Να αρθεί η παραβίαση δικαιωμάτων των ΑμεΑ σε ισότιμη συμμετοχή στις εκλογές!

Το Ελληνικό Παρατηρητήριο των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι (ΕΠΣΕ) καταγγέλλει πως η εγκύκλιος του Υπουργείου Εσωτερικών “Διευκολύνσεις για την άσκηση του εκλογικού δικαιώματος από πολίτες με αναπηρία στις αυτοδιοικητικές εκλογές της 26ης Μαΐου 2019 και τις επαναληπτικές τους, καθώς και τις εκλογές για την ανάδειξη των μελών του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου της 26ης Μαΐου 2019” που δημοσιεύθηκε στις 12 Απριλίου 2019 δεν είναι συμβατή με τη Σύμβαση του ΟΗΕ για τα Δικαιώματα των Ατόμων με Αναπηρία και Προαιρετικό Πρωτόκολλο την οποία η Ελλάδα κύρωσε το 2012 και υποτίθεται πως εφαρμόζει πλήρως από το 2017 και η οποία προβλέπει:

Άρθρο 29 Συμμετοχή στην πολιτική και δημόσια ζωή

Τα Συμβαλλόμενα Κράτη εγγυώνται στα άτομα με αναπηρίες πολιτικά δικαιώματα και την ευκαιρία να τα απολαμβάνουν, σε ίση βάση με τους άλλους, και αναλαμβάνουν:

α. Να διασφαλίζουν ότι τα άτομα με αναπηρίες μπορούν να συμμετέχουν, αποτελεσματικά και πλήρως, στην πολιτική και δημόσια ζωή, σε ίση βάση με τους άλλους, άμεσα ή μέσω ελεύθερα εκλεγμένων αντιπροσώπων τους, συμπεριλαμβανομένου και του δικαιώματος και της ευκαιρίας, για τα άτομα με αναπηρίες, να ψηφίζουν και να εκλέγονται, μεταξύ άλλων:

i. Διασφαλίζοντας ότι οι διαδικασίες ψηφοφορίας, οι εγκαταστάσεις και τα υλικά είναι κατάλληλες, προσβάσιμες και εύκολες στην κατανόηση και χρήση,

ii. Προστατεύοντας το δικαίωμα των ατόμων με αναπηρίες να ψηφίζουν με μυστική ψηφοφορία σε εκλογές και δημόσια δημοψηφίσματα, χωρίς εκφοβισμό, και να θέτουν υποψηφιότητα στις εκλογές, να κατέχουν αποτελεσματικά αξιώματα και να ασκούν όλα τα δημόσια λειτουργήματα, σε όλα τα επίπεδα της κυβέρνησης, διευκολύνοντας τη χρήση των υποβοηθητικών και νέων τεχνολογιών, όπου αυτό απαιτείται,

iii. Εγγυώμενα την ελεύθερη έκφραση της βούλησης των ατόμων με αναπηρίες, ως ψηφοφόρων και, για το σκοπό αυτό, όπου είναι απαραίτητο, μετά από αίτημά τους, να επιτρέπουν τη βοήθεια κατά την ψηφοφορία, από ένα πρόσωπο της επιλογής τους.

Το βασικό δικαίωμα που προβλέπεται από τη Σύμβαση και δεν προβλέπεται από την εγκύκλιο είναι η βοήθεια κατά την ψηφοφορία από πρόσωπο επιλογής του ΑμεΑ κρίσιμη ιδιαίτερα για τα άτομα με προβλήματα όρασης. Η εγκύκλιος δεν προβλέπει τίποτα συγκεκριμένο για αυτά αλλά η πρακτική είναι να προσφέρουν βοήθεια δικαστικοί αντιπρόσωποι γεγονός που παραβιάζει τη μυστικότητα της ψήφου και δεν κατοχυρώνουν με τίποτε την έκφραση της πραγματικής βούλησης αυτών των ψηφοφόρων.

Αλλά και η πρόβλεψη να παραδίδει το ΑμεΑ φάκελο με το ψηφοδέλτιο της επιλογής του στο δικαστικό αντιπρόσωπο για να το βάλει ο τελευταίος στην κάλπη του μη προσβάσιμου εκλογικού τμήματος, αντί να υπάρχουν προσβάσιμα εκλογικά τμήματα παραβιάζει τόσο τη μυστικότητα όσο και την ελεύθερη βούληση των ψηφοφόρων.

Τέλος, δεν υπάρχει καμιά πρόνοια για την άσκηση του δικαιώματος ψήφου των ατόμων που δεν διαθέτουν δικαιοπρακτική ικανότητα που ενδεχόμενα απαιτεί και νομοθετική ρύθμιση.

Το ΕΠΣΕ ανέφερε όλα αυτά τα προβλήματα σε ειδική αντιπροσωπεία του ΟΑΣΕ που επισκέφθηκε την Ελλάδα την περασμένη εβδομάδα για να εξετάσει τι είδους παρεμβάσεις θα χρειαστεί να κάνει.

Καλούνται οι αρμόδιες αρχές και κυρίως ο Υπουργός Επικρατείας Χριστόφορος Βερναρδάκης υπεύθυνος του Συντονιστικού Μηχανισμού για την Αναπηρία, η Γενική Γραμματέας Ανθρώπινων Δικαιωμάτων Μαρία Γιαννακάκη ως Κεντρικό Σημείο Αναφοράς για θέματα σχετιζόμενα με την εφαρμογή της Σύμβασης των Ηνωμένων Εθνών για τα Δικαιώματα των Ατόμων με Αναπηρίες και ο Συνήγορος του Πολίτη ως Πλαίσιο για την προαγωγή εφαρμογής της Σύμβασης να παρέμβουν αμέσως για να αλλάξει η εγκύκλιος ώστε να γίνει συμβατή με τη Σύμβαση την εφαρμογή της οποίας στην Ελλάδα άλλωστε εξετάζει φέτος η αρμόδια Επιτροπή του ΟΗΕ για τα Δικαιώματα των Ατόμων με Αναπηρίες.

Επίσης, καλούνται η Εισαγγελία Αρείου Πάγου και ο Άρειος Πάγος που έχουν την τελική ευθύνη για τη νομιμότητα των εκλογών να παρέμβουν με τον πιο αποτελεσματικό τρόπο ώστε να εξασφαλιστεί πως οι πολλαπλές εκλογικές διαδικασίες του 2019 στην Ελλάδα να είναι για πρώτη φορά συμβατές με τη Σύμβαση των Ηνωμένων Εθνών για τα Δικαιώματα των Ατόμων με Αναπηρίες.

Χρήσιμοι γενικοί οδηγοί είναι το Handbook on Observing and Promoting the Electoral Participation of Persons with Disabilities του ΟΑΣΕ και ο οδηγός για Το δικαίωμα πολιτικής συμμετοχής των ατόμων με αναπηρία του Οργανισμού Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης (FRA).

Υπενθυμίζεται τέλος πως ήδη από το 2012 ο ΟΑΣΕ είχε ζητήσει από την Ελλάδα, η οποία φυσικά αγνόησε τη σύσταση αυτή:

Υπό το πρίσμα της πρόσφατης κύρωσης της Σύμβασης των Ηνωμένων Εθνών για τα Δικαιώματα των Ατόμων με Αναπηρίες από την Ελλάδα και προκειμένου να διασφαλιστεί το απόρρητο της ψηφοφορίας, θα πρέπει να εισαχθούν τροποποιήσεις στην ισχύουσα νομοθεσία ώστε να επιβάλλεται η πρόσβαση των εκλογέων με αναπηρίες στα εκλογικά τμήματα και να επιτρέπεται σε αυτούς τους ψηφοφόρους να επιλέγουν παρόχους βοήθειας της επιλογής τους.

 

UN: Greece at the lowest end in gender equality among EU countries

End of mission statement by the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice to its visit to Greece

Athens, 12 April 2019

During its official visit to Greece from 1 to 12 April 2019, the expert delegation, comprised of Elizabeth Broderick and Alda Facio, held meetings in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Lesvos. We also visited a school, a prison and a migrant and refugee camp. The experts shared their preliminary observations in the following statement:

We would like to extend our deep appreciation to the Government of Greece for inviting us to undertake this official visit and for its cooperation during the visit. We would also like to thank all our interlocutors: Government representatives, public officials, civil society organizations, school teachers, prison staff, camp management, individuals, and UN officials for their engagement and valuable insights.  In particular, we wish to thank those women prisoners and migrant and refugee women who shared their stories.

Context: A time of transition and opportunity 

The prolonged period of austerity measures of the past years has impacted profoundly on every aspect of people’s lives in Greece.  Some 600,000 people, mostly young and educated, have emigrated and this, coupled with a low birthrate, has resulted in Greece losing 3% of its population between 2011 and 2016.  The arrival of unprecedented numbers of migrants and refugees since 2015, has added to the stress already imposed on the limited human and material resources.  We recognise that the challenges are many.

Due to deep-rooted stereotypes about the role of women in the family and in society, the austerity measures have disproportionately impacted on women. According to the Gender Equality Index among European Union (EU) countries, Greece is at the lowest end.

Our visit took place at a moment of optimism as the country emerges from this period and embarks on a new path of economic recovery.  We believe Greece now has a unique opportunity to simultaneously drive progress on gender equality and women’s human rights and strengthen its economy. The full and equal participation of women in the country’s recovery is essential and must be a priority. As we heard during our visit, “Gender equality is not a luxury for better times”.

These preliminary observations do not cover all issues of gender inequality but rather focus on the key issues drawn to our attention by the interlocutors we met during the visit.

Legal and institutional frameworks are in place, but a greater focus on implementation and monitoring is needed, along with adequate resourcing

Legal frameworks

Greece has ratified nearly all the core international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol enabling individual complaints. It has still not ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families. Greece took the important step in June 2018 to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), the first legally-binding instrument providing a comprehensive prevention, protection, prosecution and support framework to combating gender-based violence against women.

Greece has strong constitutional guarantees for equality between men and women and the right to equal pay for work of equal value. The Constitution requires the State to undertake positive measures to promote gender equality, including through affirmative actions. Marriage, family, motherhood and childhood are explicitly protected by the Constitution.

Further, an equal treatment legislative framework covering a range of areas has been established transposing and implementing EU Directives. We welcome the adoption on 26 March 2019 of the new Law No. 4604/2019 on the “Enhancement of Substantive Gender Equality, Prevention and Combating of Gender Based Violence”. While the text is not yet available in English for full review, on the basis of discussions with relevant stakeholders, we welcome a comprehensive legal framework on substantive gender equality which goes beyond the concept of equal treatment to focus on equality of outcomes across all spheres of women’s lives.  We are pleased the framework focusses on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation and gender identities. Addressing gender-based violence and mainstreaming gender across the public administration through the establishment of equality bodies at the regional and local levels are integral parts of the law. Importantly, the law also includes combatting gender stereotypes in the education system and in the media. There is also a provision for a quota of 40% of candidates from each political party running for elections, which represents an increase from the current 33% quota.

