Washington, D.C. – On April 6, 2009, the United Macedonian Diaspora sent the following letter to the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding the lack of civil and human rights of the Macedonian minority living in Greece.
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
On behalf of the United Macedonian Diaspora, we are writing to draw your attention to the plight of minorities in Greece. Unlike minorities in the U.S. and many other countries in the world, minorities in Greece are routinely subjected to discrimination based on their religion, ethnicity or national origin. The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) wishes to go on the record and to register its deep concern with the failure of international human rights organizations, despite their prodigious efforts, to bring about any change in these sad, tragic and illegal practices by the Greek Government.
For example, in 1990, Greek citizens of Macedonian origin, who live in Greece, filed suit against the Greek Government arguing that a pattern of systematic government discrimination exists that results in unequal protection under the law and that this is solely the case because they are ethnically, culturally, and linguistically of Macedonian national origin and they are members of the Macedonian Orthodox faith.
Inspired by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, of Brown v. Board of Education, Greek citizens who are ethnic Macedonians prevailed before the European Court of Human Rights. The Court found that Greece had violated Article 11 of the European Convention because Greece had denied Greek citizens of Macedonian origin, a minority in Greece, the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and equal protection under the law. (See Sidiropoulous and Others v. Greece 1995, Application Number: 26695/95).
The Greek Government did not welcome this decision of the European Court of Human Rights and continued to disregard the tenets of universal human and civil rights that were cited in the decision. To this day, the Greek Government has seen fit to continue its policy of state-sponsored discrimination against ethnic Macedonians on the basis of race, religion, and national origin.
In 2005, almost ten years after the initial European Court of Human Rights’ decision and with virtually no governmental reforms that comport with the decision of 1995, Greek citizens of Macedonian origin filed a second suit before the European Court of Human Rights. Their sole purpose was to seek relief to be given the right to freedom of assembly, to practice their religion and to speak their language free from police beatings, coercion and harassment.
Again in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights held that Greece remains in violation of Articles 6 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court found that Greece has denied Greek citizens of Macedonian origin, a minority in Greece, the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and equal protection under the law. (See Ouranio Toxo and Others v. Greece 2005, Application Number 74989/01)
With apparent impunity, the Greek Government continues to resist acknowledging the civil and human rights decisions of the Court. The Greek Government continues a state-sponsored policy, that ignores universal human rights, and, one might add, the basic tenets on which American civil rights is founded.
On April 17, 2008, the EFA – European Political Party, in cooperation with the EFA – Rainbow (Political Party of the Macedonian Minority of Greece), the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), and the Federal Union of the European Nationalities (FUEN) convened a panel discussion before the European Parliament, in Brussels, on the subject of “Ignored Minorities in Greece: Western Thrace Turks and Macedonians.”
The EFA message in Brussels was clear: “Greece’s decision to veto an invitation to the Republic of Macedonia to join NATO is an irresponsible act motivated by its [historical] refusal to recognize the existence of a distinct Macedonian ethnic identity in the Republic of Macedonia as well as in Greece,” which in part led to a violation of Articles 6 and 11 of the Convention, as more fully referenced in the European Court of Human Rights decisions rendered in Ouranio Toxo v. Greece (2005) and Sidiropoulous and Others v. Greece (1995), respectively.
The Greek Government’s decision to veto the NATO invitation to the Republic of Macedonia, prompted the United Nations to send its Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Ms. Gay J. McDougall (a Yale Law School graduate who, in 1994, became the first female African American lawyer appointed to the International Human Rights Law Group in Washington, D.C.), to Greece to investigate the status of civil and minority rights in Greece.
In a formal statement, dated March 13, 2009, the United Nations presented Ms. McDougall’s Report. It stated, “The Independent Expert urges Greece to withdraw from the dispute over whether there is a Macedonian or a Turkish minority in Greece and focus on protecting the rights to self-identification, freedom of expression and freedom of association of those communities.”
In direct contravention to European Court of Human Rights decisions and the findings of the United Nations’ Rapporteur on Minority Issues, the Greek Government steadfastly refuses to allow any relevant civil rights reforms in Greece. Despite Greece’s membership in the European Union and NATO, Greek citizens of Macedonian ethnicity continue to be denied freedom of religion, of assembly, of instruction in their own language, and other, related freedoms that are the birth rights of citizens in all the world’s democracies.
What our organization seeks is bipartisan support for the early termination of oppression against Greek minority citizens of Macedonian origin. We believe that negotiations on the Macedonia name issue must incorporate, and focus on, legal findings establishing that discrimination against the Macedonian minority in Greece has been perpetrated, continues to exist and remains a threat to equal protection under Greek law. Our organization believes that you set the tone for addressing this problem at your confirmation hearings when you said, “Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to the cause of making human rights a reality for millions of oppressed people around the world.” In that spirit, the threat posed by a nation’s name, pales in comparison to the threat posed by turning a blind eye to allowing prejudice and discrimination to flourish with impunity. Please acknowledge this solemn request to help stop these unseemly and illegal practices and support the ignored minorities in Greece by supporting the Republic of Macedonia’s efforts on their behalf and all of the adversely affected minorities in Greece and the greater Balkans.
United Macedonian Diaspora
Founded in 2004, United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) is the leading international non-governmental organization addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world.
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