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Title: Greece Human Rights Practices, 1995

Author: U.S. Department of State

Date: March 1996



  • Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person
  • Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties
  • Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
  • Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
  • Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
  • Section 6 Worker Rights


Greece is a constitutional republic and multiparty parliamentary democracy with an independent judiciary in which citizens periodically choose their representatives in free and fair elections. 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. Though in failing health, Prime Minister Papandreou remained in office through year's end and resigned in January 1996.

The national police and security services have responsibility for internal security. Civilian authorities maintain effective control of all security forces, and 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. Some members of the police and security forces committed human rights abuses.

Greece has a mixed economy in which the market system is overlaid by a large public sector that accounts for about 50 percent of gross domestic product. Relatively low growth, a high but declining inflation rate, a large but also declining budget deficit, and a 9.7 percent unemployment rate characterize the economy, which nevertheless provides residents with an advanced standard of living. To promote further economic development, Greece relies heavily on the European Union (EU) for subsidies and loans.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, but there were problems in some areas. There continued to be credible reports that police mistreat suspects during interrogation in some drug and other criminal investigations and that some police and military personnel occasionally abused Albanian illegal aliens. However, during their expulsion, conditions for Albanian illegal aliens improved considerably in 1995 after the massive expulsions of September-October 1994. The Government continued to use Article 19 of the Citizenship Code to revoke the citizenship of Greek citizens who are not ethnically Greek, and Article 20 of the same Code was used to revoke the citizenship of several Greek citizens abroad who have asserted a "Macedonian" ethnicity.

On occasion the Government placed international and domestic human rights monitors under surveillance. Information about their private meetings and activities subsequently appeared in the press. In September the courts dismissed a lawsuit initiated by a private citizen in May 1994 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 Government formally recognizes only one minority, the Muslim minority referred to in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. It refuses to acknowledge formally the existence of any other minority and denies members of the Slavophone community the right to declare themselves a minority. As a result, some members of minorities (as defined in accepted international human rights norms) find it difficult to express freely their identity and to maintain their culture.

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 and police holding centers. Problems remain, however, as evidenced by a violent prison riot in November. All pending cases which restrict freedom of expression, except two, have been dropped since the Government proscribed the prosecution of crimes committed by or through the press. There are some restrictions on freedom of religion; one prosecution for proselytizing was initiated in 1995, and more Jehovah's Witnesses were harassed by authorities.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.

There were a few credible reports of shootings at the Greek-Albanian border of illegal Albanian migrants being apprehended by Greek authorities. One death was reported in February, and another Albanian was reported shot and hospitalized the same month. The Government of Albania complained to the Government about these incidents, stating that both Albanians were killed. A military inquiry exonerated the soldiers involved.

There were no deaths attributed to Greek terrorists in 1995.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution specifically forbids torture, and a 1984 law makes the use of torture an offense punishable by a sentence of 3 years to life imprisonment. However, this law has never been invoked, even though 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 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 CPT reported allegations of ill-treatment that 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 falanga (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 CPT team's medical personnel confirmed that physical evidence from the victims was consistent with their allegations.

The Government conducted its own internal review of the CPT charges and as of September reported that of the 33 lawsuits filed against policemen in the period 1989-93 for abuse, torture, and ill-treatment, 11 cases were still pending in court or under investigation; in 8 cases the police officers were found innocent; 1 police officer has appealed his sentence to 2 years in prison for harassing a prisoner during interrogation; and in 14 cases the charges were dropped. The Government refused to accept the Committee's observations concerning investigation methods, torture, and ill-treatment, dismissing them as unreliable and without foundation.

Two police commanders were retired following their decision to use tear gas during a demonstration by pensioners in Athens in March. At least four of the demonstrators required hospitalization. Two members of the Thessaloniki traffic police were reportedly suspended from duty in September after an investigation confirmed they had abused a 32-year-old man. No judicial action was taken against officers accused of abuse, and few strong disciplinary actions were reported.

