Greece: Break-in and arson attack of the Afghan Community Centre and threats targeting the Hellenic League for Human Rights by an extreme right-wing group

30/03/2018
Urgent Appeal

GRE 001 / 0318 / OBS 036
Arson attack / Break-in / Threats
Greece
March 30, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Greece.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the break-in and arson attack of the Afghan Community Centre’s [1] premises in Athens as well as about threats targeting the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) and originating from an extreme right-wing group, calling itself Krypteia.

According to the information received, on March 22, 2018, at around 1 pm, an arson attack with racist motives was perpetrated against the Afghan Community Centre’s premises located in central Athens.

The assailants broke into the Afghan Community Centre’s premises and smashed computers, speakers and framed photos on the wall, before starting the fire by pouring flammable liquid in the office. The arson attack caused significant damages to the premises, but luckily no injuries, since at this time the office workers had left on their lunch break. A complaint has been filed before the department engaged in the fight against racial violence of the Hellenic police in Athens, which is currently investigating the incident.

On March 23, 2018, a little-known extreme right-wing group, calling itself Krypteia [2] claimed responsibility for the arson attack on the Afghan Community Centre, in a call to the Greek newspaper “Ethnos”.

The Observatory recalls that this not the first racist incident targeting the Afghan Community Centre and its work advocating for the respect of the Afghan migrant and refugee community’s human rights. The arson attack comes after the Afghan Community Centre received a swell of death threats from far-right groups. Moreover, in 2010, the Afghan Community Centre had already been attacked by a band of far-right assailants armed with sticks and knives, who kicked in the door of its premises, broke in, destroyed and beat Mr. Yonous Muhammadi, who was president of the Afghan Community in Greece at the time.

In addition, on March 22, members of HLHR’s staff were threatened by members of Krypteia at their office in central Athens. They hit the doorbell at the entrance of the block where the office is located and threatened HLHR’s staff over the interphone and advised them to take great care. Shortly after the incident, HLHR filed a complaint before the department engaged in the fight against racial violence of the Hellenic police in Athens, which is currently investigating the incident. Prior to this incident HLHR had already been threatened by Krypteia over the phone in relation to their work on migrants and refugee rights and in particular their collaboration with Racist Violence Recording Network [3].

The Observatory highlights that the situation of minority rights defenders in Greece has been critical for years. Human rights defenders dealing with this matter are consistently targeted for their legitimate work and face different types of attacks, surveillance, arbitrary arrests, detentions, ill-treatment, entry bans and expulsion [4]. The Observatory is also concerned by the fact that several complaints related to racism and minority’s rights have not been investigated and/or have been sent to the “archive of unknown perpetrators” [5].

The Observatory expresses its deep concern for the overall situation of minority rights defenders in Greece, and urges the Greek authorities to conduct an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned incidents against the Afghan Community Centre and HLHR in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Greece asking them to:

i. Put in place all necessary measures to guaranteethe security and the physical and psychological integrity of the staff members of the Afghan Community Centre and HLHR, as well as of all minority rights defenders in Greece;

ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the events described above in order to identify all those responsible, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment against the Afghan Community Centre and HLHR, as well as all minority rights defenders in Greece, so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments ratified by Greece.

Addresses:

· Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Alexis Tsipras, Email: mail@primeminister.gr
· Minister of Justice Mr. Stavros Kontonis Email: grammateia@justice.gov.gr
· Alternate Minister for Citizens Protection of Greece, Mr. Nikolaos Toskas, Fax: +30 210 692 9764, Email: minister@mopocp.gov.gr
· General Secretary for Transparency and Human Rights, Ms. Maria Yannakaki, Fax: Email: ggdad@justice.gov.gr
· Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece, Mr. Ioannis Tsaousis, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 732 21 50; Email: grdel.gva@mfa.gr
· Ambassador of Greece, H.E. Eleftheria Galathianaki, Embassy of Greece in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: (+32) 2 545 5585, Email: gremb.bru@mfa.gr
· Permanent Representative of Greece, H.E. Papastavrou Andreas, Permanent Representation to the European Union (EU), Fax: +32 2 5515651, 5127912
Email: mea.bruxelles@rp-greece.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Greece in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, March 30, 2018

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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