Council of Europe addresses fascism and impunity in Greece

With the rise of the Golden Dawn, hate crimes have increased in Greece, and often go unpunished. The Council of Europe insists Greece should address the problem, and explains the legal mechanism in their recent report, available here in full and excerpted below.


Strasbourg, 16 April 2013
CommDH(2013)6
Original version

REPORT

by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

Following his visit to Greece, from 28 January to 1 February 2013

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Summary

Commissioner Nils Muižnieks and his delegation visited Greece from 28 January to 1 February 2013. In the course of this visit the Commissioner held discussions with state authorities and non-governmental, national and international organisations. The present report focuses on the following human rights issues:

I. Intolerance and hate crimes in Greece - the need for urgent action

The Commissioner is seriously concerned by the increase in racist and other hate crimes in Greece, which primarily targets migrants and poses a serious threat to the rule of law and democracy. A number of the reported attacks have been linked to members or supporters, including MPs, of the neo-Nazi political party “Golden Dawn” which won seats in parliament in June 2012. Whilst welcoming the fact that the Greek authorities have adopted new measures to combat racist violence, the Commissioner regrets that rhetoric stigmatising migrants has been widely used in Greek politics...

2. Combating the impunity of perpetrators of hate crimes; victims’ access to justice and protection

The Commissioner calls on the Greek authorities to be highly vigilant and use all available means to combat all forms of hate speech and hate crime and to end impunity for these crimes. International law, especially the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the European Convention on Human Rights, which are ratified and have a supra-statutory force in Greece, make possible the imposition of dissuasive, criminal and other sanctions and restrictions on the activities of individuals who advocate for and are involved in instances of racist and other hate crimes. The same holds true for such activities of political organisations, including parties such as the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn”, on which it should be possible to impose effective penalties or prohibition, if necessary. Greek law, although insufficiently or completely unused so far, has the potential to curb and prevent manifestations of racial and other forms of discrimination by individuals and political organisations. The Commissioner urges the authorities to accelerate the modernisation of domestic anti-racism legislation and to carry out systematic, continuous training and awareness-raising in anti-discrimination law and practice for all police and coast guard officials, prosecutors and judges. As regards victims’ access to justice and effective remedies, the authorities are urged to remedy the long-standing serious shortcomings concerning excessively lengthy judicial proceedings, notably by enhancing the human and material resources available to prosecutors and judges. The newly established post of the anti-racism prosecutor in Athens needs particular reinforcement and expansion to other Greek regions so that anti-racism law is effectively applied throughout the country. Lastly, the state authorities are called on to reach out to victims of racist and other hate crimes and establish advice centres near the areas where they live, to clearly exempt them from criminal complaint fees, and to provide them with adequate legal aid, if necessary, as well as assistance....

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