Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

Human rights defenders in Greece, my adopted country: not doing well

July 28, 2022
OHCHR | Ms Mary Lawlor

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, conducted an official visit to Greece from 13 to 22 June 2022, to assess the government’s efforts towards creating an enabling environment for those seeking to protect and promote human rights.

Human rights defenders in Greece, particularly those working on migration, operate in an environment of pervasive fear and insecurity, concluded Mary Lawlor. “I am concerned about the increasing criminalization of humanitarian assistance in Greece. Solidarity should never be punished and compassion should never be put on trial,” she said while presenting her preliminary findings at the end of a 10-day mission in the country.

With Greece facing intense international criticism over unlawful pushbacks of migrants at its borders and wider human rights concerns related to migration and asylum, the Greek government has moved to silence groups and individuals documenting these abuses. While acknowledging Greece’s migration challenges and government efforts to address them, Lawlor criticized burdensome rules for the registration of nongovernmental organizations working on migration, introduced in 2019, calling them discriminatory and in violation of Greece’s international human rights obligations. See my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/17/greeces-mistaken-deterrence-migrants-and-aid-workers-facing-heavy-prison-sentences/

The UN expert noted that human rights defenders not only face criminal sanctions for their activities, but are operating in an increasingly hostile environment where the general public is influenced by negative rhetoric from high-ranking officials and their unfavorable portrayal in the media, which often conflates their activities with traffickers and criminal networks.

Greece fell 38 positions within a year in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 report on the Press Freedom Index, with the organization marking it the lowest-ranked European Union country for press freedom. “Journalists who counter the government’s narrative on the management of migration flows are often under pressure and lack access to mainstream media outlets.… Journalists reporting on corruption are sometimes facing threats and even charges,” Lawlor said. She noted that journalists have very limited or no access to facilities where migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are being held, further contributing to a general lack of transparency regarding the government’s policies in this area.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/18/greek-court-fails-human-rights-defenders-on-antisemitism/

Lawlor will present a detailed report with her findings at the March 2023 session of the UN Human Rights Council. The government should listen to what the UN expert has to say and champion human rights defenders. The European Commission, which noted in July last year the narrowing space in Greece for groups working with migrants and asylum seekers, should step up its engagement on the issue and press Greece to stop harassing civil society groups and activists.

https://www.ohchr.org/en/media-advisories/2022/06/un-human-rights-expert-visit-greece-assess-situation-human-rights

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/06/greece-migration-policy-having-suffocating-effect-human-rights-defenders

https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/europe-and-central-asia/greece/report-greece/

see also later:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/31/greece-should-face-more-checks-over-asylum-seeker-treatment-eu-official

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/31/i-was-close-to-death-syrian-man-tells-how-greek-officials-pushed-refugees-back-out-to-sea

Greek court fails human rights defenders on antisemitism

February 18, 2022
greek orthodox bishop seraphim hate speech
Greek Orthodox Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus. Two activists were found to have falsely accused him of hate speech by a Greek court on Tuesday. Credit: Ewiki/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

Several newspapers (here Anna Wichmann for GreekReporter of 16 February 2022) commented on the rather surprising ruling by a Greek court that two human rights activists falsely accused a Greek Orthodox bishop of hate speech and sentenced them to year-long prison sentences that were suspended for three years.

Bishop Seraphim, who is the Metropolitan of Piraeus, was acquitted on charges of hate speech. The bishop has made what many believe are both coded and explicit references to antisemitic tropes many times. For example when Greece introduced new legislation to expand rights for gay and lesbian couples in 2015, he claimed that an “international Zionist monster” was behind the bill.

He also claimed that Jews themselves funded and planned the Holocaust and charged that they were the reason for Greece’s financial troubles on Greek television five years ago. After his statement about the Holocaust began to garner controversy, the Greek Orthodox Bishop clarified that it was his own opinion and not that of the Greek Orthodox Church.

These comments were seen as extremely troubling in a country whose once vibrant Jewish community was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust, and antisemitic rhetoric and attacks, usually in the form of vandalism, are still a major problem.