A 1994 law which permits paroling prisoners who have served two-fifths (versus the previous three-fifths) of their prison terms has not relieved prison overcrowding. Credible reports indicate that prisons, especially in Attica, remain overcrowded. According to prison statistics from the Ministry of Justice, substantial overcrowding continues to plague

Korydallos and other Greek prisons. Overcrowding contributed to serious rioting in Korydallos. While the capacity of Korydallos (the largest prison, located in Athens) is 450 inmates, over 1,100 were housed there throughout the first 10 months of the year. As of October 1, the number of prisoners throughout Greece was 5,866 while the total capacity of the prison system was 4,087.

In the prison system, there were several credible reports of rape by inmates (including rape of juveniles by other juveniles), physical abuse by prison guards, and violence perpetrated by inmates, including against foreign prisoners. Several inmate revolts over conditions occurred. The Albanian Government in February protested inmate violence directed at Albanian inmates at the Larissa prison and reportedly condoned by prison officials. When given permission to visit the prison, Albanian consular officers found that the individuals who had complained of violence had all been transferred to other prisons. Helsinki Watch monitors were refused permission to evaluate prison conditions for Albanian inmates at Korydallos prison in September. In November a violent revolt in that prison led to the hanging by inmates of one prisoner and three other self-induced deaths from drug overdose. Prison conditions for conscientious objectors improved somewhat as a result of government actions to reduce overcrowding and to increase work opportunities in prisons, which reduced the time of imprisonment.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution requires judicial warrants for all arrests, except during the actual commission of a crime, and the law prohibits arbitrary arrest orders. 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 does not apply to felonies.

The police sometimes violate these legal safeguards. For example, both the CPT team and two credible 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 they are not required to testify against themselves. In such cases access to a lawyer can 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 cases 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. Defense lawyers complain that pretrial detention is overly long and overused by judges. 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.

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." Article 19 was applied in 72 cases in 1995; no Article 20 cases were reported (see Section 2.d.).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary, but there are charges that judges sometimes allow political criteria, including the desire to obtain promotion, to influence their judgments. The judicial system includes three levels of courts, appointed judges, an examining magistrate system, trial by judicial panels, and the right of appeal by both prosecution and defense.

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 the cases involve 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.

Although non-Greek speaking defendants have the right to a court- appointed interpreter, the low fees paid for such work often results in poor quality of translation; foreign defendants complain that they do not understand their trials.

The legal system does not discriminate against women or minorities, with some exceptions: Article 19 of the Citizenship Code (see Section 2.d.) applies only to Greek citizens who are not ethnically Greek; Orthodox and non-Orthodox religions have different legal procedures for applying for a "house of prayer" permit (see Section 2.c.); non-ethnic Greek citizens are legally prohibited from settling in a large "supervised" zone near the frontier (in practice this prohibition is not enforced); and a 1939 law prohibits the functioning of private schools in buildings owned by non-Orthodox religious foundations. (However, in practice non- Greek Orthodox schools and churches are given permission to be established.)

The Government has taken Christos Sideropoulos to trial two times in 4 years for speaking publicly about the existence and rights of what he identifies as a "Macedonian" minority. One of his cases was dismissed by the courts this year; the other was dismissed earlier.

As noted above, the courts continue to permit prosecutions of minority activists who violate laws that limit freedom of expression (see Section 2.a.). However, no one has been imprisoned as a result of such charges in the last 5 years. Those convicted have been allowed to convert their convictions into a fine of approximately $14 per day.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Greece in September ratified the European Convention on Protection of an Individual from Use of Personal Information Through Informatics Technology, which prohibits the collection or use of sensitive personal information. The Constitution prohibits invasion of privacy and searches without warrants, and the law permits the monitoring of personal communications only under strict judicial controls. However, the number of persons and groups subjected to government surveillance in recent years raises questions about safeguards.

The security services continued to target human rights activists, non- Orthodox reliogious groups and minority group representatives and to monitor foreign diplomats who met with such individuals. On several occasions, information about such private meetings was given to the press, apparently by government representatives. Human rights activists 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.

In June 1994, a parliamentary investigating committee recommended indictment of former Prime Minister Constantine 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. Criminal charges against the others were also dropped.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and the press is provided for in the Constitution, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice, but with some exceptions. Some legal restrictions on free speech remain in force; the Government continues to use laws to charge individuals who raise politically sensitive topics such as the assertion of nonrecognized ethnic minority identification.

