|Sunday, 25 February 2024
GREECE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995
Greece is a constitutional republic and multiparty parliamentary democracy. In 1993 parliamentary elections, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) won a comfortable majority, and its leader, Andreas Papandreou, became Prime Minister. The defeated New Democracy Party assumed the role of the main opposition.
Police and security services are subject to a broad variety of legal and constitutional restraints. The Greek Parliament, a vigorous free press, the judiciary, committees and deputies of the European Parliament, and Greek and international human rights organizations monitor their activities. These institutions and groups brought to light cases of improper activities and pressed the Government to halt such activities. Nevertheless, credible reports indicated that police continued to mistreat suspects during interrogation in some drug and other criminal investigations.
Greece has a mixed capitalist economy in which the entrepreneurial system is overlaid by a large public sector which accounts for about 60 percent of gross domestic product. Low growth, a high inflation rate, a large budget deficit, and a 10-percent unemployment rate characterize the economy. To promote further economic development, Greece relies heavily on the European Union (EU) for subsidies and loans.
The Constitution provides for, and, with some exceptions in the cases of ethnic Turks and individuals who identify themselves as Macedonians, the authorities generally respect, fundamental human rights. There continued to be credible reports that Greek police and military personnel abused Albanian illegal aliens. Albanian authorities formally protested the mid- August-November roundup and expulsion of over 115,000 illegal Albanian migrants from Greece, which they claimed resulted in the deaths of 6 to 8 persons. The Government continued to use Article 19 of the Citizenship Code to revoke the citizenship of Greek citizens who are not ethnically Greek, despite public assurances by senior government officials in 1991 that it would repeal Article 19.
Government officials harassed and placed under surveillance international and domestic human rights monitors. In May the courts accepted a lawsuit initiated by a private citizen and joined by the Public Prosecutor against Christos Sideropoulos under Article 191 of the Criminal Code for statements Sideropoulos allegedly made at a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) press conference in Copenhagen in 1990. The trial was postponed in October for 1 year because the plaintiff, a lawyer from Piraeus, failed to show up on the appointed date.
The Government recognizes only one minority, the Muslim minority referred to in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and refuses to acknowledge the existence of any other national (i.e., non-Greek) minority. It does not deny the existence of Greeks of Turkish, Pomak, Vlach, Arvenite, or Roma ethnic background, or of various linguistic or religious communities. The Government denies, however, members of the Slavophone community the right to declare themselves a Macedonian minority (see Section 2.b.).
Responding to a Council of Europe (COE) team of international monitors which issued a report on its visits to police stations, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals, the Government took corrective action to relieve severe overcrowding and harsh living conditions in some prisons. Almost all pending cases restricting freedom of expression have been dropped since the repeal in December 1993 of a law against "insulting authority," with the exception of two. Several religious minorities report a diminution in discrimination and religious persecution. One instance of prosecution for religious proselytizing was reported in 1994.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial KillingThere were no reports of political killing, but there were several reports of persons killed while in official custody.
The Albanian Government twice protested killings by Greek police or military personnel of six to eight Albanians who had illegally entered Greece. In the first case, the Albanian Government in March described the Greek shooting while in custody of an apprehended illegal Albanian alien, Alfred Abas Muco, 21 years old. After a military investigation, the Greek Government replied that Muco's killing was accidental. In the second case, on August 22, the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the killing of Ormen Gjoka and maiming of Ali Reci (broken back) while in Greek custody during the Greeks' forcible expulsion of Albanians. Greece returned Gjoka's body and Reci to Albania on August 23 without publicity or explanation.
The Albanian Government also protested the deaths of six unnamed Albanians during the Greek roundup and expulsion of Albanian aliens in August-September. Of the six, one was reportedly a 19-year-old woman, shot in the head; another was a 21-year-old man, shot in the back. Two others of the six reportedly drowned in a river during flight from pursuing Greek police. It was not known whether the six dead referred to include Ormen Gjoka, mentioned above. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that it requested but did not receive identifying information about the six from the Albanian Government to aid investigation of the cases, and it is not known if any investigation was conducted.
The Government has not provided any further information on the army's investigation of the February 27, 1993, incident in which a Greek soldier shot an Albanian. After a request by the German Embassy in Athens for a followup investigation into the death of Ramon Joachim Schulz, the Government reaffirmed the conclusion of the original investigation, that Schulz died of a heart attack, despite evidence to the contrary.
Greek terrorists attacked and killed three persons in 1994--a Turkish diplomat, a prominent Greek banker, and a Greek policeman. There have been no arrests made in these cases.
b. DisappearanceNo cases of disappearances were reported in 1994. The case of two ethnic Greeks of Albanian citizenship who disappeared on March 4, 1993, remained unsolved. The Government claimed that the two were not in custody when they disappeared, although Amnesty International reported that they were seen being arrested by an armed policeman, and initially the police confirmed they were holding them.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or PunishmentThe Constitution specifically forbids torture, and a 1984 law made the use of torture an offense punishable by a sentence of from 3 years to life imprisonment. However, this law has never been invoked, even though there were credible reports that police and military personnel beat and otherwise ill-treated illegal Albanian aliens in the process of deporting them in August and September. The Government denied such reports.
A December 1993 report by the COE's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) concluded that certain categories of persons detained or arrested by the police, particularly persons arrested for drug-related offenses or for serious crimes such as murder, rape, or robbery, run a significant risk of being ill-treated and are occasionally subjected to severe ill- treatment or torture. The report stressed that the Government should examine diligently all allegations of ill-treatment and prosecute and punish offenders. It also emphasized the need for additional education for police on human rights questions; better training in modern investigation techniques; and the acquisition and development of interpersonal communication skills by police officers. Finally, it stressed the need to strengthen formal safeguards against the ill-treatment of persons detained by the police, including the right to access to a lawyer from the outset of detention.