Although a comprehensive legal framework for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights is in place, implementation lags behind.  This was pointed out by many of our interlocutors throughout the visit with one commenting “Our legislative framework is good, but when it comes to the application of the law we face serious challenges due to the obstacles of the old mindset and the old practices”. The lack of available data and strong monitoring capacity is also a key challenge that impedes progress.

Institutional mechanisms

The General Secretariat of Gender Equality (GSGE), located within the Ministry of Interior, is a governmental body dedicated to gender equality with a broad mandate of designing, implementing and monitoring the implementation of gender equality policies in all areas.  It runs an observatory on gender equality issues, providing a publicly available online platform which tracks and analyzes statistical data from different sources on a broad range of policy areas. The observatory is a useful tool for identifying progress or regression, thus providing a basis for advocacy and policy making. A challenge for the GSGE is its inadequate human and financial resources which limits its influence and capacity to achieve its full potential.

There is no dedicated independent national institution for monitoring and eliminating discrimination against women. Gender equality is included in the mandate of the Ombudsman’s Office, a national body with a dedicated department for equal treatment which includes gender equality, among several other grounds. The Ombudsman’s Office monitors discrimination mostly in the field of employment in both the public and the private sectors. Complaints on gender-based discrimination have increased from 40% in 2017 to 57% in 20181 and represent by far the largest number of all complaints handled by the Ombudsmen. There is limited jurisprudence on discrimination against women.  We believe that the Ombudsman should be able to seek leave to act as amicus curiae before the court on discrimination cases to provide expert opinion. We are pleased to learn that the Ombudsman’s office is working on ways to increase its visibility and raise awareness in the general public. Further investment in outreach is essential to ensure effective access to this important complaints mechanism by the most marginalized women.

The Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR), a consultative and advisory body to the State, is an important independent voice on human rights, with ‘A-list’ accreditation.  The GNCHR does not have a dedicated focus on monitoring and eliminating discrimination against women embedded in its structure but addresses the issue in a crosscutting manner in different areas of its work. As an independent national human rights institution, GNCHR has a critical role in the monitoring of women’s rights and needs to be adequately resourced and able to function independently and effectively.

Women’s employment outcomes continue to be disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis and austerity measures

Women’s labor force participation

Despite the adoption of Law 3896/2010 concerning equality of opportunity and treatment, the deregulation of the labor market due to the growing financial crisis and the consecutive austerity measures continue to affect women negatively in the labor market, rendering them more vulnerable to poverty. This has been recognised by several international and regional monitoring bodies2.

In recognition of the adverse impact of the austerity measures on women’s employment, the National Action Plan for Gender Equality 2016-2020 sets out a number of targeted initiatives to strengthen efforts to enhance women’s access to economic opportunities and to reduce women’s unemployment and underemployment. Increasing women’s workforce participation will require economic and social policies to build women’s equal access to the labor market and deliver improved pay and conditions at work.

Greece has always had low women’s labor force participation and one of the lowest rates of women’s employment in the EU.  One serious impact of the financial crisis and austerity measures is the high level of women’s unemployment and underemployment. In 2018, 23.7% of women in the active population were unemployed, compared to 14.7% of men. The data shows that the gender gap in unemployment has been prevalent for many years and in the period 2013 – 2018, the largest difference appeared in December 2017 (with 26% of women unemployed vs. 16.7% of men)3. This is a significantly larger gap than the EU average (0.5%)4.

There is limited data on the size of the informal labor market. It is estimated that the magnitude of undeclared work is equivalent of 24% of GDP, which puts Greece among the countries with one of the largest undeclared economies in Europe. Informal forms of work include domestic work, cleaning, care for elderly and children, tutoring for students, employment in the hospitality sector, all sectors which have a higher share of female workers. The informal sector appears to be an under-studied sector requiring further attention by the Government.

Women’s employment in the private sector

We were unable to obtain meaningful sex-disaggregated data about women’s employment and representation in the private sector.  However, discussions held during the country visit reveal that discrimination against women whilst present in the public sector is also evident in the private sector and contributes to a national mindset that women should exit paid work earlier than men. Women’s representation on the top 50 publicly listed company boards has marginally increased from 7% in 2005 to 9% in 2017.  In the same period the EU average has increased from 15% in 2005 to 26.7% 2017.  The new law on substantive gender equality encourages the development of equality plans by both the public and private sector to prevent all forms of discrimination against women and to ensure their promotion to senior roles.  However these plans are voluntary in the private sector,  with the incentive of an “equality medal” to drive progress. Our Expert Group’s research reveals that mandatory and not voluntary interventions are the most effective way to increase the number of women at decision making level5. The requirement to regularly report and publish data on women’s leadership is another effective strategy.

We heard that in recent years, the economic context has meant that women have increasingly been employed in part-time or casual employment with reduced pay, conditions and security, as well as employment in precarious work. In the private sector, the rapid growth of flexible forms of employment as well as the replacement of contracts of indefinite duration by fixed term contracts has led to a reduction in wages and created a context where women are more fearful to report workplace gender-based violence including sexual harassment.

Women’s unequal share of unpaid care and domestic work

In addition to the loss of jobs associated with the crisis, the unemployment and under-employment of women in the labor market is due in part to the unpaid care burden which falls largely on women.

A major issue of concern for gender equality is the severe reduction of state provided care services for children and dependent persons (aged and disability care). This intensifies women’s unpaid care work, limiting their ability to take up even low-paid forms of employment, so they can better balance their caring responsibilities. At the same time, rigid stereotypes perpetuate the idea that caring is largely if not exclusively the domain of women. In Greece, 85% of women do cooking and housework every day for at least 1 hour, compared to only 16% of men. Greece has very low rates of childcare compared with other European countries6.  Men’s time caring for children and grandchildren in Greece is amongst the lowest in the EU.

Childcare is costly in Greece, with 61% of households giving “economic difficulty” as a reason for not using childcare7. School timetables do not correspond to normal working hours, which necessitates parents working less or relying on family members, usually women, to provide care. The Government is partially addressing these concerns though a “Harmonisation of Family and Work Life” funding programme. Additional policy measures and the better implementation of current measures are necessary to encourage higher rates of childcare and pre-school education. This will support parents, particularly women, to better balance paid work and care.

Prioritizing investments in social protection and public services is critical for ensuring that women benefit equally from the economic recovery. This includes investments in accessible, affordable and high-quality child-care, aged and disability care services to reduce the unpaid care workload for women and enable their economic participation. Further, resources are urgently needed to close the gaps in the social protection system, particularly those benefits that lift women and their families out of poverty. A key priority also is the introduction of measures to support more equal sharing of caring responsibilities between women and men, helped by increasing the entitlement of paid leave specifically for fathers which is low by EU and OECD standards.  This will require shifting the stereotype that caring is the domain of women.

Maternity protection

Women’s access to the labor market is also hampered by the lack of protection provided to employees who have been absent from work due to maternity or parental leave. As documented by the Greek Ombudsman, access to maternity leave is not uniform but rather differs based on employment status and employment sector, public and private.  Women who return to work following maternity leave, are legally entitled to return to the same job or an equivalent one, with no less favorable working terms and conditions, while benefitting from any improvement of their working conditions that they would have been entitled to, during their absence. However, in practice, a serious deficiency is observed in the application of the law for these matters, particularly in relation to women in high-rank positions8. Some working women face strict restrictions including the refusal to count the maternity leave period in the total length of service, negatively impacting their career development. In some cases, women are totally excluded from exercising their rights relating to maternity, wrongful dismissals from employment and changes in work terms, such as reduced hours, imposed by employers due to pregnancy and caring responsibilities. There are also gaps in regard to maternity protections for self-employed persons.

One of our interlocutors told us:

“Three times in job interviews I was told you’re a woman, you’re going to get pregnant, this will bring us a difficult situation so we cannot hire you”.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited under Greek law but there is no national data collected about its prevalence.  There is complaints data from the independent Ombudsman but it is likely that the number of incidents of sexual harassment that occur is much higher than those reported. Individuals are fearful to report such behaviour because they fear reprisals, stigmatization, losing their jobs or facing judicial counter measures9. We were told:

“Due to the financial crisis, acceptance of sexual harassment has increased.  The women need to keep their jobs”.

Stronger regulatory measures and accountability mechanisms in the public and private sector will be critical to progress change. The administration of a national survey to measure the prevalence of sexual harassment and discrimination related to pregnancy and return to work from parental leave is also recommended.

Education and the media hold potential to shift gender stereotypes

Education

We are pleased to note the high level of educational attainment for girls at all levels, with 53.2% of those finishing secondary education being women and 52.7% of graduates from university female (GSGE). Women dominate in the arts and humanities, and health-related subjects, and are also in the majority in business and law subjects. They are the minority however in science and engineering-related subjects, signaling that more attention is needed in these areas.

Women’s achievement in education does not translate into their progression in the economic sphere or ensure their career advancement. Even in educational institutions women hold a lower percentage of senior leadership roles.  For example, whilst women make up two thirds of educational personnel in public high schools, they hold only 40% of director level positions, although this is improving over time.

In addition to enabling women and girls to achieve their potential, education can be a key site to shift rigid gender norms and stereotypes. Education on gender equality and gender norms starts in the family, continues at school, in the workplace and through society at large.  Many interlocutors considered that an increased focus on gender equality in education was a significant preventative measure to address the deeply held gender stereotypes that were inhibiting the ability of women to enjoy their rights fully.

In relation to gender equality education in the school curriculum, whilst we were pleased to learn from the Ministry for Education that there are three streams of gender equality, sexual orientation and gender identity content within the school curriculum, other interlocutors described the content as limited and on occasions piecemeal. Firstly, gender equality content is included in the “democratic citizenship” subjects which are mainstreamed throughout the school curriculum; secondly, there is a small amount of gender equality content built into religious instruction which involves asking students to reflect on the place of women in religion and finally gender equality and gender identity is included as one subject choice for the thematic week conducted in every school once a year.  However, in the thematic week gender equality is one choice among many and whilst there is no data, we were told it is a theme that is not often selected. Additionally there appears to be a gap in the teaching of comprehensive sexuality education.

When we asked about the effectiveness of school-based education to combat gender based stereotypes we heard “gender equality education is sporadic, is not consistent, not developed and not really part of young people’s lives”.  Given this prevailing narrative we believe it would be valuable for the government to evaluate the effectiveness of the current curriculum with a view to strengthening it so it is delivered in a systematized manner.

Promising practices observed in other countries include a ‘whole school approach’ where gender equality is embedded into the main curriculum throughout all subjects.  Gender equality is prioritized as a core value of the educational institution and guidance is provided to teachers on the mandatory teaching of gender equality issues. The objectives of the course work are to present a realistic picture of the status of women and men in society; demonstrate that gender stereotypes are damaging for everyone; help children critically analyse cultural gender constructs; foster positive norms of respectful and equal relationships; and importantly, raise awareness and encourage action on women’s rights. Gender equality education as part of human rights education, is indispensable for shifting problematic gender stereotypes which hold back both women and men and also for addressing the problem of gender-based violence, including harassment and sexual harassment.

