Stop racist violence, Muižnieks tells Greece

The government of Greece must act to stop the “impunity for the rising number of racist crimes in Greece,” Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has said.

In a statement following his five-day visit to Greece, Mr. Muižnieks said: “The police, prosecutors and courts need to become fully acquainted with and give effect to existing anti-racism legislation, including the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination by which Greece is bound.”

Between October 2011 and December 2012 more than 200 racist attacks were recorded by the racist violence recording network headed by UNHCR and the National Commission for Human Rights. “This is only the tip of the iceberg. The fatal stabbing of a young Pakistani worker in Athens a fortnight ago by two criminals, one of whom was linked to the neo-nazi party of Golden Dawn, has rightly alarmed the authorities and made them more determined to fight and eliminate the scourge of racist and other hate crimes.”

Mr. Muižnieks noted that now many political leaders in Greece “realise the need to firmly condemn and sideline every person and organisation that promotes hate speech and engages in hate crimes.”

Mr. Muižnieks welcomed the establishment of the 70 anti-racist police units and the appointment of a special prosecutor in Athens to deal with racist crime.

“Both however need to be reinforced with appropriate staff and systematic human rights training. I also urge the Ministry of Public Order to take all necessary measures in order to create an independent and effective police complaints mechanism that would enhance the public’s trust in police forces. Such a mechanism is also necessary for the coast guard.”

The Commissioner added that “anti-racism measures by the government need to be combined with initiatives, such as the Athens city Council for the Integration of Migrants, that promote the political participation and integration of all regular migrants, especially of their children who are born and educated in Greece and consider it their home country. Naturalisation should continue to be possible for these children.”

Commissioner Muižnieks also underlined the critical role played by National Human Rights Structures, such as the Ombudsman and the National Commission for Human Rights, in the context of the current, serious economic and social crisis. “It is now, more than ever, that Greece needs robust and effective human rights structures, able to support the state in its efforts to overcome shortcomings in areas such as the systematic human rights training of law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors and the monitoring, recording of and the fight against hate crime.”

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