Athens: This is not a protest. This as a pogrom.
21 June 2017
Athens, Budapest, 21 June 2017: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), Solidarity Now, Minority Rights Group – Greece (MRG-G), and the Coordinated Organizations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece (SOKADRE) – a network of 30 Roma communities and 5 Greek NGOs working on Roma rights – call for immediate action to ensure the safety of Romani families in Menidi, Athens.
For three days running, angry mobs from the city of Menidi, Attica (a Greater Athens suburb) have attempted to storm a Roma neighbourhood, following the tragic death of an 11-year-old boy who was killed by a stray bullet, which according to the media may have been fired by a Romani person. Clashes broke out when firebombs were thrown causing severe damage to Romani homes, and police responded with tear gas to hold back the mob.
The Romani community in Menidi was almost immediately, collectively blamed for the accident, and a mob formed to drive them out of the neighbourhood they have lived in for the last 60 years.
“We need to see action now from the authorities, from the public prosecutor, from the mayor’s office, from the police chief. Mob rule cannot be allowed to be a legitimate form of justice in an EU country. I welcome the recent criminal investigation into these hate crimes, as this is a mandatory response under EU law, but authorities have to take the racial motivation of these attacks into account when proceeding with this.” said ERRC President, Đorđe Jovanović.
The shocking spectre of collective punishment once again haunts Europe. We imagined that in Europe the era of ethnic pogroms was past. We were wrong. In recent years we have witnessed anti-Roma mob violence erupt in Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine. This latest attempt at a pogrom against Roma is in many ways, unexceptional. Greece’s Romani minority have often suffered at the hands of angry mobs across the country. The last anti-Roma pogrom of similar scale to the current attacks in Menidi, occurred in the town of Etoliko in 2012 and 2013 when 70 individuals threw Molotov cocktails and projectiles at Romani homes after a violent incident occurred between Roma and non-Roma. Then, as is the case now in Menidi, the community were collectively judged and punished through ‘mob justice’ after a single incident occurred.
The difference between these and the most recent attack in Athens, lies in the fact that this is not a village in the countryside. This is a pogrom in the suburb of a capital city, where an angry mob are rioting against the existence of an ethnic minority in their neighbourhood. This recent spate of hate crime against Roma demonstrates the depth of Antigypsyism, and the increasingly emboldened face of fascism in Greek society.
“Both in Etoliko in January 2013 and in Menidi in May 2017 the mob attacks were organized and led by known neo-Nazi groups, respectively Golden Dawn and Independent Maeander Nationalists/Combat 18, which subsequently took credit for the attacks. Yet, prosecuting authorities did not make any arrests nor did they proceed to prompt referrals to trial, even after complaints were filed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor. Such developments may only encourage these neo-Nazi groups” said Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor Spokesperson.
A video posted online by far-right groups shows an arson attack on the home of the Romani suspect (2.20) as well as hundreds of people marching and chanting “gypos, pigs, murderers”. The footage later (3.30) shows a second arson attack on another Romani home and crowds chanting “gypos, cunts, shops of cops”. The video ends with a threat of more violence against the Roma in Menidi (8.55). No arrests have been made.
The undersigned organisations have called on the Mayor of Menidi and other relevant authorities to restore order, fully investigate and prosecute the individuals involved. We welcome the announcement on the 20th June that a criminal investigation has now been launched. This attack has exposed once again the presence of deeply entrenched Antigypsyism in the country. A comprehensive investigation must be undertaken, and those responsible prosecuted, not only to secure the rights of the individuals affected, but also for the protection of the entire Romani minority. We urge the public prosecutor to consider the racial motivation for these crimes as part of the investigation. Greek authorities have an obligation to investigate the potential for racial motivation under the EU Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA, particularly Article 8, as well as Article 14 read with Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We commend the actions of the police, who so far have successfully kept the mob at bay. However, the labelling of this crisis as a ‘protest’ by authorities and media betrays at best, a certain naivety as to the nature of the problem and at worst, institutional racism. This is not a ‘protest’ and those baying for blood at the police line are not ‘protestors’. This is a pogrom, and they are a lynch mob.
For now, the violence has abated, but with little being done to remedy the situation and the ever-present threat of far-right mobilisation, the risk of further mob violence is serious. We will be monitoring the situation closely on the ground as well as any institutional responses relating to the violence and the ongoing investigation.The rule of law must prevail in all circumstances; there can be no place in our democracies for summary justice dispatched by lynch mobs. In Greece and elsewhere the choice is stark: democracy or barbarism.
- The European Roma Rights Centre
- Minority Rights Group – Greece
- Greek Helsinki Monitor
- Solidarity Now
- Coordinated Organizations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:
European Roma Rights Centre
+36 30 500 2118
Greek Helsinki Monitor
PO Box 60820 – GR 15304 Glyka Nera Greece
Head of Communications
+30 210 6772513
+30 6937 251997