These laws were invoked in September when the public prosecutor of Florina charged the "Rainbow" Party with instigating division among the people by using a Slavic place name for a Greek city on a bilingual sign placed outside its office. The prosecutor confiscated the sign, but it was subsequently replaced by party officers. Later the same day a mob including the Mayor of Florina forcibly removed the new sign; the office was later ransacked and its contents burned by unidentified persons during the night. Rainbow leaders filed suit against the State for its actions.

Two other freedom of expression cases from previous years involving the "Oakke Six" and Michael Papadakis were scheduled to be heard by appeals courts in 1996. Charges against Christos Sideropoulos (see Section 1.e.) concerning the right of an individual to identify himself as a member of a "Macedonian" minority in Greece were dropped. 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 generally enjoys a tradition of outspoken public discourse and a vigorous free press. Still, the Athens prosecutor filed charges in December against a university professor and an actor for defending on a television talk show the actions of rioting students at the Athens Polytechnic University in November. (The two blamed society for not living up to its responsibilities more than they blamed the students.) The two were charged under a law which states that "whoever publicly praises a committed crime thus putting public order at risk is punishable by up to 3 years' imprisonment." Satirical and opposition newspapers do not hesitate to attack the highest state authorities. 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 none occurred in 1995.

In December 1993, the Government repealed a law which forbade "insulting authority" and proscribed 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 public communications of terrorist groups.

Several other articles of the Penal Code that were used in the past to restrict free speech and press remain in force. (Article 141 of the Criminal Code forbids "exposing the friendly relations of the Greek State with foreign states to danger of disturbance;" Article 191 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;" Article 192 prohibits inciting citizens to acts of violence or to disturbing the peace through disharmony among them.) No new cases were reported in 1995 which involve these laws, with the single exception of charges against the Rainbow organization in Florina, which involved Article 192 of the Criminal Code. In June Ioannis Nomidis and Aradni Papfaotiu were sentenced to 3 1/2 and 3 years for aggravated defamation under Article 363; they remain free pending a spring 1996 appeal.

The appeal of a freedom of speech conviction based on events in 1989 brought before The European Commission of Human Rights by former member of parliament Sadik Ahmet Sadik was referred to the European Court of Human Rights in 1995. The Commission found that the Government had restricted Sadik's freedom of expression in violation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. Two other appeals by Sadik were pending before the Commission or Court when Sadik died in an automobile accident in July. No evidence of foul play has been brought to light as a result of the official investigation into Sadik's death.

The 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 but also reported objectively on other parties' programs and positions. Private radio and television stations operated independently of any government control on their reporting.

Members of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities freely publish periodicals and other publications, often in their native language. In Thrace, Turkish-language television broadcasts are widely available.

Academic freedoms are respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The 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. However, religious celebrations in the province of Florina in July, which included the performance of Slavic songs and dances, were interrupted when power was cut to the villages involved.

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 to affirm the idea of the existence of a "Macedonian" minority in Greece, which contradicts (Greece's) national interests and the law." The organizers have appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights, where it is pending.

Government authorities, while recognizing in law the existence of the Muslim minority, do not recognize the existence of any other minorities (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 Religion

The Constitution establishes the Greek Orthodox Church, to which perhaps 95 to 97 percent of the population at least nominally adhere, as the prevailing religion but prohibits discrimination against adherents of other religions. 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, reports suggest that some teachers punish Jehovah's Witnesses for not attending Orthodox services in school and suspend them for not participating in school parades. The Constitution limits religious practice by prohibiting proselytizing, but only one prosecution was initiated in 1995. This case involved two young Jehovah's Witnesses arrested in Volos. More Jehovah's Witnesses were harassed by authorities who arrested and held them for several hours at police headquarters but subsequently released them without pressing charges. Several cases involving proselytism from previous years resulted in not guilty verdicts in 1995; one such case was postponed until 1997. Several past convictions for proselytizing are pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

Traditionally, Jehovah's Witnesses ministers were not granted the exemption from military service accorded under the 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 to serve; only after conviction could they appeal to the Council of State.