The accused brought a formal complaint against the Bishop in 2017 in which they claimed he fueled hatred and incited violence against Greece’ Jewish minority with his inflammatory statements about Jews and the Holocaust. They also claimed that he had abused his office.

The prosecutor dismissed the activists’ complaint in 2019, but the Bishop decided to file his own motion against the activists for falsely accusing him of hate speech, and the prosecutor subsequently formally charged the accused in November.

Greece passed Law No. 4285/2014 in 2014, which criminalized hate speech — particularly speech which incites violence — and genocide denial. The law reads “Anyone, who publicly incites, provokes, or stirs, either orally or through the press, the Internet, or any other means, acts of violence or hatred against a person or group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, color, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, in a manner that endangers the public order and exposes the life, physical integrity, and freedom of persons defined above to danger, will be punished by imprisonment of from three months to three years and a fine of €5,000 to €20,000.”

Human rights groups around the world paid careful attention to the case; many believed that bringing the activists to trial alone was a sign of an alarming shift of the judicial system’s role in the country as a force against activists.

Amnesty International stated on social media that “The ruling poses a direct threat to the right to freedom of expression and has a chilling effect on human rights defenders advocating against racism and hate speech.”

Andrea Gilbert, one of the accused, who works for the Greek Helsinki Monitor rights group, expressed her outrage at the verdict to The Guardian: “Today’s outrageous verdict is representative of the institutionalized antisemitism that exists in Greece…We have immediately appealed and will fight it all the way.”

Activists and people who work for NGOs argue that the trial epitomizes how difficult it is for them to work in Greece.

“Human rights defenders (in Greece) are consistently targeted for their legitimate work…(They) face different types of attacks, including surveillance, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests, detentions, ill-treatment, entry bans and expulsions,” the international secretariat of the World Organization Against Torture stated to The Guardian.

Although not included in the activists’ initial complaint of hate speech against Greek Orthodox Bishop Seraphim, he is also known to express what many believe are homophobic sentiments.

He has claimed that homosexuality brings about disease and can be “carcinogenic.” He has also called homosexuality an issue of “psychopathology” rather than sexuality.

In 2021, when Greece was hit with catastrophic wildfires that destroyed vast swaths of land and thousands of houses, Seraphim released a statement in which he hinted that the fires were a punishment for Greece adopting legislation that expanded the rights of gay people, writing:

“With love I would say to our leaders that when they show off the subversion of human ontology and human nature and institutionalize it as a “human right,” despite the fact that it doesn’t have any relationship with human nature, and they view it as a plus on their CV for advancement in their position of authority, they don’t understand that this is hubris, and each instance of hubris requires purification and ‘just repayment.’”

https://greekreporter.com/2022/02/16/greek-bishop-hate-speech-seraphim/embed/#?secret=PjaG4AEUTf#?secret=1rJoahvQnx

https://www.dw.com/en/dangerous-orthodoxy-greek-human-rights-activists-sentenced-for-challenging-clerical-antisemitism/av-60818537

Greece’s mistaken deterrence: migrants and aid workers facing heavy prison sentences

November 17, 2021
An abandoned life jacket in the Aegean Sea in 2016 | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/L.Pitarakis
An abandoned life jacket in the Aegean Sea in 2016 | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/L.Pitarakis

A post by Marion MacGregor published on 15 November 2021in ‘Infomigrants’ brings out an awful truth which I have to face up to even though Greece is my adopted country. In the face of Turkey ‘weaponsing’ migrants, it is trying its hands at deterrence in the hope that it will diminish the pressure of inflows

Greece and other European countries are increasingly using the threat of criminal proceedings against aid workers and those migrants who ended up being marked as migrant smugglers.

Hanad Abdi Mohammad is in prison, he says, because of something he was forced to do. The Somali is serving an impossibly long sentence of 142 years (!) after he was convicted last December for driving an inflatable dinghy carrying migrants to Greece. He says that he didn’t have a choice, because the smuggler hit him in the face and threatened him with a gun before abandoning the boat in rough seas. As 28-year-old Mohammad told journalists and members of the European Parliament who visited the prison last week, he “didn’t think saving people is a crime.”