The COE report stated that allegations of ill-treatment included kicks, punches, slaps, stamping on feet, as well as blows with the butt of a pistol or wooden sticks. The report also noted allegations of an even more serious kind, in particular of falaka (beating on the soles of the feet) and the administration of electric shocks; it indicated that the Athens and Thessaloniki police had inflicted such treatment at police headquarters. The COE team's medical personnel confirmed that physical evidence from the victims was consistent with their allegations. In addition, the COE team observed a variety of unlabeled wooden sticks and batons at the Thessaloniki police headquarters, as well as a hand-held device for delivering electric shocks which was discovered in the personal locker of a police officer attached to the Thessaloniki police headquarters.
The Government conducted its own internal review of these charges and reported in August on the status of 33 lawsuits filed against policemen in the period 1989-1993 for abuse, torture, and ill-treatment. Twenty cases were still pending in court or under investigation; in three cases, the police officers were found innocent; one police officer was sentenced to 2 years in prison for slapping a prisoner in the face; and in nine cases the charges were dropped. The Government refused to accept the Committee's observations concerning investigation methods, torture, and ill-treatment, dismissing them as without foundation.
The COE report described conditions of detention in police establishments visited as varying from adequate to extremely poor and in one case as inhuman. It noted prompt compliance with a recommendation to close cells in two police stations immediately.
There were few reports of physical abuse from most prisons, although the COE report cited ill-treatment of prisoners by prison staff at the Larissa prison as an exception. According to another credible report, two Albanian prisoners who attempted to escape in 1993 from a prison on the island of Kos were beaten severely after their recapture. An investigation by the Ministry of Justice resulted in bringing charges in September against three prison guards for "dangerous bodily harm" and against another for "simple bodily harm." In April the Ministry issued strict instructions to prison wardens to prevent physical abuse of the incarcerated. The Minister of Justice personally conducted followup investigations and visited prisons. The wardens of two prisons were fired for misconduct and failing to follow or enforce proper guidelines for treatment of prisoners. The Ministry has announced a training program for prison guards to prevent abuse of prisoners, but it has not yet begun.
Prison overcrowding, particularly at the Korydallos prison near Athens, was relieved in 1994 as a result of a new law which permits parole after a prisoner has served two-fifths (versus the previous three-fifths) of a prison term. Implementation of this law resulted in the release of 1,200 prisoners by July, roughly 1 out of every 6 of the total prison population. The Justice Ministry also implemented special prison programs for the treatment of drug addicts and a pilot vocational training, legal, and mental health counseling program for juveniles. A new detention and court center was opened in Thessaloniki; the old center had been cited in the COE report as particularly inadequate.
Prison conditions for conscientious objectors improved somewhat in 1994, as a result of government action to reduce overcrowding. In addition, the Government began renovations to the Kassandra prison, which was notorious for its poor living, health, and sanitary conditions.
The COE team provided an independent monitor of prison, police station, and psychiatric hospital conditions. Such independent monitoring, however, was not regularly scheduled.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or ExileThe Constitution requires judicial warrants for all arrests, except during the actual commission of a crime, and the law prohibits arbitrary arrest orders. The police do not always respect these safeguards (see below). Police must, by law, bring a person arrested on the basis of a warrant or while committing a crime before an examining magistrate within 24 hours. The magistrate must issue a detention warrant or order the release of the detainee within 3 days, unless special circumstances require a 2-day extension of this time limit.
Defendants brought to court before the end of the day following the commission of a charged offense may be tried immediately, under a "speedy procedure." Although legal safeguards, including representation by counsel, apply in speedy procedure cases, the short period of time may inhibit the defendant's ability to present an adequate defense. Defendants may ask for a delay to provide time to prepare their defense, but the court is not obliged to grant it. The speedy procedure was used in less than 10 percent of misdemeanor cases. It was not used at all for felonies.
Despite these legal safeguards, the police sometimes violate them. For example, both the COE team and Greek defense lawyers stated that the police, during investigation of serious crimes, occasionally interrogated suspects as "witnesses," allegedly because witnesses do not have the right to legal representation during police questioning. Statements made to the police in these circumstances may be used against these persons in court if they are later charged and brought to trial. Witnesses do not have the legal right to remain silent, although no one is required to testify against himself. In such cases access to a lawyer may be effectively denied until after interrogation, which in some cases has resulted in torture or ill-treatment and the subsequent signing of a statement. These circumstances were reportedly most likely to occur in the case of serious crimes, including drug offenses, in which the police did not have sufficient evidence to convict without a confession. The Government did not prosecute and punish any officials for such misconduct during the year.
The effective maximum duration of pretrial detention was 18 months for felonies and 9 months for misdemeanors. A panel of judges may grant release pending trial, with or without bail. A person convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to 2 years or less may, at the court's discretion, pay a fine in lieu of being imprisoned. The percentage of the incarcerated population comprised of pretrial detainees was 33 percent, according to government sources.
There were no reports of incommunicado detention.
Exile is unconstitutional, and no cases have been reported since the restoration of democracy in 1974. However, Greek citizens not of ethnic Greek origin who travel outside the country may be deprived of their citizenship and refused readmittance to the country under Article 19 of the Citizenship Code. Article 20 of the Code permits the Government to strip citizenship from those who "commit acts contrary to the interests of Greece for the benefit of a foreign state." (See Section 2.d. for more information on the application of these articles.)
e. Denial of Fair Public TrialThe judicial system includes three levels of courts, appointed judges, an examining magistrate system, trial by judicial panel, and the right of appeal by both prosecution and defense. The Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary, but there are credible charges that judges sometimes allow political criteria, including the desire to obtain promotion, to influence their judgments.
Judges are not appointed for life. Mandatory retirement ages vary with the type of court. Some judges expressed concern that the change in the way judges are selected might affect the independence of the judiciary. Previously, they were elected by their peers, but under the new law they are chosen by their superiors.
