The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) welcomes the Council of Europe (CoE)’s April 16th Report chastising the Greek government for its weak response to the surge in hate crimes. CoE Commissioner Nils Muižnieks catalogues serious human rights violations perpetrated against immigrant and minority populations of Greece and attributes them in significant part to supporters of and, parliamentarians affiliated with, the neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn. The Commissioner recommends that the Greek authorities lead by example – by condemning all instances of hate speech and hate crimes.
UMD fully supports Commissioner Muižnieks’s admonishment that the authorities “develop further and implement initiatives aimed at combating racism and extremism in all sections of society” as well as his statement that “priority should be given to actions, which aim to raise awareness of the dangers of intolerance and racism and enhance human rights education in schools.” UMD believes this would significantly improve how Greeks view Macedonian-identifying Greeks, Turk-identifying Greeks and other minorities in the country.
The report documents how the Greek government has used domestic and international anti-racism laws inadequately, or not at all. Hate crime related activities of political organizations, including Golden Dawn, on which it is possible to impose effective penalties, and even prohibition if necessary, have gone largely uncontested. Consequently, Commissioner Muižnieks argues that Greek authorities must accelerate the adoption of the stalled 2011 bill concerning racism and xenophobia through criminal law.
According to the report, Greece’s justice system is characterized by excessively lengthy proceedings, lack of effective remedies and costly court fees and, as such, must be reformed. Commissioner Muižnieks recommends that the 70 newly established counter-racism police units be adequately resourced and their staff trained in human rights and anti-discrimination; and their mandates should expand to include all forms of hate crimes. Commissioner Muižnieks also recommends that the asylum arrangement be transformed into an effective and humane system that abides by international law. Another troubling issue is ill treatment, including torture, committed by law enforcement officials, notably against migrants and Roma. Consequently, an independent, effective police complaints mechanism is also necessary.
Golden Dawn condemned last Thursday’s shooting of numerous Bangladeshi migrant workers in southern Greece, but this sentiment was overshadowed by the party’s calls to deport all illegal migrants. Golden Dawn holds 18 of the parliament’s 300 seats and polls at 10% in opinion surveys; all the while, their publications are littered with Nazi literature and references. Hate speech and xenophobia dot the Greek political landscape and should be expunged from political discourse.
UMD appreciates the work of the CoE in naming individuals and entities responsible for the dangerous rise in extreme nationalism (and with it, hate crimes) in Greece. UMD adds that the Macedonian minority in Greece has faced such repression (including torture and worse) since predecessors of Golden Dawn were in power during the dictatorships in Greece that preceded and followed the Second World War. Now that attention has been freshly turned to the misdeeds that Golden Dawn supports or commits, UMD calls on CoE members to ensure that Greece effectively and promptly clamps down on such organizations and political parties.