Nils Muiznieks, European Commissioner for human rights, writes to the Economist about the neo-nazi party

July 30, 2013

In the context of the ongoing debate – here in Greece but also elsewhere – on whether ‘hate speech’ and racist parties should be banned, I refer to the following letter to the Editor of the Economist (6 July 2013) by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights:

The far-right in Greece

“SIR – I fully agree that “Greece needs a more robust anti-racism law (“Racist dilemmas”, June 22nd). But I do not agree that banning the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn political party “could be counterproductive” and may be contrary to the right of freedom of association. I recently reported on Golden Dawn following an official visit to Greece. The leadership of this party has historical links with the military junta that ruled Greece in the 1970s and is openly contemptuous of democracy.

Greek democracy is under serious threat. I have urged the Greek authorities actively to prosecute individual members of Golden Dawn and others who have engaged in hate speech or violent racist attacks. Under international human-rights law the Greek authorities would be within their rights to ban Golden Dawn as well. The right to freedom of association is not absolute and may be restricted to protect the rights of others. Greece is bound by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, article four of which calls on states to ban racist organisations.

Moreover, Greece is bound by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, which has found that, under certain conditions, states can impose restrictions on political parties and their members or supporters.

Such restrictions are possible if a political party has been found to use violence to achieve its goals and deny fundamental rights and freedoms, including the principle of non-discrimination.

Nils Muiznieks
Commissioner for human rights, Council of Europe



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