The Government has taken Christos Sideropoulos to trial five times in 4 years for speaking publicly about the existence and rights of what he identifies as a Macedonian minority. A case brought by a private citizen was accepted and joined by the prosecutor in May despite the fact that the allegedly offensive statements were made at a CSCE conference in Denmark in 1990. Under Article 6 of the Criminal Code, Greek citizens may be prosecuted for actions committed abroad only if those actions are punishable under the laws of that country. Sideroupoulos's alleged statements do not constitute an offense under Danish law, but Greek courts and the Greek Government permitted the case to go to trial; in September, the scheduled trial was postponed for 1 year.
The Constitution provides for public trials, and trial court sessions are open to the public, unless the court decides that privacy is required to protect victims and witnesses or national security matters. According to defense attorneys, the latter provision has not been invoked since the restoration of democracy in 1974. The defendant enjoys the presumption of innocence, the standard of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to present evidence and witnesses, the right of access to the prosecution's evidence, the right to cross- examine witnesses, and the right to counsel. Lawyers are provided to defendants (in felony cases, only) who are not able to afford legal counsel.
The legal system does not discriminate against women or minorities, with one clear exception: Article 19 of the Citizenship Code (see Section 2.d.) applies only to Greek citizens who are not ethnically Greek.
As noted above, the courts continue to permit prosecutions of minority activists who violated laws that limit freedom of expression (see Section 2.a.). However, no one was imprisoned as a result of such charges in the last 5 years. Those convicted have been allowed to convert their convictions to a fine of about $4.00 a day.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or CorrespondenceAlthough the Constitution prohibits invasion of privacy and searches without warrants, and the law permits monitoring personal communications only under strict judicial controls, the variety of persons and groups subjected to government surveillance in recent years raises questions about safeguards. Targets included human rights monitors, non- Orthodox religious groups, and activist members of minority groups.
In June a parliamentary investigation committee recommended indictment of former Prime Minister Mitsotakis and 30 persons from the former Mitsotakis administration on charges of wiretapping political opponents from 1989 to 1991. In January 1995, the Parliament voted to drop all charges against Mitsotakis. The others will be tried in criminal courts in 1995.
The security services continued to monitor human rights and minority group representatives and foreign diplomats who met with such individuals. Human rights monitors also reported the continuation of suspicious openings and diversions of mail, some of which was never delivered but was subsequently published in newspapers with apparent links to Greek security services. So far as is known, the Government took no steps to stop such practices or to prosecute those involved.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and PressFreedom of speech and press is provided for in the Constitution and generally respected in practice, but with some significant exceptions. Some legal restrictions on free speech remain in force and were invoked in one case in 1994 concerning the right of an individual to identify himself as a member of a Macedonian minority in Greece. The charges in this case were based on what the individual said, not on violent acts or criminal behavior. On matters other than those involving the question of ethnic minorities, Greece enjoys a tradition of outspoken public discourse and a vigorous free press. Satirical and opposition newspapers do not hesitate to attack the highest state authorities. According to journalists, self-censorship was practiced on national security and Greek national identity issues.
The Constitution allows for seizure (though not prior restraint), by order of the public prosecutor, of publications that insult the President, offend religious beliefs, contain obscene articles, advocate violent overthrow of the political system, or disclose military and defense information. Seizures have been rare, however, and did not occur in 1994.
In December 1993, the Government repealed a law which forbade "insulting authority" and outlawed prosecution of otherwise actionable "offenses committed by or through the press." As a result of these changes, a number of trials involving restrictions on freedom of speech initiated under the previous government, including the cases of five Trotskyites and two journalists, were terminated. With the December 1993 repeal of an antiterrorism law, the Government lifted restrictions on the publishing of the communications of terrorist groups; this provided a forum for the publication of the proclamations of Greek terrorist groups during a period of stepped-up terrorist activity.
Several other articles of the Penal Code which were used in the past to restrict free speech and press remain in force. (Article 141 of the Penal Code forbids "exposing the friendly relations of the Greek State with foreign states to danger of disturbance;" Article 191 of the Code prohibits "spreading false information and rumors liable to create concern and fear among citizens and cause disturbances in the country's international relations and inciting citizens to rivalry and division, leading to disturbance of the peace.") The Government continues to use laws to charge individuals who raise politically sensitive topics, such as relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the assertion of ethnic minority identification. An example is the case of Christos Sideropoulos, who described himself as a Macedonian activist (see Section 1.e.). Two other freedom of expression cases from previous years are scheduled to be heard by appeals courts in 1995.
On April 14, charges were dropped against Sadik Ahmet Sadik for an article he published in 1989 in which he alleged discrimination and repression against ethnic Turks in Greece. Sadik also appealed to the Supreme Court a February 1 conviction by the First Appeal Court in Thessaloniki for falsifying signatures on a petition he circulated among the Muslims of Thrace. Two other cases pending against Sadik involve charges of theft, unlawful entry in public buildings, and inciting violence during altercations with the authorities in Thrace about new textbooks distributed by the Greek Government in 1992. These two cases have been postponed.
The 1975 Constitution provides that the State exercise "immediate control" over radio and television. An independent, government-appointed body with the authority to enact rules governing private broadcasting established procedural regulations for radio several years ago. In 1993 it did so for television as well, issuing licenses to six private stations. Many other private television stations operated without licenses, however. State-run stations tended to emphasize the Government's views and positions but also reported objectively on other parties' programs and positions.
Throughout much of western Thrace, Turkish-language satellite television broadcasts are widely available. The mayors of two cities in the region set up satellite ground stations for their Turkish-speaking constituents. Eleven Turkish-language publications--eight weekly newspapers and three monthly magazines--are published and circulated in Thrace. Newspapers and other periodicals from Turkey are distributed in small numbers when brought in by taxis and travelers.
