN HRCttee and UN CERD to criminalize racist insults and defamation, as well as the public dissemination, public distribution, production or storage of racist material.

 

The House of Macedonian Civilization case is about the non-registration by courts of an association, contrary to the Court’s 1998 judgment concerning the same association. On behalf of the House of Macedonian Civilization, Mr Dimitras urged the Committee of Ministers to join the House of Macedonian Civilization and the Bekir-Ousta group of cases.

 

Links:

Briefing text on the Sakir group, by Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM)

Rule 9.1. and 9.2. on the Sakir group, by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (October 2019)

Briefing text on the House of Macedonian Civilization and others, by Panayote Dimitras

Rule 9.1 on the House of Macedonian Civilization and others, by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (October 2019)

Δελτίο Τύπου της Ελληνικής Ένωσης για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου για τα περιστατικά αστυνομικής αυθαιρεσίας

eleda

Δελτίο Τύπου για τα περιστατικά αστυνομικής αυθαιρεσίας

Τις τελευταίες μέρες δημοσιοποιούνται καταγγελίες αλλά και οπτικοακουστικά τεκμήρια για επαναλαμβανόμενα επεισόδια εκτεταμένης και ανεξέλεγκτης αστυνομικής βίας. Την ίδια στιγμή  διατυπώνεται από αρμόδια και αναρμόδια πολιτικά πρόσωπα αλλά και από διαμορφωτές κοινής γνώμης ένας δημόσιος λόγος που δικαιολογεί ή ακόμα χειρότερα επικροτεί παρόμοια φαινόμενα.

Αντιθέτως, δεν φαίνεται μέχρι στιγμής να έχει κινητοποιηθεί κανείς μηχανισμός ελέγχου, λογοδοσίας και δίωξης περιστατικών αστυνομικής αυθαιρεσίας. Επιπλέον, κατά πάγια πρακτική, η στέρηση της πρόσβασης σε συνήγορο υπεράσπισης των συλληφθέντων παραβιάζει τα δικαιώματά τους, ενισχύει τις ενδείξεις δυσανάλογης βίας, καθώς και τη βασιμότητα των καταγγελιών για απάνθρωπη και εξευτελιστική μεταχείριση.

Η κατάσταση αυτή εγκυμονεί σοβαρούς κινδύνους, καθώς ωθεί στην εμπέδωση εντός της αστυνομίας της αντίληψης ότι είναι επιτρεπτές συμπεριφορές «ρεβάνς» έναντι οιουδήποτε προσώπου ή ομάδας προσώπων, ή ακόμα και όποιας περιοχής ταυτίζεται στο δημόσιο λόγο με την παραβατικότητα και την ανομία.

Οι πρακτικές αυτές  παραβιάζουν θεμελιώδεις αρχές και κανόνες του Κράτους Δικαίου και υπονομεύουν τον φιλελεύθερο χαρακτήρα της Δημοκρατίας. Την πολιτική ευθύνη για όλα αυτά επωμίζεται η Κυβέρνηση, εφόσον μάλιστα δεν διαφαίνεται μέχρι στιγμής να υπάρχει από πλευράς της ετοιμότητα, ούτε καν διακηρυκτική, για μια ουσιαστική διερεύνηση των καταγγελιών. Ευθύνες αναλογούν και στη Δικαιοσύνη και τις λοιπές ελεγκτικές αρχές που έχουν καθήκον, ακόμα και αυτεπαγγέλτως, να ασκήσουν τις αρμοδιότητές τους.

Ο σεβασμός στους θεσμούς και στην κρατική κυριαρχία δεν ενσταλάζεται από την αστυνομική αυθαιρεσία και την τρομοκράτηση, ούτε προσιδιάζει  σε μια αστική δημοκρατία η αναφορά από υπουργικά χείλη στο «ξύλο» ως στοιχείο «αναγκαστικότητας της βίας».

