Posts Tagged ‘Greek Helsinki Monitor’

Judicial harassment of human rights defender Dimitras in Greece

February 1, 2014

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture network, about the ongoing judicial harassment against Panayote Dimitras, GHM Spokesperson. According to the information received, on 14 January 2014, Mr. Panayote Dimitras received an indictment from the Misdemeanours Prosecutor of Athens, summoning him on 27 February 27 before the Court to stand trial on charges of “perjury” and “defamation” of Mr. Konstantinos Plevris, a member lawyer of the Athens Bar Association.

The  accusation relates Panayote Dimitras’ statement as a witness before the First Chamber of the Five Members Appeals Court of Athens on 23 January  2009, during a hearing of a case against Mr. Konstantinos Plevris, who then stood accused of racial discrimination”. During the hearing, Mr. Dimitras testified that “during the last two months Mr. Plevris ha[d]threatened [his] life”. Yet the indictment accuses Mr. Dimitras of making a false statement that could harm the honour and reputation of Mr. Plevris while knowing that it was untrue.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is concerned that Mr. Panayote Dimitras received this indictment merely one week before the charges become time-barred. Although the events took place in January 2009 and a preliminary investigation took place in February 2010, suddenly charges are pressed. The prescription period is now extended by three years.

OMCT is concerned about these new acts of harassment against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, and in particular his activities against discrimination, anti-Semitism and minority rights in Greece, and calls upon the Greek authorities to ensure that he is able to carry out his legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.  OMCT recalls that this is not the first time that Panayote Dimitras is facing judicial harassment by Konstantinos Plevris, who has been referred to trial several times for, among others, violation of [anti-racism] Law 927/79, concurrent aggravated defamation, and false accusation following GHM complaints.

For more on this procedurally complex but interesting case see:

Greece: Ongoing judicial harassment against human rights defender Mr. Panayote Dimitras / January 30, 2014 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Transgender activist harassed by Greek police

June 14, 2013

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint programme of two reputed international NGOs: the FIDH andOMCT) has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the police harassment of Ms. Electra Koutra,  GHM legal counsel, in the framework of police profiling operation against transgender persons in Thessaloniki.logo FIDH_seul
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European Human Rights Court confirms that Turkish migrant was subject to torture in Crete

January 21, 2012

This post wants to draw attention first to the good news that a torture victim was given compensation and secondly the positive role that a tenacious journalist can play. That the case occurred in what is now almost my home town Chania makes it only the more interesting to report on.

In a unanimous ruling delivered on January 17, 2012 the Strasbourg-based court said that Necati Zontul had suffered torture when a coastguard officer raped him with a truncheon at a makeshift detention centre for migrants in the Cretan city of Chania. In its ruling the Court, which includes a Greek judge, ordered Greece to compensate Zontul to the tune of 50,000 euros. The torture took place on 5 June 2001, nine days after Zontul had been taken to the centre along with 164 other undocumented migrants, all arrested on a boat that was intercepted by the coastguard as it made its way from Istanbul to Italy.

On 9 June 2001 the asylum-seekers were visited by members of Doctors of the World. They examined the men and sent photos to the local port authorities. The local human rights group of Amnesty International, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and UNHCR Greece all intervened is some stage and protested the cover up by the authorities as laid down in the detailed time table of events collected by the journalist Kathy Tzilivakis in her article of 27 February 2004: see:

On the basis of Zontul’s allegations, five coastguards were later tried by a naval tribunal on criminal charges of undermining human dignity. In October 2004, one of the five officers, Yiorgos Dandoulakis, was found guilty of sexually abusing Zontul and received a 30-month prison sentence suspended for five years. The three other defendants were charged with physically abusing many of the migrants and were given 18-month suspended sentences. On appeal, Dandoulakis had his punishment reduced to six months’ jail, which was commuted to a fine. The other officers also had their punishments reduced. The ECHR was particularly critical of the final penalty handed down to Dandoulakis, which it said was “disproportional” and “could not be said to have a deterrent effect nor could it be perceived as fair by the victim”. The ECHR also found that Zontul, who moved to the UK in 2004, was not kept informed by the Greek state on the progress of the proceedings against the coastguards.

“This is not a judgment against Greece but against corrupt people in Greece,” Zontul emphasised to Athens News. “The corruption that led to the present Greek financial crisis is the same sort of corruption that led to my assault and certainly lies behind the efforts made by the authorities to cover it up. This is a small step towards honesty and I am proud to be a part of that,” he added. Zontul thanked the newspaper for its reporting on the case: “Without the help of the Athens News, this story and the positive result would have never taken place and I would be just another nameless victim.”

In his letter to Athens News of 18 January, Zontul further writes: “This judgement means that Greek law (and particularly Article 137A) must now change to reflect the EU definition of torture. Greek law must also formally accept male rape as a legal concept (something that was unclear at the time of the assault and the initial trial. We also had confusing advice about whether this was defining in Greek law, but the EU judges make it very clear: what happened to me was both rape and torture). It has been a long, long struggle and much of it has been horrible. But there have also been many funny stories, particularly when we spoke to Greek authorities on the phone or even in person and they used ridiculous excuses to avoid taking responsibility. I can also think of many times when people in Athens were very kind to me and helped me through the worst times. We could certainly write a book about some of these stories!

But, I await a formal apology from the Greek president. I have written to request this again and again (and we will write again tomorrow) and I am appalled by his silence on this matter and by the utter rudeness of men in his office who have replied to none of my letters. What happened to me was done by men representing the state and wearing the uniform of Greece and it is clear that the Greek state (and a series of different governments) made a huge effort to hide their crimes. In the judgement, the Greek embassy [in London] rightly comes in for specific criticism. The issues are evasion, indifference and corruption. The last ten years have been very, very frustrating and this is in addition to the experience of torture I suffered in Crete. I also await an apology from the Greek Church for the ill-advised statements by [now deceased] Archbishop Christodoulous that followed my request for help.”