Academic freedoms are respected.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and AssociationThe Constitution provides for freedom of assembly. Police permits were routinely issued for public demonstrations, and there were no reports that the permit requirement was abused.
The Constitution provides for the right of association, which was generally respected, except in cases involving ethnic minorities. In 1994 the Supreme Court upheld the 1991 decision of lower courts to deny registration to the "Macedonian Cultural Center" in Florina, organized by Greeks who consider themselves of Slavic descent. The 1991 ruling held that "the true goal of the society...is to affirm the idea of the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece, which contradicts (Greece's) national interests and the law." The organizers planned to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.
Greek authorities, while recognizing a Muslim minority, did not recognize the existence of other minorities based on ethnic grounds (see Section 5). This is contrary to the 1990 Copenhagen document of the CSCE to which the Government is a party, which asserts that "to belong to a national minority is a matter of a person's individual choice."
c. Freedom of ReligionThe Constitution establishes the Greek Orthodox Church, to which perhaps 95 percent of the population at least nominally adhere, as the prevailing religion but prohibits discrimination against religious minorities. The Greek Orthodox Church wields significant influence through its relationship with the Ministry of Education and Religion. Religious training is mandatory in Greek public schools for Greek Orthodox pupils. Non-Orthodox students are exempt from this requirement. However, there are reports from Helsinki Monitor (Greece) that some schoolteachers force Jehovah's Witnesses students to attend Orthodox services. The Constitution limits religious practice by prohibiting proselytizing. In contrast to past years, in 1994 only one arrest for proselytizing by other faiths was reported.
In January police in Thessaloniki arrested two members of the Church of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) for violating immigration law and jailed them overnight. After a 10-day trial, they were acquitted. The Church complained in September of harassment by local thugs in Piraeus but at the same time reported a generally improved relationship with local police.
Traditionally, Jehovah's Witnesses ministers were not granted the exemption from military service accorded under Greek law to clergy of "known religions" and thus served prison sentences for refusing military service. Since 1990-91, the Council of State, the highest court dealing with civil and administrative matters whose opinions are binding on the Government, has ruled that the Jehovah's Witnesses were a "known religion" and has ordered the release of ministers who had refused induction. However, the recruiting service of the armed forces regarded these rulings as applying only to individual appellants, not as binding precedents for subsequent Jehovah's Witnesses ministers who were called up. It thus continued to rely, in the first instance, on the opinion of the Ministry of Education and Religion, which in turn accepted the view of the Greek Orthodox Church that the Jehovah's Witnesses are not a "known religion." As a consequence, for the past few years, ministers of the Jehovah's Witnesses have been called up for military service and prosecuted for refusal; only after conviction could they appeal to the Council of State for exemptions as ministers of a "known religion." In practice, these ministers have spent periods of a few months to over a year in jail while appealing their cases to the Council of State. In contrast to past years, in 1994 only one arrest for proselytizing by other faiths was reported. A Jehovah Witnesses canvasser was arrested in Volos on October 14, and the local public prosecutor charged him with proselytizing. He was subsequently released pending hearing of the case in 1995.
To open and operate a house of worship in Greece requires approval by the Ministry of Education and Religion. The Ministry bases its decision on the advisory opinion of the local Orthodox bishop. In recent years, it has not been uncommon for such permission to be delayed or even, at times, withheld, though some denominations have been able to open and operate churches in the guise of cultural centers.
Several denominations report difficulties getting residence permits for foreign members of their faiths who come to Greece to perform missionary or charity work. Although such problems continued in 1994, these denominations reported overall better relations with immigration authorities and routine approval of extensions of tourist visas for these persons for up to 9 months.
Mosques and other Muslim religious institutions operate freely in western Thrace and in Rhodes, where most Greek citizens of the Muslim faith reside. Some Muslims claimed that Greek law weakens the financial autonomy of the "Wakfs," community funds used for maintaining mosques, schools, and for charitable works, by placing the Wakfs under the administration of appointed "muftis" (Islamic judges and religious leaders) and their representatives. Those who object to this system say it violates the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne.
In accordance with a 1990 presidential decree, the State appointed the two muftis in Greece, both resident in western Thrace, based on the recommendations of a committee of local Muslim scholars, religious authorities, and community leaders. The Government argued that it must appoint muftis because, in addition to their religious duties, they perform judicial functions in many civil and domestic matters, for which the State pays them. The Muslim minority remains divided on the mufti selection issue. Some Muslims accept the authority of the appointed muftis; others elect muftis to serve their communities.
The Government denied entry to two Turkish theologians invited to Thrace for Ramadan and in July refused to admit a delegation of six religious leaders from Turkey to enter Greece on the grounds that they intended to engage in political, not religious, activities.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and RepatriationThe Constitution calls for freedom of movement within and outside the country, and the right to return. However, Article 19 of the Citizenship Code distinguishes between Greek citizens who are ethnic Greeks and those who are not. Most Article 19 cases involve ethnic Turks from western Thrace, since only the "Muslim minority" is recognized as having non-Greek ethnicity. Greek citizens who are not ethnic Greeks may be deprived of their citizenship if it is determined that they left Greece with the apparent intention not to return. However, immigrants who are ethnic Greeks are normally recognized as Greek citizens and accorded full rights, despite years or even generations of absence from Greece.
The Interior Ministry initiates proceedings under Article 19 on the basis of reports by local authorities in Greece or by Greek embassies or consulates abroad. It holds hearings at which the affected person is neither present nor notified of the hearing. Those who lose Greek citizenship as a result of such hearings sometimes learn of this loss only when they seek to reenter Greece. According to the Foreign Ministry, 42 persons lost Greek citizenship under Article 19 in 1994 as of October (down from 123 in 1993).