In the same prison on the Greek island of Chios two men from Afghanistan, Amir Zaheri and Akif Rasouli, both in their 20s, are also serving sentences of 50 years for similar criminal offences. The men’s convictions and staggering prison terms show how far Greece is ready to go in order to stop migrants in their tracks.

On the day the smuggler abandoned them at sea between Turkey and Greece, Mohammad and nearly three dozen other migrants were only concerned about their lives. Mohammad says that he called the Turkish coast guard repeatedly, begging to be rescued. But when it arrived, the Turkish patrol boat circled the migrants’ dinghy sending water into the boat and gradually pushing it toward Greece. In the chaos, two women fell overboard and drowned, AP reports.

The survivors were finally rescued by the Greek coast guard, and Mohammad helped others onto the rescue boat. He admitted to having driven the boat after the smuggler left. It didn’t cross his mind that would lead to him being prosecuted as a smuggler.

It’s not possible that someone who comes to claim asylum in Greece is threatened with such heavy sentences simply because they were forced, by circumstances or pressure, to take over handling a boat,” one of the lawyers representing the three imprisoned in Chios, Alexandros Georgoulis, told AP. Greek authorities, he said, “are essentially baptizing the smuggled as the smuggler.”

From file: Sara Mardini and Seán Binder | Screenshot from Amnesty International Ireland
From file: Sara Mardini and Seán Binder | Screenshot from Amnesty International Ireland

Greek authorities have also accused aid workers and volunteers helping migrants in Greece of serious crimes. In one widely publicized case, the Syrian human rights worker Sara Mardini, a refugee herself, and an Irish volunteer Sean Binder were arrested and detained for months in 2018 on suspicion of espionage, money laundering, human trafficking and other offenses. Due to face trial on the island of Lesbos alongside 22 other civil society activists later this week, Binder says he is “terrified.”

I’ve had a taste of life in prison on Chios. It was all scabies and bed bugs with 17 of us packed in a cell,” Binder told The Guardian. “The police holding cells were even worse, the most awful place on earth; squalid, windowless rooms full of asylum seekers just there because authorities had nowhere else to put them.”

Giorgos Kosmopoulos, a campaigner with an Amnesty International group which plans to monitor the trial in Greece, says that this is not only happening there. “Human rights defenders across Europe are being criminalized … for helping refugees and migrants,” he told The Guardian. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/09/mary-lawlor-condemns-criminalization-of-those-saving-lives-in-the-mediterranean/

AP reports that, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece have initiated 58 investigations and legal proceedings since 2016 against private entities involved in search and rescue.

I think it’s important to challenge these in the courts, to not at all sit back and accept that we should be cast as smugglers or spies because I offered CPR, (or) more often than not just a smile, to someone in distress,” Binder told the news agency. “It is preposterous that we should be cast as criminals. I don’t accept it….It doesn’t matter who you are, you don’t deserve to drown in the sea.

Binder told The Guardian that he has not bought a return ticket to the UK, where he has been studying. He and Mardini face a maximum eight-year sentence, convertible into a fine. They are still under investigation for offences which could carry 25-year sentences if they are convicted.

In my view, the problem can only be tackled in a European context [see e.g. https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/legal-migration-and-integration_en%5D but it seems most member states cling to outdated notion of sovereignty.

Not directly related but possibly relevant is recent legislation in Greece, adopted on November 11, 2021, that makes it a criminal offence to spread “fake news.” Human Rights Watch said that the Greek government should immediately move to revoke the provision, which is incompatible with freedom of expression and media freedom. “In Greece, you now risk jail for speaking out on important issues of public interest, if the government claims it’s false,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The criminal sanctions risk making journalists and virtually anyone else afraid to report on or to debate important issues such as the handling of Covid-19 or migration or government economic policy.