Οι ιδιαίτερης έντασης και σκληρότητας αστυνομικές παρεμβάσεις σε κάθε είδους χώρο, τείνουν επαναλαμβανόμενες να μετεξελιχθούν σε δόγμα επίλυσης κάθε προβλήματος. Δεν χρειαζόμαστε ένα κράτος-τιμωρό αλλά ισχυρούς θεσμούς που θα σέβονται και θα προασπίζουν την ανθρώπινη αξιοπρέπεια σε όλες τις περιστάσεις και υπό οποιεσδήποτε συνθήκες, διασφαλίζοντας την κοινωνική συνοχή, όπως οφείλουν να πράττουν. Το κράτος μπορεί να έχει το μονοπώλιο στην άσκηση νόμιμης βίας, αλλά δεν έχει το ελεύθερο στην άσκηση αυθαιρεσίας και στην καταπάτηση των δικαιωμάτων και αυτό είναι κάτι που το Υπουργείο Προστασίας του Πολίτη θα πρέπει να αντιμετωπίσει άμεσα.

Η Ελληνική Ένωση για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου καλεί την πολιτική ηγεσία των σωμάτων ασφαλείας και τις αρμόδιες αρχές να πράξουν άμεσα «τα νόμιμα» για όλα τα ανωτέρω καταγγελλόμενα.

Ελληνική Ένωση για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου

20/11/2019

 

*φωτογραφία: Surian Soosay – https://flic.kr/p/axVXPK

Διεθνής Αμνηστία για καταγγελία βασανισμού Λάμπρου Γούλα από τα ΜΑΤ

ogimage.png

Διεθνής Αμνηστία – Ελληνικό Τμήμα

🗣 Την Δευτέρα 11 Νοεμβρίου, ο Λάμπρος Γούλας δημοσιοποίησε επώνυμη καταγγελία, μέσα από τη δημοσιογραφική ιστοσελίδα omniatv, στην οποία αναφέρει ότι δέχθηκε άγριο ξυλοδαρμό και του ασκήθηκαν βασανιστήρια από δυνάμεις του ΜΑΤ. Συνελήφθη το βράδυ της Πέμπτης 7 Νοεμβρίου στα Εξάρχεια, και, σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία του, υπέστη ξυλοδαρμό κατά τη διάρκεια της σύλληψής του, και στη συνέχεια μεταφέρθηκε στην οδό Μπουμπουλίνας, όπου μέλη της διμοιρίας των ΜΑΤ που τον συνέλαβαν, συνέχισαν να τον χτυπούν, τον έγδυσαν με τη βία, έψαξαν και πέταξαν τα πράγματά του, τον παρενόχλησαν σεξουαλικά, τον πετούσαν ο ένας στον άλλο, και τον έβρισαν με σεξιστικό και ομοφοβικό τρόπο.

❌ Η Διεθνής Αμνηστία έχει ερευνήσει επανειλημμένα τη συστηματική αστυνομική βία και ατιμωρησία στην Ελλάδα και έχει μακρόχρονες και συνεχιζόμενες ανησυχίες αναφορικά με την παράλειψη των ελληνικών αρχών να διασφαλίσουν ότι η αστυνομία σέβεται και προστατεύει τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα και δρα βάσει διεθνούς δικαίου. Οι πρακτικές αυτές, όπως αναδεικνύεται και από τις εκθέσεις μας, δεν αποτελούν «μεμονωμένα περιστατικά», αλλά συνιστούν συστημικό φαινόμενο. Αυτή η διαπίστωση, αποκτά, δυστυχώς, αναβαθμισμένη σημασία από τα γεγονότα και τις καταγγελίες αστυνομικής βίας και αυθαιρεσίας που διαδραματίζονται το τελευταίο διάστημα.

‼️ Η συγκεκριμένη επώνυμη και πολύ σοβαρή καταγγελία ξυλοδαρμού και βασανιστηρίων πρέπει να διερευνηθεί αμέσως, με αμερόληπτο και διαφανή τρόπο. Καλούμε την ελληνική αστυνομία να διεξάγει την αρμόδια διαδικασία για τη διερεύνηση τέτοιων επώνυμων καταγγελιών και να διενεργήσει Ένορκη Διοικητική Εξέταση για τους αστυνομικούς που εμπλέκονται.

📢 Την Τετάρτη 20 Νοεμβρίου 2019 διεξάγεται η δίκη του Λάμπρου Γούλα στην Ευελπίδων, μετά τη σύλληψή του και την απόδοση κατηγοριών στο πρόσωπό του. Η Διεθνής Αμνηστία θα παρακολουθήσει τη δίκη ως παρατηρήτρια, στο πλαίσιο της προαναφερθείσας καταγγελίας για την άσκηση αστυνομικής βίας.