Persons who lose their Greek citizenship under Article 19 have the right of "administrative appeal" to the Interior Ministry and may also appeal to the Greek Council of State and to the Council of Europe. Leaders of the Turkish-origin Greek community complain that the time and expense involved tends to discourage such appeals. Three persons who lost Greek citizenship in 1993 and three persons who lost citizenship in 1994 have filed administrative appeals which are pending. Six decisions on appeals from previous years were taken in 1993: three denied and three upheld the appeals, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Another section of the Citizenship Code, Article 20, permits the Government to strip citizenship from those who "commit acts contrary to the interests of Greece for the benefit of a foreign state." While the law as written applies equally to all Greeks regardless of their ethnic background, according to activists who support minority causes, it is exercised principally against those who speak out against government policy on national issues, including at least three activists who call themselves Macedonian.
Some Greek citizens, particularly those of Slavic descent, credibly reported that they were subject to extensive searches and questioning at the border when traveling between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Greece maintains restricted military zones along its borders, including along its northern border with Bulgaria, an area where many Pomaks (Muslims who speak a Bulgarian dialect) reside. Since entry into the zone is strictly controlled, even for local inhabitants, some residents of the area complain that their freedom of movement is restricted. Foreign diplomats are allowed into the zone only under escort and with special authorization.
Greece frequently offers temporary asylum, though rarely permanent resettlement, to a growing number of refugees from Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Permanent resettlement in Greece is not usually available for nonethnic Greek refugees. There are 3,482 cases of asylum seekers in Greece with apparently legitimate claims to refugee status that are under review by the Government in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In August and September, the Government rounded up and expelled over 50,000 illegal Albanian migrants from Greece. There were credible allegations by Albanians and by international human rights observers of abuse of some deportees, especially at border crossings on the Greek-Albanian border. The roundup coincided with sharply worsened relations between the Governments of Greece and Albania, resulting from the trial of five ethnic Greek leaders in Tirana on treason and weapons charges.
Ethnic Greek immigrants, including those who came from the former Soviet Union since 1986 and those rescued from the civil war in Georgia, normally qualified promptly for citizenship and special assistance from the Government. The returnees have been settled initially on government-owned land in western Thrace, where government programs to get them to remain have met with limited success. Most move to Athens, Thessaloniki, or other cities where job prospects are better.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their GovernmentGreece is a multiparty democracy in which the Constitution calls for full political rights for all citizens and for the peaceful change of governments and of the Constitution. However, the Government limits the right of some individuals to speak publicly and associate freely on the basis of their self-proclaimed ethnic identity and thus impinges on the political rights of such persons. It also combined voting districts in Thrace, making it impossible for ethnic Turks to be elected there (see below). Additionally, Roma representatives report that local authorities sometimes deprive Roma of the right to vote by refusing to register them. Members of the unicameral 300-seat Parliament are elected to maximum 4-year terms by secret ballot.
The Government headed by Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) won in free and fair elections in October 1993. Parliament elects the President for a 5-year term. Universal suffrage applies to those over age 18 and enforced by fines and administrative penalties. Opposition parties function freely and have broad access to the media.
Under a 1990 electoral law, no candidate may be elected whose party does not receive 3 percent or more of the nationwide vote. This law also applies to independent candidates. As a result, neither of Greece's former independent Muslim members of Parliament, both of whom proclaim their Turkish ethnic identity, was reelected to Parliament in 1993. In the June election to the European Parliament, candidates identifying themselves as Macedonian running under the European-wide "Rainbow Coalition" banner received 5.5 percent of the vote in Florina, a heavily Slavophone province in northern Greece, and a total of over 7,000 votes nationwide. The Supreme Court invalidated the list of Rainbow Coalition candidates but then reversed its decision 2 weeks before the election. Rainbow candidates had little time to campaign officially, and were not allowed to take part in government-sponsored television and radio programs which included all other candidates. In addition, some polling stations did not receive lists needed for supporters to vote for Rainbow candidates. One of the same activists ran without incident for governor of Florina prefecture in the local elections in October; he won 3.3 percent of the vote.
In October Greece held elections at the local level, including, for the first time (as a result of a new election law), elections for governors and prefectural councils. One month prior to the elections, Parliament passed legislation combining electoral districts in Athens and Thrace. The prefecture of Rodopi, about half of whose citizens are ethnic Turks or Pomaks, was united with Evros, which is approximately 5-percent Muslim. Xanthi prefecture, which is approximately 40-percent ethnic Turkish and Pomak, was united with two other prefectures which had virtually no Muslim population. Ethnic Turks complained correctly that the law as it was applied to Thrace was intended to eliminate any possibility that an ethnic Turk could be elected governor of either of the prefectures.
In June unknown persons fired shots at Anastassios Boulis, a Macedonian activist who was a candidate for the European Parliament. Boulis charged that, although local police knew who the perpetrators were, they never investigated. The Government claimed a police investigation produced no corroborating evidence or witnesses.
Although there are no legal restrictions on the participation of women or minorities in government or politics, women's representation at the higher levels of political life remain low. The head of the Communist Party is a woman. Women hold no ministerial positions in the Government and only 3 of 26 deputy ministerial positions. Eleven of the 300 members of Parliament are women. Women are underrepresented in the leadership of the two largest parties.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsThe Government allows domestic human rights organizations to operate but may or may not cooperate with them. In principle, it respects the right of foreign diplomats to meet with officials and other citizens, including critics of official policy, though it is clear that the security services observe contacts of human rights monitors, including listening in on conversations held between those monitors and human rights investigators and diplomats. The security services' surveillance of such meetings is often blatant, and some such meetings are treated tendentiously in the press. Monitors view this activity as a form of intimidation and say that it deters others from meeting with investigators.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social StatusThe Constitution provides for equality before the law and the full protection of individual life, honor, and freedom irrespective of nationality, race, language, or religious or political belief.