While the trial began Thursday, it was almost immediately suspended. The court’s decision to adjourn, said 27-year-old Binder, a diver and German national, “is further proof of the absurdity of this case.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/11/18/drop-charges-greece-delays-trial-humanitarians-who-aided-refugees-sea

https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/36487/greece-migrants-and-aid-workers-facing-decades-in-prison

https://www.independent.ie/regionals/kerryman/news/kerry-aid-worker-faces-trial-in-greece-41058865.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/11/17/greece-alleged-fake-news-made-crime

https://reliefweb.int/report/greece/greece-guilty-verdict-migrant-rights-defenders-could-mean-more-deaths-sea-un-expert

https://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/sections/politics/2021/11/19/trial-of-aid-workers-in-greece-is-adjourned-amid-protests_5de29280-fde8-4c77-b7c2-ef878c497157.html

See also in March 2022: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/17/ray-hope-fight-against-greeces-border-abuses,

and on 12 April: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/04/un-committee-enforced-disappearances-publishes-findings-greece-and-niger

Historic Conviction Against Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party

October 8, 2020

Justice Delivered in Greece

Magda Fyssa, the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, celebrates immediately after the delivery of the verdict in Athens, October 7, 2020. 
Magda Fyssa, the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, celebrates immediately after the delivery of the verdict in Athens, October 7, 2020.  © 2020 AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Living in Greece as I do, I can only warmly endorse the reactions of the international human rights community (here Human Rights Watch): In a momentous ruling today, an Athens appeals court found that the far-right neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was operating as a criminal organization. The court also found that members of the group orchestrated or colluded in the 2013 murder of 34-year-old antifascist activist and rapper Pavlos Fyssas, the 2013 murder of 27-year-old Pakistani national Shehzad Luqman, and numerous brutal attacks against migrants, trade unionists, and human rights defenders.

It’s a landmark victory for the victims, their families, and civil society says HRW. An estimated 20,000 people who gathered in downtown Athens erupted in cheers when they heard the verdict. Magda Fyssa cried out, “You did it, my son!” perhaps finally finding some meaning in the otherwise senseless loss of her son Pavlos.  

People holding a banner depicting Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, gather for a protest outside a court in Athens, Wednesday, October 7, 2020. 
People holding a banner depicting Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, gather for a protest outside a court in Athens, Wednesday, October 7, 2020.  © 2020 AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis

It has been a long time coming. Back in 2010-2013, when Golden Dawn flourished, Greece saw an epidemic of violence. In 2011-2012, we documented dozens of attacks on foreigners, who had been beaten, kicked, and chased down the streets of Athens by gangs of Greeks linked to Golden Dawn. Victims included migrants and asylum seekers, pregnant women, and children. Many attacks went unpunished, with police doing little to intervene and courts to hold perpetrators to account.

In January 2012, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos sat across a table from us and denied any involvement in violence. Now he and seven other former lawmakers are facing sentences of up to 15 years in jail for leading a violent, criminal organization. Many others await sentencing for membership.

Talking about Golden Dawn, Michaloliakos said to us, “We want Greece to belong to the Greeks … if that makes us racist, then yes we are.

Today’s verdict, along with the massive crowd outside the courtroom, sends the clear message that these hateful ideas, and the violence that Golden Dawn spawned, are not welcome in Greek society anymore.

See also;

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/10/greece-mps-of-golden-dawn-far-right-party-attack-minority-rights-defenders-no-police-action/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/28/documentary-exposing-golden-dawn-racism-awarded-in-sarajevo/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/16/knife-attack-targets-migrants-in-crete-greece/

—–

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/07/justice-delivered-greece

Mandela Prize 2020 awarded to Greek and Guinean humanitarians

July 22, 2020
Home

UN Photo/Ariana LindquistUnveiling Ceremony of Nelson Mandela Statue from South Africa 17 July 2020

The 2020 Nelson Mandela Prize {SEE: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/nelson-mandela-prize-un] is awarded every five years and recognizes those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity, will go to Marianna Vardinoyannis, of Greece, and Doctor Morissana Kouyaté, of Guinea, it was announced on Friday.

United Nations Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, female laureate of the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.

The President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, made the announcement, and will recognize the laureates during a virtual ceremony on 20 July, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. An in-person award ceremony will take place at a later date, at UN Headquarters in New York.