Screenshot_2019-11-20-17-23-59-195_com.facebook.katana.png

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157542121617209&id=8802799720

 

The European Humanist Federation welcomes the withdrawal of the bill reintroducing the crime of blasphemy in Greece

ehf

Posted on the 13/11/19

Earlier in November this year, the Greek Minister of Justice announced a project to reintroduce criminal sanctions for blasphemy. However, on 12 November the Government eventually renounced to its project, following public outcry by large parts of Greek civil society that showed a clear refusal of this criminalization of criticism and dissent.

The EHF pays tribute to the civic opposition that made it possible to prevent this anachronistic proposal from being adopted and welcomes the decision not to reintroduce blasphemy in the criminal code, which was a threat to the country’s great progress in ending criminalisation of blasphemy.

In June 2019, the Greek government repealed the long-standing criminalisation of the “malicious blasphemy of God” and of “the Greek Orthodox Church or any other religion tolerated in Greece”, two blasphemy articles in its Criminal Code. This was a crucial step for freedom of expression in the country as expressed by the European Humanist Federation back then.

The EHF reaffirms its commitment to freedom of expression, including the right to criticise or mock religious dogmas, beliefs and institutions. It recalls that “blasphemy” and “insult to religion” laws contravene freedom of expression and are in violation of the international human rights framework.

Freedom of Thought Report 2019 – Greece and the world – Humanists International

HI

A report on the human rights of non-religious people warns “the world is divided” on blasphemy and apostasy laws, “with many states still enforcing these laws, and several states actively tightening or introducing new ‘blasphemy’ legislation in the past few years”.

Launching today at the European Parliament in Brussels, The Freedom of Thought Report by Humanists International, now in its eighth annual edition, examines the legal and human rights situation for “humanists, atheists and the non-religious” around the world.

The 2019 edition celebrates the fact that eight countries have actually abolished ‘blasphemy’ laws in the past five years. But it also warns of a growing divide on the issue globally. 69 countries still retain such laws, and their penalties and prosecution are hardening in a number of states. States such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are noted as “perennial” blasphemy prosecutors. Despite the well-publicised release of Christian farm-worker Asia Bibi, the ongoing imprisonment of several accused atheists and many others in Pakistan, as well as extrajudicial violence against both humanists and religious minorities related to blasphemy accusations is condemned.

The Report also highlights a deterioration in other countries. Both Brunei and Mauritania have actually increased the penalties for ‘blasphemy’ and ‘apostasy’ in the past two years. Brunei’s new 2019 penal code renders blasphemy and apostasy, as well as other hudud crimes such as adultery and homosexuality, punishable by death. Mauritania introduced a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy and apostasy in April 2018. High-profile ‘blasphemy’ prosecutions are cited as cause for concern in Indonesia, as is the backlash against demonstrators protesting forced hijab in Iran, and prosecutions and intercommunal violence related to Hindutva beliefs demonstrates a deteriorating situation in India. Europe does not entirely escape criticism, despite the overall positive trend in the region, with Italy and Spain singled out for prosecutions against artists and protesters in recent years.

Humanists International president Andrew Copson comments:

“Blasphemy and apostasy laws are an injustice in themselves, but they also lend a false legitimacy to those who commit acts of murder and terrorism in their name. As our report notes, when governments prosecute under these laws it only exacerbates the problems of religious extremism. Repealing these laws as per the human rights treaty obligations that nearly all countries are signed up to must be a priority. It will not solve all the various other forms of discrimination against humanists and other religion or belief minorities that our report documents. But it will begin to de-legitimize the religious extremism that threatens so many societies across so much of the planet.”

More information about the Freedom of Thought Report

About Humanists International

Humanists International is the global representative body of the humanist movement, uniting a diversity of non-religious organisations and individuals. We want everyone to live a life of dignity in a world where universal human rights are respected and protected, and where states uphold secularism. We work to build, support and represent the global humanist movement, defending human rights, particularly those of non-religious people, and promoting humanist values world-wide.

The Online Edition and the Key Countries Edition

The Freedom of Thought Report is an online-first publication. The entire report is available for free at fot.humanists.international, with a page for every country in the world, interpretation, and a link to all the boundary condition data.