Media

In 2016, the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information entered into a memorandum of cooperation with the GSGE to identify and eliminate gender stereotypes in the media. Research identified that some 31% of 1,500 print articles reviewed, reproduced gender stereotypes.  In only 9.5% of these articles are women presented as experts. Recognizing this problem, the new law on substantive gender equality requires the mass media (print, electronic and advertising) to promote gender equality by not reinforcing adverse gender stereotypes.  This requirement is implemented through the codes of conduct and self-regulation mechanisms for public communication entities, and data will be collected by the GSGE.  We welcome this positive development given the prevalence of gender stereotyping in the media and the influential role of the media.  The National Radio and Television Council plays an important role in issuing guidelines and monitoring compliance. To be truly effective, the Council should undertake proactive measures and be adequately resourced.

Women remain under-represented in political and public life

Political and Public Life

Women’s participation in the political life of the country lags behind at every level – national, regional, local and European. Although there has been gradual progress over the years, change has been too slow.

At the national level, since the first women entered the Hellenic Parliament in 1952 when women in Greece obtained the right to vote and to stand for elections, women’s representation has increased gradually over the past decades but remains very low. Currently, with 18.7% women parliamentarians, Greece ranks 112 out of 191 globally and stands towards the bottom of all EU countries10. The current Government Cabinet has 13 women (5 ministers, 1 deputy minister, and 7 vice ministers) out of a total of 52 members, which amounts to 25% of the cabinet11.  The rate of women ministers is even lower at 21% (5 out of 24 ministers).

At the regional level, two out of 13 regional governors are women (15.4%), which is an improvement from the 0% in 2010. The representation of women in the regional councils at 19.5% is somewhat better. At the municipal level, merely 4.9% of the majors are women and the municipal councils have 18.1% women12.

There has been regression in Greek women’s representation in the European Parliament from 32% in 2009 to 28% in 2014, despite the introduction of the one-third quota system.

Women are well represented in the justice sector generally. In 2011, the first woman president was appointed to the Supreme Court. There has been a consistent increase of women judges in the Supreme Court from 2% in 2004 to 31% in 2014.

In public administration women are generally well represented including at senior levels. Some areas of the public service remain male dominated. The Foreign Service now has 34.3% female diplomats although the number of women has been increasing over the last decade.  At the level of heads of missions and heads of directorates in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the rate is lower, at 27.5% and 30.6% respectively.

The picture of women’s participation in the country’s political and public life calls for further actions, including reviewing the effectiveness of the quota system in the context of the current electoral system (focused on candidate selection rather than elected representatives). Additional measures should be adopted to encourage and support women to run for public office and support women candidates to have a better chance of success.

Non-Government Organisations and the Women’s Movement

We met with members of civil society who are actively engaged in working on issues relevant to women’s rights. Many of them work on the frontline assisting the needs of migrant and refugee women. These individuals and organizations have played an important role in the country’s response to the flow of migrants and refugees. Most are project based and face sustainability challenges. They have developed valuable experience and expertise and should continue to play a role in the current efforts of integration of refugees in the Greek society including through the implementation of the recently developed national integration strategy.

Non-governmental organizations working on broad issues of women’s rights and gender equality rely on committed volunteers and are in need of support and sustainable funding to play a transformative role in society for women’s empowerment and gender equality. They should be able to benefit from public funding aimed at strengthening civil society through a transparent and efficient process. Strategic collaboration and solidarity among women’s organizations will be essential in energizing the women’s movement for equality.

More measures to combat gender-based violence are needed

According to data collated by the EIGE, around 1 in 4 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner at least once since the age of 15. Further, 5.8% of women reported physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in the last 12 months. 21 % of women who had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by any perpetrator in the past 12 months had not told anyone (8 percentage points higher than the EU average of 13 %)13. 

Responding to gender-based violence against women

We commend Greece for complying with the Istanbul Convention by including the prevention, prosecution and elimination of gender-based violence in law 4604/2019 and for amending Law No 3500/2006 on domestic violence to expand the scope of its application to cover members of the extended family (such as life partners and their children) and allowing injunctive orders to be issued against the perpetrator.

We are very concerned about the current proposed amendments to provisions in the Greek Criminal Code relating to rape.  They appear to be inconsistent with international legal obligations under the Istanbul Convention as they fail to introduce a consent-based definition and restrict further the circumstances in which the crime of rape can be established. We urge the government to ensure that the amended Criminal Code incorporates a consent-based definition of rape and are encouraged by reassurances from government interlocutors that the government will abide by its obligations under international law. We believe that the proposed reform of the Criminal Code provides an opportunity to have a wider social conversation on the stigma and stereotypes that surround sexual violence in general and rape in particular.

We were informed by government interlocutors that whilst mediation may not be mandatory under Greek law, it is routinely suggested to women victims of domestic and family violence. This is contrary to the Istanbul Convention which explicitly states that mandatory mediation should be prohibited.  The prevailing social norms in Greece related to the importance of the family unit and preservation of family unity, can present a significant barrier for women who wish to leave abusive relationships.

We are also concerned about the lack of gender disaggregated data in relation to crimes which would enable the tracking of femicide and domestic violence as mandated by the Istanbul Convention and General Recommendation 35 of the CEDAW Committee. Sex-disaggregated data on all forms of gender-based violence against women is essential to understanding its prevalence and tailoring response and prevention efforts.

Although we acknowledge that the constrained financial situation in Greece makes it more difficult to ensure a high level of services for victims of violence against women, we are concerned that there is uneven coordination of support services for victims of different forms of gender-based violence as well as programmes for perpetrators. There are currently 21 shelters for victims of gender-based violence across the country.  Demand on shelters has increased dramatically with the flow of migrant and refugee women.  There are insufficient shelters and emergency accommodation and inconsistent coordination of the different services.

We welcome specific training for judges, prosecutors, police officers, health-service providers, journalists and teaching staff to increase awareness of all forms of violence against women and girls and, to ensure these actors are able to provide adequate gender-sensitive support to victims. We welcome the recent decision by the Police to establish dedicated domestic violence units with a view to enhancing their capacity to address gender-based violence sensitively and effectively.  We recommend that these units be established throughout the country as quickly as possible.

Preventing gender-based violence against women

As part of Greece’s efforts to prevent gender-based violence against women, we welcome efforts by the Prosecutor´s office, the GSGE and other state entities, to raise public awareness through the media and educational programmes. However, a more strategic approach to prevention is needed, including targeted and long-term education and awareness-raising on the causes and consequences of gender-based violence, particularly in rural areas.  Prevention efforts must also consider the diversity of women in Greece and their specific needs, especially those facing intersectional forms of discrimination or those in more vulnerable situations, such as minority, migrant and refugee women, women with disabilities, as well as older women and lesbian, transgender and intersex women.

Marginalized groups of women experience greater vulnerability and exclusion 

Migrant and refugee women

The Government, local authorities and people in Greece, as a first line reception country, have faced the challenge of receiving unprecedented numbers of migrants and refugees since 2015. New arrivals are still occurring daily. This has placed additional pressures on government resources, services and infrastructures. In close coordination with UNHCR, other international organisations and with support from civil society institutions, the Government has committed to upholding the principle of universal human rights such as access to education for all children and universal medical care to all including undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, and protection against GBV against women. However, in practice there are serious challenges and gaps.

We spoke with women migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Athens, Thessaloniki and Lesvos and visited women’s centres run by NGOs and Moria camp in Lesvos. We were struck by their stories of resilience and strength and their hope for a better future. We were impressed with the work of civil society organisations including those which provide space and support for women and their children. These organisations enable women to build confidence, empowerment and agency and we were fortunate to see this first hand at the Melissa centre in Athens and the Bashira centre in Lesvos.

There are a number of positive developments to support refugee women including the 2018 law 45/31 giving “undocumented persons” the right to report GBV without fear of deportation. Despite the law, survivors of GBV continue to lack access to support and safety. In some instances, women are unable to report their cases because of the lack of trained staff at police stations or their unwillingness to take the case considering it a “family matter”. The lack of interpretation at hospitals was systematically reported to us as a key concern directly affecting the ability of women to receive the medical care they need.

We learned that the overwhelming majority of the women in Moria Camp are considered vulnerable, from multiple points of view. Many have been victims of human rights violations in their countries and endured further suffering on their journeys including in the hands of human traffickers and smugglers. Many stakeholders pointed out that the current migration policy of containment of asylum seekers in camps exacerbates women’s vulnerability, as they have no options other than living in the difficult conditions in the camps while waiting for the processing of their asylum applications. We are pleased to learn that the authorities have revised the protocol guidelines for the transfer of vulnerable women.

In Moria camp, we witnessed women’s vulnerable situation, despite the efforts employed by the authorities to provide separate spaces for single women with and without kids. Women we met told us that they do not feel safe and experience harassment, especially during nights and when accessing toilets in common spaces.

We learned of concerns about the poor health conditions of some women in the camp and the difficulty accessing medical care. When it comes to exposure to GBV including domestic violence, within the confines of the camp, the available solutions are not working in practice, often breaching the requirement of confidentiality and making the victim an easily identifiable target to all including the perpetrator. There is limited availability to the shelter, a lack of awareness by police of the need for a gender sensitive response, and a need for more female police. Interpretation capacity at hospitals and police stations needs to be increased.

Women’s health and safety conditions should be regularly monitored and reviewed. Refugee women should be involved in decision making on matters affecting their lives in the camp and must be treated with dignity and respect.  The migrant and refugee women with whom we spoke, expressed a strong desire to have educational opportunities for themselves and their children. They want to become a positive asset to enrich and contribute to the economy and cultural development of the country.

Satisfactory system wide solutions for women refugees can only be found with the improvement of overall institutional procedures, processes and culture.  The reliance on the good will of individuals is insufficient.  A systemic response which holds institutions accountable is what is required.  External donors including the EU should ensure that their support addresses the needs of women migrants and refugees.

Roma women

Despite efforts by the Government to improve outcomes for Roma women and girls including through the 2012-2020 National Strategy for the Social Inclusion of Roma, high levels of discrimination, exclusion and stereotypes persist.

Roma women encounter serious obstacles in gaining access to basic social services, such as housing, employment, education and health care, including the persistence of instances of educational barriers and poor living conditions. They reportedly continue to be disproportionately subjected to arbitrary arrests by the police and other law enforcement officialsRoma women make up one third of the detained female population in Greece despite making up a very small percentage of the Greek population.

Roma women have very limited access to employment and economic opportunities, due to early marriage and high rates of school drop-out for Roma girls.  During our visit we were inspired by individual school principals who were working with families to support Roma girls to stay in school.

We met with Roma women who shared with us their stories and concerns. “We have a lot of problems but there are no ears that can listen to us, can hear us. We have been trying for years to live better lives.”