Ms. Vardinoyannis is the founder and president of two foundations dedicated to children: the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” and “ELPIDA Friends’ Association of Children with cancer.”

She has been involved in the fight against child cancer for some 30 years and, thanks to her work, thousands of children have been cured. Notably, the ELPIDA association was instrumental in setting up the first bone marrow transplant unit in Greece, in 1999, and the country’s first oncology hospital for children, in 2010.

Her foundation also supports programmes for the medical care of refugee children and other vulnerable social groups, human rights education, programmes, and the fight against human trafficking. Ms. Vardinoyannis has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 1999.

United Nations Morissanda Kouyate, male laureate of the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.

As Executive Director of the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices (IAC), Dr. Kouyaté is a leading figure in efforts to end violence against women in Africa, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). He has received several international humanitarian awards for his work.

Dr. Kouyaté created IAC in 1984 in Dakar, Senegal, at a time when FGM was a highly controversial and sensitive issue for discussion. The organization aims, through education, to change attitudes towards the practice, and allow all African women and children to fully enjoy their human rights, free from the consequences of FGM, and other harmful practices. 

It is a partner organization with the UN reproductive rights agency (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UN childrens’ agency (UNICEF).

“I am pleased to join you to celebrate the life and achievements of Nelson Mandela – one of the greatest leaders of our time, a moral giant whose legacy continues to guide us today”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message to the virtual General Assembly commemoration.

Quoting Madiba Mr. Guterres said: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.

Maintaining that “inequality damages everyone”, the UN chief said it was “a brake on human development and opportunities”.

“The answer lies in a New Social Contract, to ensure economic and social justice and respect for human rights”, stressed the UN chief.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068721

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068571

Oak Human Rights Fellow is migrants’ rights defender Nasim Lomani

June 13, 2020

On 12 June 2020 the Oak Institute for Human Rights announced as the 2020 Oak Human Rights Fellow: Nasim Lomani, a human rights defender and migrants’ rights activist, who has been working in Greece and across the EU for over a decade.

As a then 16-year-old Afghanistani, Lomani left for Greece nearly two decades ago. Upon arrival, he was arrested and charged with illegal crossing of the Greek border, ultimately serving a two-year prison sentence. During the process of appealing to the court for having his rights as a refugee abused and violated, he learned about the bureaucratic difficulties that all migrants face while trying to enter Europe. He joined a number of solidarity groups, such as the Network for Social Support to Immigrants and Refugees and the Migrants’ Social Center in Athens, where he coordinated free language classes and the Athens Anti-racist Festival. He also engaged in solidarity work that involved lawyers, human rights defenders, as well as refugees and migrants.
 Nasim Lomani

Nasim Lomani © Marios Lolos

In Greece, Lomani, founded City Plaza – Refugees Accommodation Solidarity Space in Athens – where he organized daily life for migrants, managed media communication, coordinated international volunteers, and served as the public representative to researchers, students, and academics. City Plaza, once one of the largest solidarity migrant accommodations in Athens, was an abandoned hotel in central Athens repurposed to offer migrants the right to live in dignity in the urban space with access to social, economic, and political rights. Lomani lived inside the now-closed City Plaza for the entirety of its existence. Over almost three and half years, it welcomed 3,000 people, lodging up to 400 at a time.  The story of City Plaza is known as an example of self-organization, self-management, and everyday processes to help empower refugees. In essence, it was a political statement against Europe’s use of militarized borders, repression, and systematic violation of human rights and refugees’ rights.

Lomani was also involved in organizing the largest NoBorder refugee and migrant solidarity camp to date, leading to the closure of the Pagani Detention Center on Lesvos island in 2009. 

Lomani is at increasing risk, as migration solidarity work and defending human rights in Greece, and Europe at large has been criminalized in recent years. Helping refugees and criticizing the human rights violations by authorities is now a major offense by both national and European law. In Greece, this has led to large-scale evictions of housing sites for refugees and asylum seekers and to increasing arrests and trials of activists on the ground. 

Lomani has been active in the human rights field since he was a child, so the Oak Fellowship will come as a much-needed respite.