Violence against homosexuals is not common in Greece. However, police occasionally harass gay bar owners and gay men, including detaining them at police stations overnight and sometimes physically mistreating them. Homosexuals discovered in the military service are dismissed for reasons of "mental illness," and would-be draftees are exempted from compulsory military service for the same reason. Declared homosexuals exempted from military service for that reason are ineligible for public sector jobs.
WomenThere are broad constitutional and legal protections for women, including equal pay for equal work, but the General Secretariat for Equality of the Sexes (GSES), an independent government agency, maintains that these laws are not consistently enforced, and as a consequence women generally receive lower salaries than men for similar jobs. A GSES report states that in 1993 average women's salaries in retail trade were 79.4 percent of those of men in comparable positions.
Although there are still relatively few women in senior positions, in recent years women have entered traditionally male-dominated occupations in large numbers.
The incidence of reported physical violence against women is low; however, the GSES asserts that police tend to discourage women from pursuing domestic violence charges and instead undertake reconciliation efforts, though they are neither qualified for nor charged with this task. The GSES also claims that the courts are lenient when dealing with domestic violence cases; it hopes that attitude will change as more women enter the judiciary.
As a result of pressure from women's groups, a center for battered women was established in Athens in 1988, and a residential facility for battered women and their children opened in 1993. These centers provide legal advice, psychological counseling, information on social services, and temporary residence for battered women and their children. They received approximately 250 women in 1994.
The Government lists progress on women's issues as a high priority and established a new position of Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister. This Office and the GSES coordinate efforts to remove barriers.
ChildrenLegislation enacted in 1992 prohibits and provides penalties for all forms of maltreatment of children perpetrated by parents or others. The State provides preventive and treatment programs for abused children and for children deprived of their family environment, seeking to ensure that alternative family care or institutional placement is made available to them.
However, children's rights advocacy groups claim that protection of high-risk children in state residential care centers is inadequate and of low quality. They cite lack of coordination between welfare services and the courts, inadequate funding of the welfare system, and poor manning of residential care centers as systemic weaknesses in child abuse prevention and treatment efforts. Societal abuse of children in the form of prostitution, pornography, and child labor is rare in Greece.
In recent years, Greece has experienced a dramatic rise in the population of street children, mainly from Albania, who panhandle or peddle at city intersections on behalf of adult family members or for organized crime. Police occasionally take these children into custody and bring them to state or charitable institutions which care for wayward children. Parents can reclaim their children from these institutions, but risk deportation if they are illegal immigrants. The number of Albanian street children has been greatly diminished since the expulsion of illegal Albanians in August-September 1994. Roma children are still in evidence on Athens streets, however. Few children are available for adoption by childless couples. As a result, occasional cases of prosecution against the selling of Greek babies to childless couples are reported.
Usage of public health facilities by Roma is low because of the low rate of integration of Roma communities within Greek society and social security systems. Ninety percent of Roma are not insured by any of the government social security systems because they are self-employed or work in off-the-books jobs that do not make contributions to the social security system. The fact that health facilities are not located close to the camps in which the Roma live also contributes to their low rate of access.
National/Racial/Ethnic MinoritiesThere are communities in Greece which identify themselves as Turks, Pomaks, Vlachs, Roma, and Macedonians. Many are fully integrated into Greek society. The only minority Greece formally recognizes is a "Muslim minority," which is referred to in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The Government insists on the use of this rubric to refer to several different ethnic communities, most of which adhere to the Muslim faith. The Muslim minority is comprised primarily of ethnic Turks or Turkish speakers in western Thrace, which the Government estimates at roughly 120,000 persons. In addition to people of Turkish origin, it includes Pomaks (Muslims who speak a language akin to Bulgarian) and Roma. Many Greek Muslims, including Pomaks, identify themselves as Turks and say that the Muslim minority as a whole has a Turkish cultural consciousness. The use of the word "tourkos" ("Turk") is prohibited in titles of organizations, though individuals may legally call themselves "tourkos." To most Greeks, the word "tourkos" connotes Turkish identity or loyalties, and many object to its use by Greek citizens of Turkish origin. Use of a similar adjective, "tourkoyennis" (of Turkish descent/affiliation/ ethnicity), however, is allowed (see also Section 2.b.).
Northern Greece is home to an indeterminate number (estimates range from under 10,000 to 50,000 or more) of Greek citizens who are descended from Slavs or Slavophones. Some still speak a Slavic dialect, particularly in the Florina district. A small number of them consider themselves to be members of a distinct ethnic group which they identify as Macedonian and assert their right to minority status. The Government continues to harass and intimidate some of these people, including putting one person on trial for asserting the existence of a Macedonian minority (see Section 2.a.), denying their right to association (see Section 2.b.), monitoring activists' meetings with human rights investigators (see Section 2.d.), and accusing activists publicly of being agents of a foreign government. These activists say that, as a result, some Greeks who consider themselves Macedonian do not declare themselves openly for fear of losing their jobs or other sanctions.
A 1994 report by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki entitled "Denying Ethnic Identity--the Macedonians of Greece" charged, inter alia, that an ethnic Macedonian minority with its own language and culture exists in northern Greece and that the Greek Government's denial of that minority is in violation of international human rights laws and agreements. They also state that the Greek Government discriminates against this minority in violation of international law or agreements to which it is a party. In responding to these charges, the Government says that it recognizes, under the Copenhagen CSCE document, the right of people to identify themselves as members of ethnic minorities. However, it states that such self- identification does not require government recognition of such a minority or entitle its members to any privileges under CSCE or other instruments. As noted , however, the Government continues to deny the rights of free speech and association to some who have tried peacefully to assert what they consider to be their minority rights.