To open and operate a non-Greek Orthodox house of worship 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. Two Jehovah's Witnesses were sentenced in February to 4 months' imprisonment for holding meetings in an unlicensed meeting place on the island of Thassos. In May the European Commission on Human Rights found that Greece was in violation of Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of worship, when in 1990 it convicted four Jehovah's Witnesses for holding religious meetings without a permit.

In February and April, the police visited several unlicensed Mormon houses of prayer in Athens and threatened to arrest members meeting there. As a result, these meeting places were closed, and Mormon worship services were consolidated at the church's single licensed house of prayer in the Athens area. The Government in September approved the church's 1993 application for a permit to build another house of prayer in the Athens area, after a Supreme Court ruling directing it to do so.

Several non-Orthodox religious denominations, including Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, report difficulties getting residence permits for foreign, non-EU citizen members of their faiths who come to Greece to perform missionary or charity work. Although such problems continued, 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 operate freely in western Thrace and in the islands of Rhodes and Kos, 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 and one assistant mufti in Greece, all resident in 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 under Muslim religious law, for which the State pays them.

The Muslim minority remains divided on the mufti selection issue. Some Muslims accept the authority of the two officially appointed muftis; other Muslims have elected two other muftis to serve their communities. The Government prosecuted the two unofficial muftis in 1995. Mehmet Amin Aga was sentenced in February to 10 months in jail for usurping the authority of the mufti; he served half the sentence and paid a fine in lieu of serving the remainder after suffering health problems in jail. Ibrahim Sherif's trial on identical charges was postponed on May 24 for a year due to the absence of the main witness.

Former Greek Orthodox priest Nikodomos Tsarknias, whose current affiliation with the Macedonian Orthodox Church is not recognized by the Government, lost his appeals of four earlier convictions in absentia for the crime of "pretense of authority," for wearing the garb of a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Tsarknias, who has been charged more than a dozen times with similar charges since his 1991 defrocking from the Greek Orthodox Church, was sentenced in December 1994 to 3 months in prison, convertible to a fine. Tsarknias has appealed this and all his previous convictions.

Leaders of various non-Greek orthodox religious groups assert that their members face discrimination in reaching the senior ranks in government service. In March the Roman Catholic archbishop publicly asserted that according to existing regulations, only a Greek Orthodox can join the police force. Police authorities deny any such regulation. Furthermore, it appears that only those of Greek Orthodox faith can become officers in the Greek military. To avoid this restriction some members of other 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 the military. No statistical evidence is available to support either allegation.

The law mandates that Greek citizens declare their religion on their European Union (EU) identity cards that--if and when issued--would allow Greeks to travel freely within the EU instead of using passports. Current Greek national identity cards, which will be replaced when the new EU cards are issued, include reference to the holder's religion, although individuals have the option of leaving that section blank. The law mandating the declaration of religion on the EU cards 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 1995 to act either to change the law mandating the declaration of religion on the cards or to issue the new EU cards.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The 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. Determination of intent is made without input from the affected individual; in practice, this law is applied to members of the Muslim community considered to be "undesirable" by the security services. However, immigrants who are ethnic Greeks are normally recognized as 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 domestic authorities 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 citizenship as a result of such hearings sometimes learn of this loss only when they seek to reenter Greece. According to the Ministry of the Interior, 72 persons lost Greek citizenship under Article 19 in 1995 (up from 42 for the whole of 1994). Of this number, the Government claims that 45 voluntarily relinquished their citizenship. The former president of a predominantly Pomak (Muslims who speak a language akin to Bulgarian) village in western Thrace lost an appeal of a 1991 case stemming from his refusal to provide police with birth certificates of village residents. He argued that the certificates would be used to strip citizenship under Article 19 from residents who had left the country. He paid a fine in lieu of serving his 1-year jail sentence.

Persons who lose their Greek citizenship under Article 19 have the right of "administrative appeal" to the Interior Ministry; they can also appeal to the Greek Council of State and to the Council of Europe. Leaders of the Muslim community complained that the time and expense involved tended to discourage such appeals. Three persons who lost citizenship in 1994 have filed administrative appeals which are pending. In the past 3 years, 10 Muslims have won appeals of the Government's decisions to revoke their citizenship under Article 19.

