EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency biased reporting on Greece excludes UN recommendations and GHM work on hate crimes

In the recently published work on hate crime recording in EU countries, in the chapter on Greece appended below, the EU’s official Fundamental Rights Agency makes once again no reference to the work of Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM). According to FRA, the only civil society work on recording hate crimes in Greece is done by the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN). GHM‘s Racist Crimes Watch where racist crimes are recorded in a transparent and documented way is non-existent according to FRA. These crimes are subsequently reported to the Hate Crimes Prosecutor who, with one exception, found them admissible and opened criminal investigation briefs for each case. More than 250 such briefs have been opened from 2016 to date (which is more than 80% of the Prosecutor’s total number of case briefs). All that is non-existent either for FRA.

This omission is consistent with choices by the Ministry of Justice and other Greek Government agencies, to exclude GHM from combating hate crime and other similar activities, perhaps unhappy with the fact that GHM is the only civil society actor that is consistently reporting on Greece to all UN and Council of Europe human rights and anti-racism bodies, including on topics that all Greek Governments consider as taboos, i.e. ethnic minorities. Most recently, in June 2018  OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) decided to “support inter-agency co-operation on addressing hate crime in Greece” that included a “a national, inter-agency protocol on activities and policies to be implemented by relevant authorities and civil society to address hate crime” signed by the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) but not by GHM, which was deliberately excluded (see here and here).

Moreover, FRA‘s report is also claiming that there are no Observations and Recommendations by the UN with regard to recording and collecting data on hate crimes, between 2013 and 2017. This is false, as both the the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination  (CERD) and the UN Human Rights Committee (HRCttee) made in 2016 and 2015 respectively the following damning observations and recommendations, on the basis of well-documented critical reporting to them by GHM (but not by the RVRN).

In August 2016, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination  (CERD) made a lengthy series of recommendations to Greece:

Anti-racism legal framework

12. While noting with appreciation the positive aspects incorporated in the new anti- racism law No. 4285/2014, the Committee remains concerned that the new law is not fully compliant with the requirements of article 4 of the Convention, particularly as it does not criminalise the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority and does not provide for a procedure to declare illegal, and prohibit, racist organizations. The Committee is also concerned at the persistence of the Golden Dawn political party in the State party, to which the delegation referred in its opening statement as the most prominent racist organization, inspired directly by neo-Nazi ideas (ar 4).

13. Recalling its general recommendations No. 7 (1985) and No. 15 (1993) relating to the implementation of article 4 of the Convention, the Committee recommends the State party to  bring its anti-racism legal framework in  full compliance with the requirements of article 4 of the Convention, and ensure its strict application. The State party should among others, declare illegal, and prohibit, organizations which promote and incite racial discrimination, such as the Golden Dawn political party, as previously  recommended  by  the  Special Rapporteur  on  contemporary  forms  of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Implementation of anti-discrimination provisions

14. The Committee welcomes the information provided on the increased application of the anti-racist legislation in the State party by law enforcement authorities and in courts. It, however, remains concerned at the still low invocation and application of anti-racism legal provisions as well as the low rate of convictions in courts (ar 2).

15. The Committee recommends that  the  State party intensify its  measures to strengthen the application of anti-racism provisions. To this end, the State party should:

(a) Increase the human, financial and technical resources allocated to law enforcement authorities entrusted with investigating hate and racial crimes, namely the special prosecutors and special police units and ensure these bodies’ outreach throughout the country;

(b) Undertake  awareness-raising  measures,  including  regular  mandatory pre-service and in-service training, especially among the police, prosecutors, judiciary and lawyers, on the legal framework governing anti-discrimination as well as on the investigation of complaints of hate crimes.

Racist hate speech and hate crimes

16. The Committee is concerned about the increase in hate speech since 2009 coinciding with the rise of the Golden Dawn party, essentially targeting migrants, Roma, Jews and Muslims, including through the media, on the internet and social media platforms. The Committee is also concerned at the increase of racist and xenophobic attacks, particularly against asylum seekers and refugees, which is exacerbated by the economic crisis in the State party. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned at the low reporting rate of such crimes, despite some awareness raising measures taken to that end (arts. 2 and 4).

17. The Committee urges the State party to effectively prevent, combat and punish racist hate speech and hate crimes. Recalling its general recommendations No. 35 (2013) on combating racist hate speech, and No. 31 (2005) on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system, the Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Take   appropriate   measures   to   prosecute   individuals,   including politicians, for the acts prescribed by article 4, and provide information in its next report  about  police  investigations, criminal  proceedings,  and  sentences, including those related to the Golden Dawn political party and its members. The Committee wishes to underline that the fundamental right of freedom of expression should not undermine the principles of dignity, tolerance, equality and non-discrimination as the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special responsibilities, among which is the obligation not to disseminate ideas on racial superiority or hatred;

(b) Strengthen the training on identifying, registering, preventing and combating hate crimes, hate speech  and  bias  motivation, targeting the  judiciary, police, prosecutors, and the labour inspectorate, and improve coordination between these institutions;

(c)  Ensure that the media do not stigmatize, stereotype or negatively target non-citizens and ethnic minorities, and to this end, ensure the implementation and reinforcement of the mandate of the National Radio and Television Council which supervises and regulates the media with a view to prohibiting the broadcast of racist, xenophobic or intolerant statements, and that appropriate sanctions are handed down in such events;

(d) Undertake  intensive  country  wide  campaigns  in  collaboration  with national human rights institutions and civil society actors aimed at promoting tolerance and denouncing racist attitudes, and sensitize the public on the legal prohibition of racial discrimination and on the available channels to lodge complaints, and facilitate victims’ access to justice including by strengthening legal aid system;

(e) Adopt  concrete  measures,  in  consultation  with  affected  groups,  to increase reporting of racist hate crimes by ensuring that the reporting mechanism is transparent and accessible, and finding ways for victims to have more trust in the police and the justice system;

(f) Improve  data  collection  system  for  statistics  on  complaints  of  hate crimes,  and  provide  detailed  information  in  its  next  periodic  report  on such complaints and their results, including those collected by the Observatory for the Prevention  of  School  Violence  and  Bullying,  as  well as disaggregated  data  on residence permits for humanitarian reasons granted to third-country nationals who are victims or witnesses of racist crimes;

(g) Expedite the adoption of the draft Anti-Racism Action Plan and provide it with resources, measurable indicators, and a time line framework, necessary for its effective implementation.

Previously, in November 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRCttee) also made a damning observation and recommendation to Greece:

Racism and xenophobia

  1. While acknowledging efforts made by the State party to combat hate crimes, the Committee is concerned that the new Law 4285/2014 and the provisions introduced in the Penal Code may hinder investigations into and prosecutions of those responsible for racist hate crimes involving public insults and defamation against groups. The Committee is also concerned about continued reports of racist attacks and hate speech against migrants, refugees and Roma. The Committee notes with concern that cases of racism are underreported owing, allegedly, to lack of trust in the authorities and the absence of an effective complaints mechanism. The Committee regrets that sanctions imposed are insufficient to discourage and prevent discrimination (arts. 2, 19-20 and 26).
  2. The State party should review its legislation with a view to ensuring that all advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred is prohibited by law, and that all cases of racially motivated violence are systematically investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished and that appropriate compensation is awarded to the victims. The State party should take effective measures to improve the reporting of hate crimes and should strengthen its efforts to eradicate stereotyping and discrimination against migrants, refugees and Roma, inter alia, by conducting public awareness campaigns to promote tolerance and respect for diversity.