Established in 1997 by a grant from the Oak Foundation, the Oak Institute for Human Rights hosts a Fellow each year. The fellowship offers an opportunity to spend the fall semester in residence at Colby, where they teach, conduct research, and raise awareness about important global human rights issues.

http://www.colby.edu/news/2020/06/12/migrants-rights-activist-to-be-2020-oak-human-rights-fellow/

Refugees and migrants in camp conditions at high risk of COVID-19

March 30, 2020

New Amnesty report on human rights defenders helping migrants

March 4, 2020
Amnesty accuses European law enforcement agencies of using trafficking and terrorism laws
Human rights group Amnesty has warned that concerned citizens across Europe are facing prosecution for offering help and assistance to refugees and migrants.

In a new report published on 3 March 2020, Amnesty International said European law enforcement authorities and prosecutors are “misusing already flawed” laws intended to prevent people smuggling and terrorism to target members of the public who offer migrants shelter and warm clothing, or attempt to rescue them at sea. Amnesty examined several cases that took place in Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the UK between 2017 and last year, during which human rights defenders who attempted to help refugees and migrants were targeted under legislation intended to tackle organised immigration crime networks. Amnesty’s report comes as world media attention has once again turned to the Mediterranean migrant crisis after Turkey opened its border with Greece to thousands of Syrian refugees.

In one such case, Frenchman Pierre Mumber was charged with “facilitating irregular entry” into France when he was caught offering tea and warm clothing to four west African asylum seekers before being acquitted on appeal. The report also notes that Swiss citizens have faced prosecution for providing migrants and refugees with shelter or helping them access services and protection. Elsewhere, the agency revealed that people in Italy who have worked to rescue migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean on unseaworthy vessels have been subjected to smear campaigns and criminal investigations. See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/international-migrants-day-the-story-of-the-ocean-viking/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/12/luventa10-sea-rescue-group-gets-ai-germanys-human-rights-award/

Commenting on the contents of the report, Elisa De Pieri, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International, said: “The increased focus on limiting and deterring arrivals in Europe has meant that making refugees or migrants feel safer or welcomed is seen as a threat. “The failure of European states to fulfil the basic needs of refugees and migrants means it is often left to ordinary people to provide essential services and support. “By punishing the people who step up to fill the gaps, European governments are putting people on the move at even greater risk.”

Click to access EUR0118282020ENGLISH.PDF

Amnesty accuses European police of targeting ‘human rights defenders’ who help refugees and migrants

The annual Oxi Day Courage awards

January 8, 2020

A small but interesting award that must be close to my heart (as I live in Greece) is the Oxi Day Courage Award. For more information see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/oxi-day-courage-awards.

Philip Chrysopoulos in GreekReporter of 27 October 2019 recalls the strategic importance of the the Greek resistance (“What if the Greeks Did Not Say “Oxi” on October 28, 1940?”).

October 28 is a Greek national holiday, but not without its share of criticism, as there are those who argue that it commemorates the country’s entry into a war instead of a victory or a liberation day, as is typically the case with such holidays. However, if Greeks did not say “Oxi” and avoided the war, it is entirely possible that the consequences for Greece and the world would have been far more devastating. Greece likely would have lost portions of its territory and definitely would have lost its national pride.

On the contrary, the proud “Oxi” uttered by Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas in the early morning of October 28, 1940, and a few hours later by the Greek people who went out on the streets celebrating, united the Greeks. The events of that historic night united the Greeks who had previously been divided into leftists and rightists, monarchists and republicans, communists and nationalists. The division was so intense that between 1922, the year of the Asia Minor disaster, and 1936, no government could remain in power for long. This brings us to 1940, where the man who said “Oxi” to the Italian ambassador was a dictator, who had been appointed prime minister by King George in early 1936 and who by August 4 of that year had established a military regime. Ioannis Metaxas was a monarchist who was accused of being a sympathizer of both the Nazis in Germany and the Italian fascists, yet he was a patriot first and foremost. But what would have happened if, on that night, Metaxas had said “yes” instead? The Greek prime minister was a highly educated military man and knew quite well that a war would cost Greece thousands of lives while causing tremendous damage. He could have surrendered and allowed the Axis forces to enter Greece in an easy and relatively bloodless occupation. France, under German rule since June of that year, was a good example of such a smooth occupation…..