Government officials and Greek courts deny requests by individuals and groups to identify themselves using the ancient term Macedonian, since some 2.2 million ethnic (and linguistically) Greek citizens already use the term to identify themselves. The Greek Government does not define the dialect spoken by some thousands of northern Greeks as Macedonian, and government officials deny that it is a language at all. The officials also noted that Greece regulates the establishment of all commercial language academies, and questioned whether advocates of "Macedonian" language schools meet the relevant requirements. They added that the Government would not interfere with the holding of informal language classes within the Slavophone community.
The Secretariat for Adult Education (a government agency) in 1994 revised upward its estimate of the number of Roma in Greece to approximately 300,000. Almost half of the Roma population is permanently settled, mainly in the Athens area. The other half is mobile, working mainly as agricultural workers, peddlers, and musicians throughout the country. Government policy is to encourage assimilation of Roma. Poverty, illiteracy, and social prejudice continue to plague large parts of the Roma population. The Secretariat for Adult Education conducted education programs targeting the Roma population, including the use of mobile schools. Some 1,200 Roma children attended the mobile school program during the last school year.
The rate of employment of Muslims in the public sector and in state-owned industries and corporations is much lower than the Muslim percentage of the population. In Xanthi, where Muslims hold seats on the town council, there are no Muslims among the approximately 130 regular employees of the prefecture. Ethnic Turks and other Muslims in Thrace claim they are hired only for lower level, part-time work. The Government says lack of fluency in written and spoken Greek and the need for university degrees for high-level positions limits the number of Muslims eligible for government jobs.
Public offices in Thrace do their business in Greek; the courts provided interpreters as needed. In the Komotini district in Thrace, where many ethnic Turks live, the office of the district governor ("nomarch") has Turkish-language interpreters available.
While discriminatory treatment against Muslims regarding licenses to operate a business, own a tractor, or construct property diminished greatly in recent years, basic services provided to Muslim-populated neighborhoods and villages (electricity, telephones, paved roads) in many cases continue to lag far behind those provided to non-Muslim neighborhoods.
The Treaty of Lausanne provides that the Muslim minority has the right to Turkish-language education, with a reciprocal entitlement for the Greek minority in Istanbul. Western Thrace has both Koranic and secular Turkish-language schools. Government disputes with Turkey over teachers and textbooks caused these secular schools serious problems in obtaining sufficient numbers and quality of faculty and teaching materials. Over 9,000 Muslim children attended Turkish-language primary schools. Around 650 attended Turkish-language secondary schools, and approximately 1,000 attended Greek-language secondary schools. Many Muslims reportedly went to high school in Turkey due to the limited number of places in the Turkish-language secondary schools, which are assigned by lottery. In 1994 no Greek Muslims succeeded in passing the entrance examinations to attend a Greek university.
Ethnic Turks found it difficult to obtain permission to bring in teachers from Turkey or to hire Turkish-speaking teachers locally, particularly for the secular Turkish-language middle schools in Xanthi and Komotini. Under a 1952 educational protocol, Greece and Turkey may annually exchange 35 teachers on a reciprocal basis. Each group serves in Istanbul and western Thrace, respectively, but in recent years the Greek side limited the exchanges to 16 teachers per country due to the dwindling needs of the small and aging Greek population in Turkey. According to the Government, during the 1993-94 school year, Greece and Turkey did not exchange any teachers due to an ongoing dispute over reductions of Greek instruction for Greek students in Turkey, and the nonissuance of diplomas to some Greek students there. The teacher exchange was, however, effected during the 1994-95 school year; 16 teachers were exchanged by each country on November 1, 1994.
During the January 1994 visit of a group of Turkish parliamentarians to western Thrace, a group of Christian extremists hurled stones at the bus in which the delegation was traveling. There were no injuries, and no arrests were made.
Religious MinoritiesSeveral religious denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, reported difficulties in dealing with Greek authorities on a variety of administrative matters. Privileges and legal prerogatives granted the Greek Orthodox Church were not routinely extended to other recognized religions. Rather, the non-Orthodox must make separate and lengthy applications to government authorities on such matters as arranging appointments to meet with Ministry of Education and Religion officials and gaining permission to move places of worship to larger quarters.
Leaders of various non-Orthodox religious groups assert that their members face discrimination in reaching the senior ranks in government service; furthermore, it appears that only those of the Orthodox faith can become officers in the Greek military. They allege that to avoid this restriction some members of their faiths resort to declaring themselves Orthodox. Senior government officials, when questioned about such allegations of discrimination, deny that it exists and point out certain persons not of the Orthodox faith who have successful careers in government service. There appear to be no statistics to support either side.
Teachers who are Jehovah's Witnesses have faced difficulties in gaining or keeping employment in recent years in public or private schools. As a result of such difficulties, six Jehovah's Witnesses have appeals on employment discrimination pending with the Council of State, some dating back as far as 1989.
Greek law requires that Greek citizens declare their religion on their bilingual identity cards that, if and when issued, would allow Greeks to travel freely within the EU instead of using passports. The law has caused particular concern among the Catholic and Jewish religious communities in Greece and abroad and has drawn strong criticism from the European Parliament. The Government declined in 1994 to act either to change the law mandating the declaration of religion on the cards or to issue the new EU cards. Instead, the old Greek identity cards, which normally list religion but which allow the bearer the option not to do so, are still being issued.
Leaders of the Jewish community in Greece have lobbied the Government for several years to change five anti-Semitic references in Greek public school textbooks. In 1994 the Ministry of Education deleted two of the five passages.
The Government allowed Turkish Prime Minister Ciller's counselor Mustafa Kahramanyol to visit Thrace in early June, but denied a visa to the Turkish Director General of Religious Affairs, who wanted to visit a few weeks later.