The lack of statistical data on the enjoyment of human rights by Roma people including women is concerning. In 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that Greece diversify its data collection activities, on the basis of anonymity and self-identification of persons and groups, to provide an adequate empirical basis for policies to enhance the equal enjoyment by all of the rights enshrined in the Convention. The Committee noted that reliable, detailed socioeconomic information is necessary for the monitoring and evaluation of policies in favour of minorities and for assessing the implementation of the Convention.  We reiterate this recommendation.

We welcome positive steps taken by the Greek authorities in recent years to improve the situation of Roma women, including the creation of the Special Secretariat for the Inclusion of Roma. A focus on implementation and monitoring will be critical to ensure it delivers on its objectives.

Women in prison

We visited the largest women’s prison in Greece and were pleased by efforts to uphold women’s human rights in detention including through the provision of primary, secondary and higher education and rehabilitation programmes. Childcare is available at the prison, and children can stay with their mothers until the age of 3 years.  In certain circumstances, women with children under the age of 8 years are entitled to alternative forms of detention. However, some inmates we spoke to shared concerns regarding the judicial system and barriers to accessing justice.

Conclusion

Our visit to Greece has revealed a number of key challenges but also, as the State transitions, immense opportunities.

There is a comprehensive legal and policy framework in place but it requires much stronger implementation.  The persistence of discriminatory norms and stereotypes and the lingering impacts of the crisis and austerity measures, means that women in Greece are lagging behind their counterparts in the EU on women’s rights. The situation for marginalized groups of women, such as migrant and Roma women, is even worse.

Greece now has a significant opportunity to ensure that women’s right to equality in all spheres of life is central to the country’s economic and social renewal.

To harness this opportunity, the General Secretariat of Gender Equality will need to play a pivotal and transformative role under the new law 4604/2019 on Substantive Gender Equality ensuring its position as a significantly strengthened centrally placed governmental body on gender equality.

Our conclusions and recommendations will be more fully developed in a report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2020.

Notes:

1. Provided at the meeting during the visit

2. Greece: progress in combating racism, but concerns remain about the impact of austerity (visit to greece) (2016)

3. General Secretariat for Gender Equality “Women’s Unemployment”, Table 3 Unemployment rates by gender 2013-2018.

4. EIGE database EU – 28 for 2017

5. A/HRC/26/39

6. General Secretariat on Gender Equality, Love as Labor, pg 4, Figure 2

7. General Secretariat on Gender Equality, Love as Labor, pg 6, Table 3

8. Equal Treatment, Special Report 2017, Greek Ombudsman’s report pg 30

9. Equal Treatment, Special Report 2017, Greek Ombudsman’s report, pg 36

10. IPU figures as of January 2019.

11. https://eurogender.eige.europa.eu/posts/gender-aspect-greek-government-after-reshuffle-28-8-2018

12. http://old.isotita.gr/var/uploads/ANNOUNCEMENTS/2016/Paratiritirio_Second%20report_eng.pdf

13. 2012 data, EU average is 4.2%


Greece must put gender equality at the heart of economic and social recovery, say UN independent experts

GENEVA / ATHENS (12 April 2019) – Greece has a unique opportunity to simultaneously strengthen its economy and drive progress on women’s human rights by prioritising gender equality in its social and economic recovery, says a group of UN independent experts.

“Greece has established a strong legal and institutional framework for advancing gender equality. We welcome all measures to boost women’s participation in political, social and economic life,” said the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice, presenting a statement after visiting the country.

“The country is now at a critical point of transition after an unprecedented and prolonged period of austerity measures, which have impacted profoundly on every aspect of people’s lives. The loss of jobs and rise in precarious work because of the financial crisis continue to disproportionately affect women, rendering them more vulnerable to poverty.

“As people in Greece highlighted to us, gender equality is a human right. It is not a luxury for better times. It must be placed at the heart of the country’s economic and social recovery.”

The experts said Greece was lagging behind other countries in the European Union on women’s rights despite legal and policy frameworks being in place, because of poor implementation, the persistence of discrimination and the lingering impacts of the crisis and austerity measures.

“Currently, Greece has one of the lowest rates of women’s employment in the European Union and is the lowest ranking country in the Gender Equality Index for EU countries. The situation for marginalised groups, such as migrant and Roma women, is even worse,” the experts said.

The experts also noted that the law in relation to maternity protection was not being implemented uniformly, and expressed concern about ongoing discrimination based on pregnancy and family responsibilities, as well as the persistence of a gender pay gap and the absence of women in leadership roles.

“We have also observed challenges in providing adequate support to women who have suffered violence, and are particularly concerned about the recent retrogressive proposal to amend the Criminal Code concerning the definition of rape,” they said.

“A concerted effort is now needed for implementation, monitoring and accountability of measures to address the issues, as well as the allocation of adequate resources for social protection and other services, particularly steps aimed at reducing women’s unpaid care workload and in efforts to prevent gender-based violence.

“Efforts to change current social norms and gender stereotypes through the education system and the media are also critical. Without strong intervention, the opportunity to accelerate the economic recovery through women’s equal participation in the social and economic recovery of Greece will not be realised.”

The experts called for Greece to prioritise the strengthening of its institutional mechanisms such as the General Secretariat for Gender Equality to support the new substantive gender equality law, the Gender Equality National Action Plan and the Ombudsman. They also proposed the use of targets and data collection.

The experts added: “We commend the government for its commitment to upholding the human rights of the unprecedented number of migrants and refugees who have arrived since 2015. However, we are concerned about the serious challenges and gaps in practice. We witnessed the particular vulnerability of women and were concerned about their safety and access to health services. ”

The Working Group delegation visited Athens, Thessaloniki and Lesvos and met national and local Government officials, as well as representatives of State institutions and civil society organisations and individuals. They also visited a school, a prison and a camp for migrants and refugees.

The experts will submit their full report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020. Their findings will inform national and international efforts to advance gender equality and the protection of human rights for women and girls across the world.

ENDS

The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice was created by the Human Rights Council in 2011 to identify, promote and exchange views, in consultation with States and other actors, on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The Group is also tasked with developing a dialogue with States and other actors on laws that have a discriminatory impact where women are concerned.

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts: Ms Ivana Radačić (Croatia) Chairperson; Ms Alda Facio (Costa Rica), Ms Elizabeth Broderick (Australia); Ms Meskerem Geset Techane (Ethiopia) and Ms Melissa Upreti (Nepal).

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 1979.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Greece

 



For the Greek version, click here.

Συνήγορος του Πολίτη για αστυνομική βία, ΑμεΑ, δικαιώματα παιδιού και ίση μεταχείριση

Στις 23 Μαρτίου 2019, ο Συνήγορος του Πολίτη δημοσιοποίησε την ετήσια έκθεσή του για το 2018

Εδώ κάνουμε ανάρτηση επιλεγμένων κεφαλαίων που αφορούν:

Δικαιώματα του παιδιού

Ίση μεταχείριση

Δικαιώματα των ατόμων με αναπηρίες

Διερεύνηση περιστατικών αυθαιρεσίας προσωπικού Σωμάτων Ασφαλείας και Καταστημάτων Κράτησης (περιλαμβάνει και την εμπλοκή του στην εκτέλεση σχετικών καταδικαστικών αποφάσεων του ΕΔΔΑ)

Υπάρχει πολύ χρήσιμο υλικό αλλά και σημαντικές αδυναμίες τις οποίες θα επισημάνουμε χωριστά. Εμφανής είναι η απουσία κεφαλαίου για εθνικές ή εθνοτικές μειονότητες, αφού σχεδόν ποτέ δεν ασχολήθηκε με τις εθνικές μειονότητες ενώ ελάχιστα ασχολείται με τους Ρομά.

OMCT: Greece: Ongoing arbitrary restriction to freedom of movement of minority rights defender Slavko Mangovski

omct

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Greece: Ongoing arbitrary restriction to freedom of movement of minority rights defender Slavko Mangovski

 CASE GRE 181116.1
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


Restrictions to freedom of movement /

Entry ban / Arbitrary detention

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Greece.

 

New information:

 

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the ongoing arbitrary restriction to freedom of movement of Mr. Slavko Mangovski, Macedonian minority activist who has been for years cooperating also with GHM.

 

According to the information received, on March 2, 2019, Mr. Mangovski was denied entry into Greece under the argument that an alert refusing entry in the country has been issued against him in the national register. Mr. Mangovski’s attempt to enter Greece followed the reception of a letter from the Greek Ombudsman, dated October 15, 2018 but received only in mid February 2019, in which the Ombudsman informed him that he was not listed into the list of undesirable third country nationals kept at the Greek Police Headquarters in Athens. The involvement of the Greek Ombudsman follows a complaint filed in May 2018 by the GHM on behalf of Mr. Mangovski as well as Ms. Trendafilka Sandeva, a lawyer with long-term cooperation with GHM on human rights issues who’s also facing an entry ban, as well as a second complaint filed by Mr. Mangovski in October 2018.

 

OMCT recalls that this is not the first attack against Mr. Slavko Mangovski (see background information) and highlights that the situation of human rights defenders and solidarity actors in Greece has been critical for years. Human rights defenders working on migrants’ and minority rights are consistently targeted for their legitimate work and face different types of attacks, including surveillance, arbitrary arrests, detentions, ill-treatment, entry bans and expulsion[1]. At the same time, several complaints related to racism and minority’s rights have not been investigated and/or have been sent to the “archive of unknown perpetrators[2]. OMCT is particularly concerned by the continued increasing of violent attacks and threats against minority rights defenders in Greece[3].

 

OMCT condemns the use of entry bans against defenders and journalists working on the rights of minorities on the ground of posing threats to national security, which appears only to be aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities. OMCT urges the Greek authorities including the Greek Ombudsman to promptly and efficiently investigate the allegations as well as to ensure a due process including by providing all relevant documents that would allegedly justify an entry ban against Mr. Mangovski and Ms. Sandeva. Finally, we urge the Greek authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift such bans and more generally to put an end to all acts of harassment against all migrants and minority rights defenders in Greece.

 

Background information:

 

On August 11, 2000, a ban preventing him from entering Greece was issued against Mr. Mangovski. Such decision was lifted two days after GHM intervened before the Greek authorities on his behalf.

 

On October 24, 2016, Mr. Mangovski was travelling from Macedonia to Greece in order to meet with Macedonian minority activists. At the Niki/Medzitlija Macedonian-Greek border crossing, he was denied entrance to Greece and informed that he was, since June 4, 2013, listed on the national registry of persons not allowed entering the Greek territory. The authorities provided him with a copy of the official document pronouncing his ban; it was the first time Mr. Mangovski learned about the existence of such ban against him, which prevented him from being able to use in a timely manner the available legal remedy to contest such measure soon after it was imposed. Moreover, he was given no explanation either about the grounds of the ban or the length of the measure.

 

The International Secretariat of OMCT is concerned that the ongoing ban could be linked to Mr. Mangovski’s participation as a speaker to the joint Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) and Association of Refugee Children from Aegean Macedonia (ARCAM) Gala Banquet on June 1, 2013, in Toronto, commemorating the 65th anniversary of the plight of the Detsa Begaltsi (Macedonian minority Children Refugees from the Greek Civil War).