You can also download the Key Countries Edition 2019 (PDF) which contains the introductory material, as well as an overview of the data, and a small selection of country chapters.

Both on the website and in the Key Countries PDF you will find the Preface by Andrew Copson (President of Humanists International), Foreword by Mohamed Hisham (a victim of non-religious persectuion from Egypt), and Editorial Introduction by Bob Churchill (Editor of the Report).

Repeals of ‘blasphemy’ laws since 2015

The eight countries that have repealed ‘blasphemy’ laws in the past five years are Norway, Iceland, Malta, the Alsace-Moselle region of France, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand and Greece.

In addition, legislation is pending in Ireland, following a referendum in 2018 to remove the requirement for a ‘blasphemy’ law from the constitution.

Overall numbers on blasphemy and apostasy laws

With data provided for every country, the Freedom of Thought Report 2019 records that as of this October: “69 countries outlaw ‘blasphemy’ or criticism of religion under similar laws, 6 of those carrying a death penalty. Meanwhile at least 18 countries outlaw ‘apostasy’ (the mere fact, or announcing of the fact, of leaving or changing religion), 12 of those carrying a death penalty.”

All the applied boundary conditions, summary score and rankings for every country are available as open data via: fot.humanists.international/data.


Greece

Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic on the edge of the Balkan Peninsula, often regarded as the birthplace of democracy in Europe and a catalyst to western civilisation. The country has seen steady economic, social and legal changes in recent years with leftist government attempts towards towards secularisation of the country. However, Greek Orthodox privilege still exists is still prevalent across the country and religion is still firmly woven into the fabric of major institutions. Financial crisis and the rise of far-right politics have been significant factors in the past several years.

Constitution and government

The constitution, other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Freedom of speech and press are protected under Article 14, ‘every person may express and propagate his thoughts orally, in writing and through the press in compliance with the laws of the State’. However the “blasphemy” law was abolished only in 2019. Article 3 of the constitution states that ‘the prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ’, recent governments have proposed for this Article to be amended to one emphasising ‘religious neutrality’
<hri.org/docs/syntagma/artcl25.html#A3>

Orthodox Privilege

The government financially supports the Orthodox Church; for example, the government pays for the salaries and religious training of clergy, finances the maintenance of Orthodox Church buildings, and exempts from tax Orthodox Church’s revenues from properties it owns. However, the recent government has seen changes towards the relationship of state and religion, towards disestablishment.

Whilst state sponsorship of the Greek Orthodox religion is still entrenched, recent leftist governments have taken steps toward disestablishment of the Orthodox church.

The former government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras proposed changes to significantly reduce the role of the Orthodox Church in the public sector. The government announced to ‘free up’ 10,000 civil service roles occupied by the clerics of the church, however they would continue to pay the salary of clerics with a subsidy of €200 million annually. The government also proposed to introduce ‘religious neutrality’ in to the constitution. A government spokesperson informed that religious neutrality would not regard religions with greater value than others, thus attempting to remove any kind of ‘privilege’ from religions in the state. These changes and proposals were highly criticised by the religious conservatives who scrutinised the government for their lack of faith.
<secularism.org.uk/news/2018/11/greece-takes-major-step-towards-disestablishment-of-orthodox-church>
<religionnews.com/2019/01/18/greeks-bridle-at-historic-deal-to-split-orthodox-church-from-state/>

Education and children’s rights

Orthodox religious instruction in primary and secondary schools, at government expense, remains mandatory for all students during their 12 years of compulsory education. Although non-Orthodox students may exempt themselves, in practice public schools offer no alternative activity or non-Orthodox religious instruction for these children.

Until 2019, references to the student’s religious affiliation and citizenship were stated on school leaving certificates. As per decisions of the Data Protection Authority and the Supreme Administrative Court, this requirement has been removed. In addition there is no longer a mandatory reference to the non-Orthodox religion of child students who seek exemption from religious education, as they can now invoke reasons of conscience.

Family, Community and Society

Religion was and still is often assumed in Greek society with polls supporting the prevalence of the Eastern Orthodox religion. A 2005 poll revealed that 96.6% of the census were Orthodox Christian and only 2% identified as atheist. However, a more recent poll (2015) showed that this had changed significantly to 81.4% Orthodox Christians and 14.7% non-religious.

