A small group of us in London, Greeks of varied affiliations and political persuasions, have come together because we are very concerned about the rise of fascism, racism and the erosion of democracy and civil rights in Greece. Our aim is to raise awareness of the problem internationally, in the hope that this might help to put pressure on Greek politicians to address these issues. We have drafted a statement which we plan to send as an open letter to selected publications, initially in Britain but later also in Greece and the United States. We hope to collect as many signatures as we can from people with a personal or professional interest in Greece and/or human rights and civil liberties. We would be very grateful if you would sign the statement, adding your position/affiliation in the comment box if you feel you can do so, and also forward it to others who might be interested.
This petition is open to all.
GREECE: DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT
The ongoing economic and social crisis in Greece, together with a lack of confidence in the political system, is now posing serious threats to democracy. We believe that there is now an urgent need to raise international awareness of these threats, and of repeated violations of civil and human rights.
We are particularly concerned by the following:
The government continues to tolerate the violence and hate speech of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, even when it violates existing laws. Though several Golden Dawn members and deputies have been indicted for violent crimes, their cases are repeatedly postponed and remain unresolved. Golden Dawn deputies publicly attack democracy and the parliamentary system and display the symbols of the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974; the party recruits supporters unopposed by the authorities, including in secondary schools.
Members of the Greek police engage in violence against immigrants and political protesters but have not been brought to account, despite repeated calls from international agencies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UNHCR. Perpetrators of racist attacks are almost never arrested; instead, their victims are often detained. There have been allegations of torture in the Athens police headquarters, and police infiltration by Golden Dawn has been well documented. Greece has no independent police complaints procedure, and the government has failed to investigate these issues.
Refugees and migrants face attacks, sometimes fatal, from supporters of far-right groups on an almost daily basis; the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights recently called such violence “a real threat to democracy” and said that “impunity for the rising number of racist crimes has to end.”
The government’s policy of arbitrarily arresting immigrants - including some born in Greece - and detaining them, often in inhumane conditions, has also been condemned by UNHCR. Though large numbers of the refugees and irregular migrants entering Europe come through Greece, the country lacks a functioning asylum system.
International, European and constitutional law is persistently violated and constitutional safeguards sidelined. Legislation with far reaching consequences is introduced by means of presidential and ministerial decrees, violating the separation of powers and bypassing parliamentary scrutiny and judicial control. The basic constitutional principles of accountability and responsibility have been abandoned and Parliament is asked to approve decisions taken elsewhere.
Independent journalists have been censored or intimidated by the judiciary, media proprietors and businessmen. Greece has now sunk to 84th place in the Reporters Without Borders Annual Press Freedom Index for 2013, the lowest in Europe alongside Bulgaria. The report refers to the “disastrous social and professional atmosphere”in which Greek journalists operate. Some privately owned mass media, especially TV channels, have long played an ambiguous role in Greece; with the crisis, that role has become even more manipulative and corrupt.
We are deeply concerned that fundamental rights and freedoms for which the Greek people have fought over many decades are being systematically undermined. Our initiative aims to inform and mobilize international public opinion, and has no party political affiliation.
THANASIS GAVOS - Journalist
COSTAS DOUZINAS - Professor of Law / Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
COSTAS LAPAVITSAS - Professor in Economics / Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, at SOAS
MARIA MARGARONIS - Journalist
ALEXANDER KAZAMIAS - Senior Lecturer in Politics, Coventry University
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