 

Actions requested:

 

Please write to the authorities in Greece, urging them to:

 

  1. Guarantee the freedom of movement of Mr. Slavko Mangovski and Ms. Trandaflika Sandeva, by immediately and unconditionally lifting the prohibition to enter the country which was issued against them, as it seems to only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

 

  1. Promptly and efficiently investigate these acts of harassment against including any potential individual responsibilities within the Greek administration, as well as to ensure a due process including by providing all relevant documents that would allegedly justify an entry ban against them;

 

  • Put an end to all acts of harassment against Mr. Mangovski and Ms. Sandeva, as well as against all minority rights defenders in Greece, so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

 

  • Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially Articles 1 and 12.2; and

 

  1. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Greece.

 

 

Addresses:

 

  • Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Alexis Tsipras, Email: mail@primeminister.gr
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor George Katrougkalos, grypex@mfa.gr dgypex@mfa.gr
  • Minister of Justice Mr. Michalis Kalogirou Email: grammateia@justice.gov.gr
  • Minister for Citizens Protection of Greece, Ms. Olga Gerovasili, Email: minister@mopocp.gov.gr
  • General Secretary for Transparency and Human Rights, Ms. Maria Yannakaki, Fax: Email: ggdad@justice.gov.gr
  • Permanent Representative of Greece, Ms. Anna Korka, Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: gva@mfa.gr
  • Ambassador of Greece, H.E. Eleftheria Galathianaki, Embassy of Greece in Brussels, Belgium,  Email: bru@mfa.gr
  • Permanent Representative of Greece, H.E. Papastavrou Andreas, Permanent Representation to the European Union (EU),  Email: bruxelles@rp-greece.be

 

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Greece in your respective country.

 

***

 

Geneva-Brussels, March 6, 2019

 

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

 

 

Created in 1985, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the main coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGO) fighting against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as for the protection of human rights defenders. With more than 200 affiliated organisations in its SOS-Torture Network, OMCT aims at accompanying, reinforcing and protecting anti-torture organisations in particular in erosive environments and provides a comprehensive system of support and protection for human rights defenders around the world.

 

[1]           See OMCT’s “Written Submission to the 35th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation of minority rights defenders”, issued on February 21, 2018.

[2]           See OMCT’s Urgent appeal “Greece: Impunity regarding the attacks perpetrated in December 2016 against minority rights defenders“, issued on February 21, 2018

[3]           See the Observatory (OMCT-FIDH), Urgent Appeal on the break-in and arson attack of the Afghan Community Centre’s premises in Athens and the threats targeting the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR), GRE 001 / 0318 / OBS 036, published on March 30, 2018.

Parallel Report on Greece’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR (GHM)
Address: P.O. Box 60820, GR-15304 Glyka Nera
Tel.: (+30) 2103472259 Fax: (+30) 2106018760
e-mail: panayotedimitras@gmail.com website: https://greekhelsinki.wordpress.com


Parallel Report on Greece’s compliance
with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

11 February 2019


This report was prepared for submission to the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for the compilation of a list of issues on Greece during its 11th Pre-Sessional Working Group (8-11 April 2019). It contains comments on Greece’s Initial Report (CRPD/C/GRC/1) submitted on 1 June 2015.



Greek Helsinki Monitor
 (GHM), founded in 1993, monitors, publishes, lobbies, and litigates on human and minority rights and anti-discrimination issues in Greece and, from time to time, in the Balkans. It also monitors Greek and, when opportunity arises, Balkan media for stereotypes and hate speech. It issues press releases and prepares (usually jointly with other NGOs) detailed annual reports; parallel reports to UN Treaty Bodies; and specialized reports on ill-treatment and on ethno-national, ethno-linguistic, religious and immigrant communities, in Greece and in other Balkan countries. It operates a general web site (http://greekhelsinki.worldpress.com), a specialized website on racist crimes in Greece (https://racistcrimeswatch.wordpress.com) and a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/panayote) covering human rights issues and comprehensive and comparable presentations of minorities in the Balkan region. GHM is a member of the European Implementation Network (EIN); GHM’s Spokesperson Panayote Dimitras has been a member of EIN’s Board since 2018; GHM is a member too of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) Network and GHM’s Spokesperson Panayote Dimitras is an OMCT General Assembly member. GHM is also member of the Justicia European Rights Network, the International Detention Coalition (IDC), the International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH), the Network Against the Extreme Right, the Campaign for the access to asylumand the Greek Network for the Right to Housing. Panayote Dimitras is the correspondent of Hope not hate in Greece.

  1. Preamble

Greece mentions that its country report “was prepared in cooperation with … the National Confederation of Disabled People (ESAMEA). Yet, on the ESAMEA website, very rich in information about all ESAMEA activities, meetings, reports, etc., there is no reference to such a contribution, nor is Greece’s report available there. In fact, Greece’s report does not seem to be available on line anywhere. Moreover, unlike for all other reports to UN Treaty Bodies, the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) was not asked to comment on the draft before its submission to CRPD.

The report was prepared by the Directorate of International Relations of the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Social Solidarity, which was at the time the focal point for Greece, but on the Ministry’s website, neither is the report available, nor is there any reference to its focal point role.

Since 2017, with Law 4488/2017, the central focal point is the General Secretariat for Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice. Yet on its website there is no reference to its focal point role or to any related action it may have taken, nor is the report available. On the personal website of the General Secretary Maria Yannakaki there is only one statement on the 2017 National and International Day for Persons with Disabilities which is declaratory of its intentions. It was not repeated in 2018. Additionally, hundreds of focal points have been established: one in every Ministry (that must inter alia publish an annual report), plus all Mayors and Regional Governors themselves (no obligation for annual reports). In no Ministry website as well as in no Municipality or Region website is information about such responsibility or related action available, although occasionally some action related to the rights of persons with disabilities may be listed.

Since 2017 as well, the Coordination Mechanism is the Minister of State who appointed in June 2018 on of his assistants as Director for the Operation of the Coordination Mechanism. On the Ministry’s website one will find two broad declaratory statements from 2016 and 2017 on the implementation of the CRPD and a Statement on the 2018 National and International Day for Persons with Disabilities. There is also a webpage with actions taken through 2018. There is however a very rich and active Facebook page that informs about several related activities including new related legislation. Yet the report is not there either.

Finally, since 2017 there is also a Framework for the Promotion of the Implementation of the CRPD who is the Greek Ombudsman. This Independent Authority has mediated in several individual cases following complaints related to the rights of persons with disabilities. However, its first comprehensive annual report that is mandated to evaluate also legislation and policies is due for publication in March 2019. Also, the report is not available on its website either, as it appears to be “Greece’s best kept secret!”

It is worth mentioning that, soon after the adoption of the CRPD by Greece, then City of Athens Ombudsperson issued a legal advice on the 2013 National and International Day for Persons with Disabilities. The table of contents is indicative of everyday problems faced by people with diability: “Priority in cases of people with disabilities pending before the services of the Municipality of Athens and not yet processed – Documents requested when submitting applications for the provision of parking spaces even though not provided for in the relevant Municipal Council Act – Discontinuation of financial aid to persons with disabilities only after issuing of a relative social worker’s report – From the beginning, inform the person concerned of the possibility to pay any overpayments in installments – Consultation with organizations representing people with disabilities, to review the City Council Act for parking facilities and the overall institutional framework for conducting audits on behalf of municipal services when targeting acts of disabled people for the exercise of the right of accessibility – Forwarding of requests to third party services, outside the City of Athens – Collection of all information on the rights of people with disability that can be exercised through the City of Athens Portal more easily accessible website with a clear mark on the home page.” The Mayor of Athens (who was before the Greek Ombudsman) never replied to that report, nor did he implement the recommendations, not even the one to introduce a clear mark in the homepages of the Municipality and of the Municipal Multi-Purpose Centers linking to related information.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide:

  1. Αn explanation of the procedure used to consult [for the drafting of the report] with civil society and in particular with representative organizations of persons with disabilities and the measures taken to ensure that this process was fully accessible,” as well as on the availability (if any) of the report in Greek and in English on state websites.
  2. Comprehensive summary reports of the actions of the Central and other Focal Points, the Coordination Mechanism and the Framework for the effective implementation of the Convention and the transparency of their activities through easily accessible websites; and in particular the first forthcoming report of the Greek Ombudsman in its role as Framework.
  1. Information as to whether focal points in all Ministries, Municipalities and Regions have been appointed and if so where is a list of all of them available as well as where is information oν their work available on line.
  1. Exhaustive list of all new legislated developments since 2015, as well as of their implementation along with a critical evaluation and an impact assessment. 
  2. Information on the implementation of the 2013 recommendations of the City of Athens Ombudsperson. 

Article 1-4

In paragraph 9 of the report it is correctly stated that “disability is not treated as a medical problem through the assignment to it of a specific percentage of disability, but as a result of the interaction between people with disabilities and behavioural disorders and obstacles, which derive from their physical environment and from existing social prejudices and can prevent their equal access to and participation in society.” Except that this is not applied in Greece. The criteria for the assignment of a percentage of disability are established by Decision Φ. 80000/45219/1864 and are exclusively medical. There is no assessment of possible “interaction with various barriers.”

Additionally, the report reports that most complaints received by the Greek Ombudsman concern “reasonable accommodation.” Yet, the Ombudsman’s conclusions and recommendations are not reported.

Greece should therefore be asked to explain why in Decision Φ. 80000/45219/1864 the assessment of disability is strictly made as a medical problem; as well as to provide at least a comprehensive summary of the Ombudsman’s recommendations on the basis of the complaints it has received.

Article 5 – Equality and non-discrimination

There is indeed antiracism Law 927/79 applicable since 2014 also to cases with persons with disabilities as victims. There is also Article 81A of the Criminal Code on racist crimes that includes disability in the criteria to discern racist motive. However, there has never been any training of prosecutors and judges and/or lawyers on the treatment of disability as a concept, the persons with disabilities as subjects who turn to justice for the defense of their rights. The result is that there is a widespread impression that the related case law is very thin and there is no known conviction to date.

Greek Helsinki Monitor, on 1 October 2018, monitored a trial, before an Athens Three-Member Misdemeanors Court, of a taxi driver accused of “illegal violence motivated by the disability of the victim” because on 25 May 2015 he had used violence to refuse a ride to a person with spastic tetraplegia, who also happened to be an activist for the rights of persons with disabilities. It is noteworthy that at the time the taxi company who had sent the driver to the client offered her apologies and dismissed the driver. In the hearing, the evidence was compelling and the prosecutor, who happened to be also the special Athens Prosecutor for Racist Crimes but also OSCE’s Contact Point in Greece for Racist Crimes, asked for the conviction of the defendant delivering an eloquent explanation why there was such a crime. Yet the court, with judgment AT2573/2018, acquitted the defendant fully subscribing to the defendant’s version of the event, not corroborated by any eyewitness, who stated that he thought that the victim was drunk… It is commendable that the Prosecutor’s Office appealed the acquittal and a trial before an Athens Three-Member Appeals Court will be held on 18 September 2019, but the judges who delivered the acquittal are not known to have been the subsect of any disciplinary procedure.

