Acts of harassment against the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM)

Press release

Dear Mr. Primer Minister,

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, wish to express their deep concern about acts of harassment against the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) by the Head of the Appeals Prosecutor’s Office, in relation with the assistance it provides to Greek Roma for the enjoyment of their basic human rights, including the right to adequate housing.

According to the information received, on January 20, 2006, the Head of the Appeals Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Anastassios Kanellopoulos, said in an interview to the Radio Omega that “perpetrators, instigators and accomplices” of Roma people who helped the latter in the Makrigianni case “will be called to take the stand”, specifically including as potential targets representatives of the Greek Helsinki Monitor.

This declaration was made in reference to the case of six Greek Roma families living in the Makrigianni area, city of Patras (Cultural Capital of Europe 2006), who were threatened of being forcibly expelled, despite a decision of the Magistrate’s Court of Patras (312/2005) dated 25 October 2005, ruling that they could legitimately believe they would not be evicted before measures for their resettlement are taken (See OMCT Letter to the authorities, February 1, 2006). GHM took part in the defence of these families.

Yet, Mr. Anastassios Kanellopoulos ordered on that day the launching of an urgent preliminary investigation into allegations that the Roma of Makrigianni threw litter in a river, following many protests by local residents against this situation. While explaining the various aspects of the judicial investigation, Mr. Kanellopoulos underlined that its objective was to identify the perpetrators and instigators of these acts, as well as their accomplices. When queried by a journalist from Radio Omega, the Prosecutor stated that all Roma are crime perpetrators and also admitted that he would examine the role of GHM representatives, known for their struggle for the rights of the Roma. “If it is proved that they too have helped the Roma, then be assured that they will be called to the stand”, the Prosecutor noted.

Several weeks before Mr. Anastassios Kanellopoulos’ statement, GHM had asked the First Instance Prosecutor (FIP) to launch a criminal investigation into a series of cumulated illegal evictions, attacks and acts of discrimination against Roma people. The organisation also asked the racist motive in those actions to be investigated, in light of the December 13, 2006 conviction of Greece by the European Court of Human Rights (Bekos case), for violation of article 14 for lack of such

investigations. GHM had also publicly denounced those acts and brought media including the BBC to cover the problem.

The Observatory expresses its concern about these declarations, as they seem to be directly linked with GHM activities in favour of the defence of the rights of Roma people. In addition, article 40.2 of the Court Organisation Code (COC), on the need for judicial officers to respect confidentiality, combined with Articles 31 and 241 of the Code of Penal Procedure (on how investigations are carried out - “without publicity”), deny him the right to announce who an investigation will be turned against. As a consequence, the Prosecutor is liable for punishment according to article 91.3 of the COC for violation of confidentiality.

Therefore, the Observatory urges the Greek authorities to put an end to the harassment directed against GHM as well as all human rights defenders in Greece, and ensure that they be allowed to carry out their work without obstacles, as well as to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular in particular its article 1, which states that “every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international level”, and article 12.2, which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

More generally, the Observatory calls upon the authorities to comply with international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights ratified by Greece.

In the hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account,

We remain,

President of FIDH Director of OMCT

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