In 2019 the laureate was Jamal Khashoggi [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/ ]

In 2018 it was Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice chairman of the Open Russia movement and chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom.  Twice, in 2015 and 2017, he was poisoned with an unknown substance and left in a coma; the attempts on his life were widely viewed as politically motivated. Kara-Murza writes regular commentary for the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, World Affairs, and other periodicals, and has previously worked as a journalist for Russian broadcast and print media, including Ekho Moskvy and Kommersant. He directed two documentary films, They Chose Freedom (on the dissident movement in the USSR) and Nemtsov (on the life of Boris Nemtsov).

In 2017 Ji Seong-Ho who lived through North Korea’s “Arduous March,” the propaganda term used by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea to describe the famine of the 1990s that killed an estimated 3.5 million people. He survived by eating grass and tree bark, and by foraging through garbage at street markets…In March 7, 1996, while jumping from one train car to another, he was so weak from malnutrition he passed out mid-jump. When he regained consciousness, he saw the back of the train disappearing down the track before realizing it had run over half of his body…Once able to walk on crutches, …In 2006, he and his brother escaped North Korea. Within a month of arriving in South Korea, he was provided prosthetics, and a few years later he founded a human rights activist group, NAUH (Now Action & Unity for Human Rights).  Ji has participated in several human rights symposiums and cultural events in a bid to improve North Korean human rights. Through his organization, Ji helps defectors plan escapes to South Korea and other countries and is involved in fundraising to secure financial stability for defectors. Ji is also involved in various activities reporting on the situation through Radio Free Asia broadcasts. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/29/north-korean-defector-ji-seong-ho-in-video-talk/]

https://www.oxidayfoundation.org/annual-celebration/the-oxi-day-award/

What if the Greeks Did Not Say “Oxi” on October 28, 1940?

European Lawyers in Lesvos awarded Pax Christi Peace Prize 2019

August 14, 2019

Pax Christi International honoured the European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) as the recipient of the 2019 Pax Christi International Peace Prize at a ceremony held in Brussels on Wednesday evening, 26 June.

The prize was accepted by “European Lawyers in Lesvos” (ELIL’s) managing director, Philip Worthington, who delivered a speech on the work of ELIL and their efforts to protect the human rights of migrants and refugees in crisis. The evening began with a speech highlighting the centrality of recognising the human dignity of every person by Bishop Kevin Dowling (Rustenburg, South Africa), Co-President of Pax Christi International. His speech was followed by his counterpart, Ms Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International, addressing the importance of the refugee crisis to Pax Christi sections and member organisations around the world and how we are inspired by the work of ELIL. Ms. Greet Vanaerschot, Pax Christi International’s Secretary General, presented the award to Mr Worthington. Attendees were treated to musical interludes by recording artist Zem. A reception followed the one-hour ceremony.

One of the very few providers of legal assistance on the Greek island of Lesvos (also known as Lesbos, a focal point of mass immigration into Europe), ELIL was founded in June 2016 by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the German Bar Association (DAV). Since that time, along with a small permanent staff, almost 150 volunteer asylum lawyers from 17 countries have provided free legal assistance to more than 9,000 people, most of whom are from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. ELIL is the largest provider of legal assistance to asylum seekers on Lesvos and is the primary provider of legal assistance to unaccompanied minors who have been incorrectly registered as adults (over 500 cases in total) and asylum seekers in detention (almost 200 cases in total). In addition to other services, ELIL also helps reunite families by assisting with family reunification applications under the Dublin Regulation.

Established in 1988, the Pax Christi International Peace Award is funded by the Cardinal Bernardus Alfrink Peace Fund and honours contemporary individuals and organisations who make a stand for peace, justice and nonviolence in different parts of the world. For text and videos of the speeches, photos of the ceremony & more, please click HERE.

Read more about European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL): www.europeanlawyersinlesvos.eu