Moreover, anti-discrimination Law 3304/2005 was abolished in 2016 and was replaced with Law 4443/2016. Greece fails to provide any statistical data on the implementation of Law 3304/2005 and information on the administrative or criminal sanctions it may have led to, let alone any impact assessment.

Yet an important deficiency of the Greek legal system is that sanctions against those who park in special parking places for persons with disabilities, or in ramps for persons with disabilities, or in pathways for the blind are only administrative and can only be imposed by police officers present to record them. There is repeated experience of reluctance of police to respond to such calls promptly or sometimes not at all, usually because of the severity of the sanction, i.e. removal for 60 days of the car license plates and license permit as well as the driver’s license, but only for the parking places and the ramps. So this is a regular scene in related public spaces in Greece (pictures from January 2019 GHM complaints; they were taken in Greater Athens suburbs Kallithea and Glyka Nerawhen the emergency police number 100 was called for the Glyka Nera violation they refused to send anyone).

There is no special sanction for those parking in pathways for the blind, which is treated as mere parking οn pedestrian walks with a fine of 40 euros. Let alone that most pathways for the blind are unusable. So this is a regular scene in related public spaces in Greece, namely of a police bus parked in the Athens Appeals Court (on the left – the Athens Appeals Court is around the corner from the Supreme Court) and from the very center of Athens (by the National Theater) on the right where the pathway for the blind is interrupted by water and electricity metal constructions giving access to underground instruments, let alone that it is in terrible shape (GHM pictures from a complaint filed in December 2018 on the left and a not yet public report to the City of Athens in January 2019 on the right – GHM has on file scores of similar pictures and has filed half a dozen complaints for the police abuse at the Athens Appeals Court all ignored by the Prosecutor for Racist Crimes!).

In its complaints, GHM has argued that the antiracism legislation is applicable as those parking in these places deliberately and publicly cause an actual discrimination against persons with disabilities as they deny those persons the right to circulate in the respective places without discrimination since in effect they hinder the accessibility to those places.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide statistics from the use of Laws 927/79 and 3304/2005 and its replacement 4443/2106 with administrative and criminal sanctions imposed; explain why the administrative sanctions imposed for parking in ramps and in parking places for persons with disabilities are not also applicable for parking in pathways for the blind; also explain the acquittal in the October 2018 trial and inform is after the appeal sanctions were imposed on the judges and provide information on training of judicial and law enforcement officials on how to treat complaints from persons with disabilities; and inform if it considers introducing criminal legislation to punish parking in places or pathways reserved for person with disabilities and why no sanctions have been imposed in several cases reported by GHM and other organizations or individuals.

Article 6 – Women with disabilities

Greece does not keep statistics for women with disabilities, related to criminality, victimization, employment, participation in political life, etc. Several campaigns and informational social spots do not meet the standards of accessibility, e.g. the spot for the eradication of violence against women. Information, particularly of those who are highly vulnerable, like women with intellectual or mental disabilities, is inadequate if not non-existent. Shelters for victimized women are not accessible. Policies for women with disabilities are not included in mainstream policies. No initiatives have been taken to support women with disabilities during pregnancy. Medical staff should properly inform disabled women about the versions of prenatal screening and decision-making regarding serious operations like abortion, sterilization, etc. The information should be fully accessible so as to be understood. Women with mental disabilities are highly vulnerable to sterilization. Modern technology is a help and can improve the daily living of women with disabilities. There is no evidence that medical staff is systematically informed about all these issues.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide if available statistical data on women with disabilities in relation to criminality, victimization, employment, participation in political life; also inform on accessibility of information for women with disabilities through campaigns or other material, as well as accessibility of shelters for victimized women; and finally inform on support to and information for women with disabilities during pregnancy.

Article 8 – Awareness-raising

The public television program does not provide programs with an acoustic description for the Blind. Newscasts in sign language to the deaf after the 2018 Ministerial Decision are only 7 minutes a day … Accessible decoders for people with disabilities were never given in 2008-2009 although announced. There is no adaptation of subtitling to a very simple text for People with Intellectual Disabilities. All that apply to the private television stations as well.

Greece in the report mentions that the text of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is now available in various accessible formats, including in Greek Sign Language and Greek Braille writing, but does not mention where: neither is the original form nor in these formats is the Convention available in the websites of the three governments agencies referred to above, or of the NCHR or –for the accessible formats- of the ESAMEA.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide detailed information on the relevant programs available on public and on private television, including newscasts and of the availability of accessible decoders; as well as on the availability of the Convention in all formats in public websites as well as in the ESAMEA one.

Article 9 – Accessibility

The legal provisions on accessibility submitted by Greece are to a large extent satisfactory. Yet, there is no information as to their implementation, including most crucially which qualified body assesses the effective accessibility of all facilities that are supposed to have adapted to the regulations. As already stated above, in a large number of cases, pathways for the blind are totally inadequate, and the same is true with many ramps for persons with disabilities that are two steep or too rough to be able to be used effectively. There are no effective remedies against such inappropriate constructions, which is why none is reported by Greece.

Let alone the fact that, as mentioned above, these facilities are often abused by persons without disabilities with very rare to be efficient control and sanctions by police.

While indeed the Athens Metro and the main airports are accessible, the trains and most ships including ferries and most ports are not.

Ramps in buses often do not operate because of lack of adequate maintenance. Additionally although guide dogs are allowed in public transports, many drivers are not informed let alone trained and there are frequently reported incidents of refusals to allow those dogs aboard buses. Again, even when reported including with complaints, GHM experience shows that authorities often fail to impose administrative or criminal sanctions.

The portal www.prosvasi-amea.gov.gr was launched in 2013 in the framework of an EU-funded project but as it is no longer available nor are traces of it available in the Internet Archive one can assume that is was discontinued soon after its launch when the project ended.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide concrete information on state agencies that inspect and evaluate the accessibility of all facilities provided by law, including with statistics on inspections, conclusions, possible rejections, sanctions etc.; as well as on effective accessibility of buses, trains, ships including ferries, and ports, and on training of drivers to accept if not facilitate access of guide dogs and sanctions when they refuse; and finally, as to the fate of the portal www.prosvasi-amea.gov.gr and any replacement.

Article 13 – Access to justice

Access to justice for people with disabilities as well as for judicial officials with disabilities including lawyers is extremely difficult, as most courts or court buildings –including in Greece’s largest court house, the Athens First Instance Court- lack accessibility.

Moreover, there is a lack of training of police officers on the treatment of persons with disabilities in detention of any kind. For example, it has been reported that they wear handcuffs to the deaf and do not remove them so that they can sense or use the sign language in the investigative and other processes that require communication.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide information as to the accessibility of all court houses; as well as to the training of police officers on how to treat persons with disabilities in detention especially the deaf.

Article 21 – Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information

The “Guide for the Disabled Citizen” (paragraph 182) is indeed a very good practice except that it dates from 2007 and therefore needs updating.

Article 24 – Education

As ActionAid Greece stated based on their 2014 research, “the most shameful element of our survey is that only 15% of the children with disabilities in Greece go to school! Only 15%! The remaining 85%, that is some 170,000 children remain invisible to the education community, limiting their chances to become visible in the future to our society.” “According to head ActionAid researcher Pelagia Papanikolaou, a PhD [in criminology] at Athens Law School, the main obstacles keeping disabled children from receiving an education are shortages in transportation, infrastructure such as ramps, audio-visual aids, staff and regular funding.”

In the survey it was also highlighted that there is no national database of children with disabilities or of persons with disabilities in general. Additionally, data is provided to the effect that for the school year 2014-2015, according to an ESAMEAGeneral Confederation of Workers in Greece (GSEE) comprehensive study, only 1,740 out of some 4,000 applications for provision of parallel support to children with disabilities to attend general schools were approved, while it is not known if and where the remaining approximately 2,300 children attended school in that school year. The limited number of applications approved is attributed to the lack of funds as a result of the crisis. Moreover, there is no updated database and evaluation of the functioning and the needs of special education schools especially at the time of financial crisis and the effects of the latter on those schools. There was a general promise by the Ministry of Education that such data bases will be created in 2015-2016 but it was not materialized, which was confirmed by the fact that there is no such reference in Greece’s report.

In 2015, GHM submitted this information to the UN CESCR and UN HRCttee requesting them to reiterate the UN CRC’s 2012 recommendations to Greece on children with disabilities GHM included in the reports:

Disability, basic health and welfare (arts. 6, 18 (para. 3), 23, 24, 26, 27 (paras. 1-3) of the Convention)

Children with disabilities

  1. The Committee notes that the State party has adopted laws and established services and institutions with the aim of supporting children with disabilities, promoting their social participation, including joint learning in schools, and developing their independence. However, the Committee remains concerned that deep-rooted discrimination still exists and that measures for children with disabilities are not carefully monitored, as well as the unavailability of the statistical data on children with disabilities in the State party. It is deeply concerned at the widespread use of institutionalization, mainly because of lack of day care and community services for children with the most serious forms of disabilities. The Committee is further deeply concerned about the recently reported case of Children’s Care Centre in Lechaina of children with disabilities living under inhumane and unacceptable conditions including being systematically sedated and subject to practices such as being tied to their beds, and the use of cage beds due to shortage of staff.
  2. The Committee recommends that the State party, in accordance with its General comment No.9 (2006) on the rights of children with disabilities: 

(a) Revise and adopt specific legislation in order to fully protect all children with disabilities, and establish a monitoring system, which carefully records progress made and identifies shortcomings in implementation; 

(b) Provide community-based services that focus on enhancing the quality of life of children with disabilities, meeting their basic needs and ensuring their inclusion and participation; 

(c) Make every effort to provide programmes and services for children with disabilities with adequate human and financial resources and periodic monitoring of placement of children with disabilities and to adopt, as a matter of priority, measures to ensure that no children with disabilities are placed under such inhumane conditions. Furthermore, placement in residential institutions should be the last resort, depending on the needs of the child; 

(d) Equip schools with the necessary facilities for the inclusive education of children with disabilities and ensure that they can choose their preferred school or move between regular schools and special needs schools according to their best interests; 

(e) Provide assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working for and with children with disabilities; and 

(f) Ensure that residential centres for children and persons with disabilities are adequately staffed and that training is provided for professional staff working with children with disabilities, such as teachers, social workers, health, medical, therapeutic and care personnel.

The two UN Committees issued the following related concluding observations and recommendations:

Inclusive education for children with disabilities (CESCR – 27 October 2015)

  1. Despite measures taken by the State party, including Law 4115/2013 which facilitates integration of students with special education needs in mainstream schools, the Committee is concerned at reports indicating extremely low rate of enrolment of children with disabilities in schools, indicating that only 15% of the children with disabilities go to school (arts. 13 and 2, para. 2).
  2. The Committee recommends that the State party collect disaggregated data on school enrolment and drop-out rates at various levels of education of children with disabilities, disaggregated by sex and national or ethnic origin, to identify obstacles to accessing and continuing education and to devise appropriate strategies. The State party should also ensure that all children with disabilities have access to quality and inclusive education.