Greek atheists report that their previous affiliation with religious identity was forced onto them by family rather than existing from their own genuine beliefs. Despite a rise in non-religion, the Orthodox faith is still embedded in many activities and traditions of local communities. Some atheists claim that they still participate in communions, attend church and partake in other religious activities for the social benefits of bonding with family and friends rather than their beliefs in the religion.
<nsrn.net/2017/01/16/research-atheism-in-greek-society-breaking-the-chain-of-religious-memory-and-the-emergence-of-atheist-identity/1/>
<religiongoingpublic.com/archive/2017/moving-from-traditional-religion-to-atheism-in-greek-society-like-a-ship-distancing-from-the-coast>

There remain mandatory entries on birth certificates for the religion of the parents and the presumed religion of the child.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Greece is a free country with an open and vigorous parliamentary democracy, according to Freedom House, however “Ongoing concerns include corruption, discrimination against immigrants and minorities, and poor conditions for undocumented migrants and refugees.”
<freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/greece>

The rise of the far-right in recent years is cause for concern and has resulted in harassment and acts of violence or hatred.

In October 2019 humanists protested the harassment through parliamentary procedures of Panayote Dimitras, a human rights activist associated with Greek Helsinki Monitor and Humanist Union of Greece, by the president of a far-right nationalist party.
<humanists.international/2019/10/nationalist-party-president-harassing-humanist-activist-in-greece/>

Blasphemy law abolished in 2019

After a number of high-profile blasphemy cases and international criticism, the “blasphemy” law was abolished in 2019.

Article 198 of the Greek Penal Code stated that “1. One who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes God shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years; 2. Anyone, except as described in par.1, who displays publicly with blasphemy a lack of respect for things divine, is punished with up to 3 months in prison.”

Article 199 declared similar provisions against anyone who “blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church or any other religion tolerable in Greece”, imprisonable for up to two years.

The ‘blasphemy’ law had been actively used to persecute individuals and groups for portraying, mocking or insulting the Orthodox religion in the form of art or on social media outlets (see “Highlighted cases”, below).

Human rights groups including the Humanist Union of Greece campaigned for the abolition of the ‘blasphemy’ law and it was removed from the constitution on 1 July 2019 as part of a package of measures to clean up the criminal code.
<end-blasphemy-laws.org/2019/06/greece-quietly-drops-blasphemy-laws-new-criminal-code/>

Highlighted cases

9 June 2012, three actors in the play “Corpus Christi” were arrested on the charge of blasphemy following a lawsuit filed by Greek Orthodox Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus. Then, in November, the Athens public prosecutor charged the organizers, producers and cast of the play with blasphemy. If convicted, they could face several months in prison. According to newspaper reports, Bishop Seraphim was accompanied to court by members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
<csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/1002/Blasphemy-in-democracy-s-birthplace-Greece-arrests-Facebook-user>

In late September, 2012, a man was arrested in Evia, Greece, on charges of posting “malicious blasphemy and religious insult on the known social networking site, Facebook”. The accused, 27-year-old Phillipos Loizos, had created a Facebook page for “Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian”, playing on a combination of Elder Paisios, the late Greek-Orthodox monk revered as a prophet by some, and the Greek food pastitsio, a baked pasta dish made of ground beef and béchamel sauce. “Pastafarian” refers to the spoof religion of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, itself an intentional pun on aspects of Creationism. A manipulated image on the Facebook page depicted Elder Pastitsios with a pastitsio where the monk’s face would normally appear. Despite efforts from anti-blasphemy campaigners to abolish the law, Loizos faced the appeals court in 2017 and his sentence was only repealed due to being treated as a long-standing crime of misdemeanour.
<greece.greekreporter.com/2012/11/16/greece-prosecutes-corpus-christi-for-blasphemy/>
<end-blasphemy-laws.org/countries/europe/greece/>

On March 14th, 2013, Greek artist Dionysis Kavalieratos was tried in court on blasphemy charges for three of his Christian-themed cartoons that were displayed in a private Athens art gallery. The gallery owner was a co-defendant. He was acquitted
<onthewaytoithaca.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/greek-artist-acquitted-of-blasphemy-charges/>