People with DisabilitiesLegislation mandates the hiring of disabled persons in public and private enterprises employing more than 50 persons. However, the law is poorly enforced, particularly in the private sector. The law states that disabled persons should comprise 3 percent of staff in private enterprises. In the civil service, 5 percent of administrative staff and 80 percent of telephone operator positions are reserved for disabled persons. Persons with disabilities have been appointed to important positions in the civil service, including secretary general of the Ministry of Welfare.
The Construction Code mandates physical access for disabled persons to private and public buildings, but again the law is poorly enforced. In the past 2 years, ramps and special curbs for the disabled have been constructed on Athens streets and at public buildings, and sound signals have been installed at some city street crossings. In 1993 the Government started replacing old city buses with new ones with stairs specially designed for the disabled; the accessible buses numbered 500 in 1994. The new Athens subway lines under construction will provide full access for the disabled.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of AssociationThe Constitution and subsequent legislation provide for the right of association. All workers, with the exception of the military and the police, have the right to form or join unions.
Approximately 30 percent of Greek workers (nearly 1 million persons) were organized in unions in 1994. Unions receive most of their funding from a Ministry of Labor organization, the Workers' Hearth, which distributes mandatory contributions from employees and employers. Only the five most powerful public sector unions have dues-withholding provisions in their contracts, in addition to receiving Workers' Hearth subsidies. Following the recommendation of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Government in 1990 enacted a law ending its financial involvement in trade union affairs and the collection of union dues. Strong union reaction, however, led to new legislation in 1994 which allowed unions to continue to receive Workers' Hearth funds.
Over 4,000 unions are grouped into regional and sectoral federations and two umbrella confederations, one for civil servants and one, the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), for private sector employees. Unions are highly politicized, and there are party-affiliated factions within the labor confederations, but day-to-day operations are not controlled by political parties or the Government. There are no restrictions on who may serve as a union official. Unions maintain a variety of international affiliations and are free to join international associations.
Legislation passed in 1994 mandates a skeleton staff during strikes affecting public services, such as electricity, transportation, communications, and banking. During strikes in June and July, skeleton staffs did not ensure that essential services continued uninterrupted; however, there were no legal repercussions for the unions.
Legal restrictions on strikes include a mandatory period of notice, which is 4 days for public utilities and 24 hours for the private sector. Public utility companies, state-owned banks, the postal service, Olympic Airways, and the railroads are also required to maintain a skeleton staff during strikes.
The courts have the power to declare strikes illegal, although such decisions are seldom enforced. Unions complain, however, that this judicial power serves as a deterrent to some of their membership from participating in strikes. In 1994 the courts declared a majority of strikes illegal for a variety of reasons, but no striking workers were prosecuted. The Government may also declare "civil mobilization" of workers in the event of danger to national security, life, property, or the social and economic life of the country. It threatened to do so when air traffic controllers staged a work slowdown in August-September. The ILO Committee of Experts has criticized this power as violating the standards of ILO Convention 29 on forced labor. The Government resorted to civil mobilization in December 1993 to resolve a bus owners' strike in opposition to government efforts to deprivatize the Athens bus system.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain CollectivelyLegislation passed in 1955 and amended in 1990 ensured the right to organize and bargain collectively in the private sector and in public corporations. These rights were respected in practice. There were no restrictions on collective bargaining for private sector employees. The Union of Civil Servants negotiates with the Office of the Minister to the Prime Minister.
In 1993 the Government passed a decree setting limits to wage and salary increases for public enterprises employees. A complaint to the ILO by the General Confederation of Greek Workers led the ILO Committee of Experts to request that the Government stop intervening in the collective bargaining process by setting maximum wage levels.
In response to union complaints that most labor disputes ended in compulsory arbitration, legislative remedies were enacted in 1989 providing for mediation procedures, with compulsory arbitration as a last resort. The legislation establishing a national mediation, reconciliation, and arbitration organization went into effect in January 1992 and applies to the public sector and public corporations (the military and civil service excluded).
Antiunion discrimination is prohibited. The Labor Inspectorate or the courts investigates complaints of discrimination against union members or organizers. Court rulings have mandated the reinstatement of improperly fired union organizers.
Greece has no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory LaborThe Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the Ministry of Justice enforces this prohibition.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of ChildrenThe minimum age for employment in the industrial sector is 15 years, with higher limits for certain activities. The minimum age is 12 in family businesses, theaters, and the cinema. These age limits are enforced by occasional Labor Inspectorate spot checks and are generally respected. However, families engaged in agriculture, food service, or merchandising often have younger family members assisting them, at least part-time. Education is free and compulsory for all children through the ninth grade.
e. Acceptable Conditions of WorkCollective bargaining between the GSEE and the Employers' Association determines a nationwide minimum wage. The Ministry of Labor routinely ratifies this minimum wage, which has the force of law and applies to all Greek workers. The minimum wage ($21 daily and $463 monthly) was sufficient for a decent standard of living for a worker and family.
The maximum legal workweek is 40 hours in the private sector and 37 1/2 hours in the public sector. A law that took effect in 1992 significantly extended legal operating hours for retail establishments, provided that the average workweek did not exceed the legal maximum over a period of time. The law provides for at least one 24-hour rest period per week, mandates paid vacation of 1 month per year, and sets limits on overtime.
Legislation provides for minimum standards of occupational health and safety. Although the GSEE characterized health and safety legislation as satisfactory, it charged that enforcement, the responsibility of the Labor Inspectorate, was inadequate. In 1992 the GSEE cited statistics indicating a high number of job-related accidents over the past two decades. Inadequate inspection, failure to enforce regulations, outdated industrial plant and equipment, and poor safety training of employees contributed to the accident rate. Workers did not have the legal right to remove themselves from situations they believed endangered their health. They did have the right, however, to lodge a confidential complaint with the Labor Inspectorate. Inspectors had the right to close down machinery or a process for a period of up to 5 days if they saw safety or health hazards which they believe represented an imminent danger to the workers.