Persons with disabilities  (HRCttee – 3 December 2015)

  1. The Committee notes with concern the discrimination faced by persons with disabilities, in particular with regard to access to education, employment and health services and further regrets the impact of the economic crises and austerity measures on their situation. While noting the information provided by the State party that physical restraints on mental health patients are only used as a measure of last resort, the Committee is concerned at reports indicating the continuing widespread use of such measures, including the use of enclosed restraint beds (cages/net beds) and systematic sedation as a means to restrain patients with intellectual disabilities, including children, in institutions. (arts. 2, 7, 9, 10 and 24)
  2. The State party should strengthen the measures taken to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination, particularly with regard to access to education, employment and health services. The State party should take immediate measures to abolish the use of enclosed restraint beds and systematic sedation in psychiatric and related institutions. Furthermore, the State party should establish an independent monitoring and reporting system, and ensure that abuses are effectively investigated and prosecuted and that redress is provided to the victims and their families.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide detailed and documented in transparent way information on how it implemented the recommendations of UN CRC, UN CESCR and UN HRCttee including whether a comprehensive and transparent data base on children with disabilities’ school attendance and provision to them of parallel support (as well as applications for such support) has been or is being established.

Article 25 – Health

On 17 August 2016, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (CHR) sent a letter to the Greek government with concerns on “the human rights of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities and their de-institutionalization” following his visit to Greece. We reproduce below in facsimile his grave concerns, mainly on the extensive use of sedatives and restraints including cages, as well as on very high rates of compulsory psychiatric confinement, often in violation of national legislation as confirmed by two ECtHR judgments in 2011. Greece for the first time in the history of CHR visits and ensuing letters or reports on Greece did not provide any replies! Moreover, Greece has also failed for more than six years to provide the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, supervising the execution of the two judgments, with “an action plan on the measures taken to address all the shortcomings identified by the Court regarding the procedure of involuntary placement for psychiatric examination” (see summery below).

Commissioner for Human Rights letter to the Greek government (excerpts)

fivesix

Committee of Ministers summary of the state of execution of
Venios & Karamanof judgments (2019)

Case Description: Involuntary placement for psychiatric examination in breach of domestic law (violation of Article 5 §1 e). More specifically the Court found that competent authorities did not comply with the timeframe set in domestic law for the involuntary placement of the applicants for psychiatric examination.

General measures: action plan received on 23/04/2012. Up-dated action plan/report is awaited on the measures taken to address all the shortcomings identified by the Court regarding the procedure of involuntary placement for psychiatric examination (see in particular par. 48 of the Karamanof judgment).

Moreover, the CHR made reference to the mental health facility (KEPEP) in Lechaina (Pleoponnese). Its case became widely known in Greece from 16 February 2011 onwards with a series of almost daily articles by in the daily “Eleftherotypia.” The articles were based on a report “Working with people with compromised development and their rights to access a full and rewarding life. Report about the children’s human rights inside ΚΕΡΕΡ Lechainon, IIlias Prefecture, Greece” written in November 2009 by a group of five volunteers who worked for a period of seven months in Greece as part of the Youth in Action Program – European Voluntary Service.[1] The articles include pictures of children tied all day to their cages or beds (see one here). The summary impressions of those volunteers were:

“We have reached the conclusion that ΚΕΡΕΡ, Lechainon does not manage to promote basic human rights that ensure that these children with disabilities can live a worthy life in optimum conditions, developing their own abilities and some amount of self-care. We would like to think that the subhuman conditions that these children live currently in will change someday. At the same time, we feel a great ethical responsibility to bring their plight to the attention of somebody who has the ability to make changes. We are calling for a commitment and strategic action from the Greek state with respect to the population with special needs and in particular to Greek children with disabilities. At present (November 2009) there is no psychological therapy available and it has been like this since December (2008) .The physiotherapists do not have a specific room within ΚΕΡΕΡ, so even though there are 2 hired and paid physiotherapists they do not actively work and provide this service. The therapy sessions are mainly lead by the Occupational therapist but she has to work with little resources and motivation. From what we have seen of the sessions, there is little production and the small tasks that take place are simple for even an unqualified person to administer. There is only one doctor present in ΚΕΡΕΡ to diagnoses and administer prescriptions. She is newly qualified and has little experience in such an extreme care centre. When the passage refers to the ‘inmates’ receiving therapy, in actuality only a very small percentage really do. Αll the inmates have some form of disability and therefore should be eligible for therapy. Only 14 get the opportunity to attend therapy, and unfortunately these are not the children most in need of this service. Calling the children ‘Inmates’ doesn’t promote an image of free, happy, life full people that a care centre should promote, but instead images of criminals in cages, looked away in prison. Therefore this observation may actually me the only truth in the whole passage, because in fact the children and young people are treated like criminals; being deprived of their luxuries and freedom of choice. In fact there are many cages that these children have to live in day in day out, and in fact the place feels like a prison, with a life sentence for all, but only for the crime that these children where born disabled with unfortunate social situations. We ask the law and state is this fair and justified?”

On 23 March 2010, the Ombudsman, based on this information, alerted the Ministry of Health but nothing changed through the time of the revelations. Such conditions exist in similar institutions, as documented in 2016 CHR report.

Finally, in April 2018, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) visited inter alia several psychiatric establishments. Soon after it published its preliminary observations and subsequently submitted its comprehensive report, which though for the first time in Greece’s history of reviews by the CPT, has not be published as Greece has not authorized its publication! Yet, the preliminary conclusions reprinted below are telling:

Preliminary observations made by Georg HØYER, Head of Delegation, and Jari PIRJOLA, Head of Sub-delegation, of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) at the end of the CPT’s ad hoc visit to Greece (10 to 19 April 2018)

  1. The focus of the ad hoc visit was two-fold: on the one hand, the delegation looked into the treatment, living conditions and safeguards offered to civil and forensic patients in psychiatric establishments; on the other hand, it examined the situation of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty under aliens’ legislation. A list of the establishments visited is attached. (…)

Psychiatric establishments

  1. The delegation notes positively that, in most of the establishments visited, patients spoke well of staff, and that hardly any allegations of ill-treatment of patients by staff were received. In general, the delegation observed a caring attitude towards patients and a relaxed atmosphere, especially in those establishments in which patients generally enjoy a less confined environment. Nevertheless, the delegation received some isolated allegations of verbal abuse and disrespectful behaviour by staff. A clear message should be communicated to staff that such behaviour is unacceptable.
  2. Most of the establishments visited by the delegation are seriously understaffed. Given the strain that they are under, it is impressive to see the level of motivation and caring attitude demonstrated by staff during the visit. Careful consideration must be given to the management of resources in the current context of austerity: essential services, such as providing for vulnerable patients, cannot be taken care of properly given the current low staffing levels.
  3. One of the most serious findings during the visit concerns the widespread practice of excessive use of mechanical restraints. A combination of factors has converged to result in a situation which needs to be urgently reviewed. These factors include low staffing levels, a lack of appropriate training on restraints, a lack of strict criteria for the use of restraints in line with international standards, inappropriate restraints methods and inadequate or absent recording of the use of restraints. The delegation found no properly kept, dedicated register on restraints in use at the establishments visited. The delegation urges the Greek authorities to carry out a review of the use of mechanical restraints in all psychiatric establishments, including private institutions, with a view to bringing the policy and practice in line with the specific standards of the CPT. The delegation would like to be informed of the steps taken to review and improve the situation. 
  4. Any review of the policy and practice regarding restraints should not come at the expense of the open regime conditions, which are one of the most positive aspects of the situation observed in a number of the establishments visited, particularly at Dromokaiteio Psychiatric Hospital and at the Psychiatric Unit at Sotiria General Hospital. In contrast, the absence of outdoor exercise for patients placed at the Psychiatric Unit in Evangelismos General Hospital, some of them there for months or even years, is unacceptable. The delegation requests that this situation be remedied as a matter of urgency.
  5. As regards material conditions, overcrowding at all three psychiatric units of general hospitals visited meant that patients’ beds are regularly placed in the corridor for extended periods. In particular, at Evangelismos Psychiatric Unit certain bedridden and/or restrained patients are accommodated in the corridor, some in diapers which are changed by staff in full view of others. This unacceptable situation must be urgently addressed. The delegation invokes Article 8, paragraph 5, of the European Convention for the Prevention of Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention) and calls upon the Greek authorities to put an immediate stop to the practice, at the Psychiatric Unit of Evangelismos General Hospital, of placing people in need of intensive care and supervision in the corridor. Patients in need of restraint or requiring assistance as regards their hygiene needs should be cared for in hospital rooms, under close monitoring by staff, and under conditions which respect their privacy and dignity.
  6. Transfers of individuals by the police to an establishment for psychiatric assessment remain a problem, which the CPT has already pointed out previously. The police should not be the default transportation option for such cases. Persons with health-care needs should, primarily, be transported by health-care staff. As is borne out by interviews with patients, health-care staff and police officers themselves, the police are not the appropriate service to carry out such transfers. The delegation heard of the frequent use of tight, painful handcuffs, sometimes for extended transfers, lasting many hours, from remote locations. It also heard one allegation of excessive use of force by the police during such a transfer. In the delegation’s view, it is for the Ministry of Health to lead efforts to find a humane solution to this problem as a matter of priority.
  7. At the time of the visit, Korydallos Prison Psychiatric Hospital was still entirely under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, in spite of the 2009 law (n. 3772, Article 13) providing for its integration into the Greek national health services. The delegation would like to be informed of the timeline for completion of the transfer of responsibility for medical services at this establishment. 
  8. In the delegation’s view, the practice concerning the use of the so-called “blue” or protective cells is totally unacceptable and must cease immediately. These basement cells are unfit for holding persons for any longer than the shortest time necessary to address an acute situation to prevent self-harm or harm to others. The delegation observed, however, that patients are placed in these cells for periods of several days, stripped naked, and left unattended for hours, which resulted in them defecating and urinating in the cell. The delegation invokes Article 8, paragraph 5, of the Convention and urges the Greek authorities to immediately put an end to the current practice regarding the use of the “blue” or protective cells at Korydallos Prison Psychiatric Hospital. It is totally unacceptable to place people naked, without supervision, and for extended periods, in these cells. In accordance with the standards applicable for a proper psychiatric hospital, if there is a need to seclude patients for protective purposes, this should be done for the shortest possible time necessary to resolve the acute situation and during that time the person should be permanently monitored by staff.

Greece should therefore be asked to provide its comments and replies to the above CHR and CPT documents, as well as the long overdue action plan on the execution of the ECtHR judgments, including in particular whether it has substantially decreased the use of sedatives and restraints, has stopped the compulsory confinement in violation of national legislation, the placing of people in need of intensive care and supervision in corridors, and the use of “blue cells.” Greece should also be asked to provide a copy of the final CPT report, preferably also after asking for its publication by CPT.



APPENDIX: A RECENT ARTICLE THAT SAYS IT ALL

Athens, a city to live … if you are not a person with disabilities.
An inhospitable capital that does not respect people with disabilities
[translated by Greek Helsinki Monitor from the original in Greek available at  https://www.in.gr/2019/02/08/apopsi/athina-poli-gia-na-zeis-den-eisai-amea/]

Olga Stefou
8 February 2019

Athens is a city for you to walk and enjoy, it is sunny, with beautiful buildings, and bitter orange trees. In spring your heart opens in its streets. Unless you are a person with disabilities. If you are a person with disabilities, you will stay home.

The city is inhospitable for people with disabilities. A simple ride with the eyes of a a person with disabilities will convince you: The sidewalks are broken and do not help the cane or the wheelchair, the ramps on one sidewalk are not available in the next  sidewalk and which satanic mind thought on a fifty centimeter sidewalk to put α flowerbed to plant a bitter orange tree?

And this is the scenario that concerns those who are mobility impaired (and the reality of the elderly and the parents with pushchairs, too). When we talk now about people with visual impairments, then we learn that they are faced with the same problems (especially poles and bitter orange trees), plus the private initiative.

In the special lanes for visually impaired people, on their way, one can find a lot of things. You can into a pole. Or into a tree. You can, more often than not, bump into a restaurant table that has never been removed from the municipal police, which is usually too busy as it is chasing street vendors.

Athens – A city to park in parking for persons with disabilities

Inhospitable Athens. Indicatively, 11% of parking violations for 2017 were for parking in ramps for the disabled. But the problem with the ramps is not the only one. Athens is a city with almost no awareness for people with disabilities. Infrastructures are few or blocked or damaged and do not have full accessibility paths to help people with disabilities. Infrastructure is either scarce or blocked or damaged and has no pathways fully accessible that will help persons with disabilities to move around.

Buildings for the few and  … upright

The problem is not only the streets, but also the buildings of the city. Even public buildings. Very rarely, admittedly, but even nowadays, you will still find public buildings that have not followed the instructions for accessibility for the persons with disabilities or have not repaired damages that prevent the circulation of citizens with disabilities. As for private buildings, no question. The entrances to restaurants, businesses and, above all, multi-apartment buildings are often prohibitive for people with disabilities. And especially in apartment buildings, it is prohibitive for everything: if someone cannot go down the stairs of the entrance, how is he supposed to be able to get out of his home?

City for living in only with help

If you are a person with disabilities, you cannot live in Athens. At least, not easily. You cannot go out on the road alone and even if you do, you cannot move. Of course, in the life of the city the absence of persons with disabilities has no cost, as it has not learned to integrate people in wheelchairs or with walking sticks. It is, however, a matter of dignity of the city itself towards its citizens. It has, if anything, an obligation to allow them to leave their home.


[1] The report and the pictures are on file with GHM and can become available on request.

 

[Report in word format: submission to crpd february 2019]

 

Advocates Abroad: Press Release on Filed Illegal Deportation Complaints

advocatesabroad

Press Release on Filed Illegal Deportation Complaints:

Advocates Abroad has been filing human rights complaints on behalf of refugees, with the Greek Ombudsman since 2016. The complaints have covered a diversity of issues occurring throughout the country. Advocates Abroad notes with appreciation the Ombudsman’s many quality investigations into complaints submitted before and after the three complaints at hand – particularly the great success of so many other recent and past complaints.

It is therefore with great surprise that we received two letters from the Ombudsman dated 7 January 2019 in reply to two complaints, filed on 17 and 22 August 2018. The complaints concerned documented allegations about push backs and ill-treatment of two groups of refuge arrivals, numbering 27 and 47 Syrians among other nationals in the Evros area. The groups were processed by by the police on dates confirmed with recorded arrivals by the Ombudsman. Therein, the Ombudsman was informing Advocates Abroad that they had merely written to Hellenic Police which responded that on those dates “they had located respectively 11 and 35 third country nationals who were taken into custody and escorted to the regional center for reception and identification”; that “no other third country national was located, taken into custody or arrested;” and that “no push back has taken place” and “all their operations, included border surveillance, have been conducted according to the provisions of the law and with full respect to human rights of asylum seekers.” The Ombudsman concluded that it was satisfied with the answer and had filed the case.

The Ombudsman furthermore had begun investigating the third complaint, and suddenly ceased review, without explanation.

Advocates Abroad is stunned by this development, as in effect the Ombudsman did not carry out an investigation as mandated by its new role as National Mechanism for the Investigation of Arbitrary Behavior (Articles 56-58 of Law 4443/2016); instead they were all complaints were filed and thus implicitly considered as unfounded. They, however, had been submitted with the support of credible and irrefutable evidence.

Furthermore, in recent months, there is abundance of evidence demonstrating that the reality of push backs and ill-treatment is widespread in the Evros area:

* a comprehensive compilation of several NGO reports and a CPT report was published by Greek Hesinki Monitor on 9 September 2018 as “Unprecedented systematic police violence and illegal deportation of asylum seekers in Evros.”

* an “Open letter to Prime Minister Tsipras on systematic police violence and illegal deportation of asylum seekers in Evros (Greece)” was published by the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) on 20 September 2018

* “New video evidence of police violence and illegal deportation of asylum seekers in Evros” was published by Greek Helsinki Monitor on 29 September 2018 and again on 16 November 2018

* a report on “The new normality: continuous push-backs of third country nationals on the Evros river” was published by the Greek Council for Refugees, ARSIS and Human Rights 360 on 12 December 2018

* a report on “Greece: Violent Pushbacks at Turkey Border End Summary Returns, Unchecked Violence” was published by Human Rights Watch on 18 December 2018

* most importantly, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe published on 6 November 2018 her report following her visit to Greece in June 2018 concluding: “The Commissioner is deeply concerned about persistent and documented allegations of summary returns to Turkey, often accompanied by the use of violence. She underlines that collective expulsions of migrants are prohibited under Article 4 of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights and that the non-refoulement principle is enshrined in the UN Refugee Convention.
Considering that the information available points to the existence of an established practice in this field, the Commissioner urges the Greek authorities to put an end to push-backs and to investigate any allegations of ill-treatment perpetrated by members of Greek security forces in the context of such operations.”

Advocates Abroad, via the two complaints the Ombudsman decided to file as unfounded and the third report inexplicably dropped mid-investigation, is documenting extensively such cases of what even the Commissioner for Human Rights and the CPT consider as established practice.

The dismissal of the complaints by the Ombudsman who accepted the Hellenic Police assertion that they are no pushbacks and no ill-treatment is a question of serious concern for the credibility of this state institution.

Advocates Abroad will share this development with the Commissioner for Human Rights, CPT, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ Deputies for Human Rights (CMDH) and the competent UN institutions in the hope that they will ask the Greek authorities to investigate these and all similar allegations.

Διαχρονική ατιμωρησία αστυνομικής αυθαιρεσίας και μέτρα που (δεν) παίρνει η παρούσα κυβέρνηση

ΕΠΟΧΗ

20 Ιανουαρίου 2019

Οι δυνάμεις καταστολής είναι ακόμα εδώ

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[Αποσπάσματα:]

Γενικευμένο πλαίσιο ατιμωρησίας

 
Σοβαρό μελανό σημείο, που παραμένει ακόμα αναπάντητο από το υπουργείο Προστασίας, είναι οι δεκάδες επώνυμες καταγγελίες για επαναπροωθήσεις προσφύγων από την αστυνομία στον Έβρο. «Δεν μπορούμε να πούμε ότι υπήρξε μείωση του φαινομένου της αστυνομικής βίας τα τελευταία χρόνια. Επειδή, μάλιστα, συνεχίζουν να βλέπουν ότι υπάρχει ατιμωρησία για όσους αστυνομικούς προβαίνουν σε τέτοιες πράξεις, συνεχίζουν κι αυτοί την ίδια αυθαιρεσία. Στον δε Έβρο, λόγω αύξησης των αφίξεων, έχουμε και αύξηση των επαναπροωθήσεων. Πρόκειται για πρωτοφανή βία για τη μεταπολίτευση, και στην πραγματικότητα οι περιπτώσεις επαναπροώθησης είναι ακόμα περισσότερες απ’ ό,τι μας καταγγέλλονται. Το υπουργείο το μόνο που απαντά σχετικά είναι ότι δεν γίνονται, χωρίς όμως να έχει ζητήσει καμία σοβαρή έρευνα για το φαινόμενο», υπογραμμίζει ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς, [εκπρόσωπος] του Παρατηρητηρίου των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι… Η αναποτελεσματικότητα του μηχανισμού ελέγχου στο πλαίσιο του Συνηγόρου του Πολίτη σημειώνεται και από τον Παναγιώτη Δημητρά, δίνοντας ως παράδειγμα το ζήτημα των επαναπροωθήσεων, για τις οποίες ο μηχανισμός κατέθεσε απλά ερώτημα προς την αστυνομία αν γίνονται και όταν έλαβε αρνητική απάντηση, η εξέταση του ζητήματος τελείωσε εκεί. «Έχουν γίνει άπειρες συστάσεις ότι πρέπει να αλλάξει η διαδικασία των ΕΔΕ. Η διαδικασία ελέγχου θα έπρεπε να γίνεται όπως στην Κύπρο, από μια πλήρως ανεξάρτητη αρχή που θα διεξάγει την έρευνα»…
 
Μέχρι τον Σεπτέμβρη θα πρέπει να έχουν δοθεί απαντήσεις
 
Στις αρχές του Δεκεμβρίου η Επιτροπή υπουργών του Συμβουλίου της Ευρώπης εξέδωσε αυστηρές αποφάσεις για τη 10ετή μη συμμόρφωση της ελληνικής πολιτείας με πλήθος καταδικαστικών αποφάσεων του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου (ΕΔΔΑ) όσον αφορά την ατιμωρησία των σωμάτων ασφαλείας. Συγκεκριμένα, η Ελλάδα ελέγχεται για τις σύντομες προθεσμίες παραγραφής αδικημάτων για βασανιστήρια και κακομεταχείριση, που οδηγούν σε μη επανεξέταση των υποθέσεων που καταδικάστηκαν από το ΕΔΔΑ, για τυχόν παραμονή στην υπηρεσία αστυνομικών και λιμενικών που ήταν δράστες βασανιστηρίων, για την αποτελεσματικότητα ή μη του Συνηγόρου του Πολίτη ως νέου μηχανισμού διερεύνησης των σχετικών καταγγελιών και για τον αντίκτυπο της εισαγωγής του ρατσιστικού κινήτρου στη διερεύνηση αυτών των υποθέσεων. Όπως και για το γεγονός ότι πολλές ποινές φυλάκισης για βασανισμό και κακομεταχείριση μετατράπηκαν σε χρηματικά πρόστιμα. Η ελληνική πολιτεία καλείται μέχρι την 1η Σεπτεμβρίου να δώσει λεπτομερείς πληροφορίες για το πώς πρόκειται να αντιμετωπίσει όλα αυτά τα θέματα.”