Another section of the Greek 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, the Ministry of Interior confirmed in 1995 that the four cases in which Article 20 was applied in 1994 all involved former Greek citizens who identified themselves as members of the "Macedonian" minority. No such cases were reported in 1995.

Greece maintains restricted military zones along its borders, including along the northern border with Bulgaria, an area where many Pomaks live. Until this year entry into the zone was controlled by authorities even for local inhabitants, causing them to complain that their freedom of movement was restricted. The Government announced this year that the sole remaining checkpoint into the village of Exinos within the zone would be removed, and restrictions for entry into the zone would be lifted. Although the regulations concerning the zone remain formally in place, in practice they are no longer enforced for Greek citizens. At least one foreign group was turned away from the zone following implementation of the new policy.

Ethnic Greek immigrants, including those who came from the former Soviet Union since 1986 and from the civil war in Georgia, normally qualify 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 encouraging them to remain have met with limited success. Most move to Athens, Thessaloniki, or other cities, where job prospects are better.

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 non-ethnic Greek refugees. Approximately 6,000 refugees have been officially recognized in Greece between 1980 and 1995, including 400 Vietnamese refugees who have been accepted by the Government since 1979 for permanent resettlement. Two hundred eligible asylum seekers have pending applications for refugee status that are under review by the Government in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Government continues to apprehend and return to Albania illegal Albanian immigrants. Greece and Albania are currently engaged in discussions to come up with an agreement which would control and regularize the flow of what are now illegal Albanian emigrants to Greece.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Greece 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. While the Government generally respects these rights, there are sometimes charges that 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 which had the consequence of making it impossible for ethnic Turks to be elected to national positions. Additionally, Roma representatives report that local authorities sometimes deprive Roma of the right to vote by refusing to register them.

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. Voting is mandatory for those over age 18, but penalties are not applied in practice. Members of the unicameral 300-seat Parliament are elected to maximum 4-year terms by secret ballot. Opposition parties function freely and have broad access to the media.

Although there are no legal restrictions on the participation of women or minorities in government or politics, representation of both at the higher levels of political life remains low. Women hold no ministerial positions in the Government and only 2 of 29 subministerial positions. Eleven of the 300 members of Parliament are women. Women are underrepresented in the leadership of the two largest parties. The head of the Communist party is a woman.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government allows domestic human rights organizations to operate but cooperation with them varies. In principle, it respects the right of foreign diplomats to meet with officials and other citizens, including critics of official policy, although the security services on occasion observe contacts of Greek human rights monitors, including listening in on conversations held between those monitors and human rights investigators and diplomats. The security services have also questioned monitors' interlocutors in the aftermath of meetings, reports of which have subsequently appeared in the press. Monitors view this activity as a form of intimidation which deters others from meeting with investigators. Human rights monitors have been called spies and traitors in the press.

In September the Government denied permission for a representative from the International Helsinki Committee in Skopje, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to attend the trial of Christos Sideropoulos (see Section 1.e.).

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The 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. Government respect for these rights in practice is uneven.

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.


The incidence of violence against women that is reported to the authorities is low, but Athens' Equality Secretariat--which operates the only shelter for battered women--believes the actual incidence is "high." No statistics are available. The General Secretariat for Equality of the Sexes (GSES), an independent government agency, asserts that police tend to discourage women from pursuing domestic violence charges and instead undertake reconciliation efforts, although 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.

As a result of pressure from women's groups, the Government established a center for battered women 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.

According to the police, trafficking in women for prostitution, mostly from the former Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, has increased sharply in recent years. Of 1,300 arrests for prostitution without a license in 1994 in Attica province (which includes Athens), 500 were foreigners. Sixty percent of the foreign prostitutes were Albanian, 30 percent were Russian, and 10 percent were from other former Eastern European countries. Police estimate that foreigners constitute 2,000 of the 5,000 prostitutes in Greece. In July the police broke up a prostitute-smuggling ring, arresting the local head of the Aliens' Police Bureau and several other police officers at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing of Promahonas and several nightclub owners. Press allegations of the sale of visas at Greek consulates abroad to trafficking rings is reportedly being investigated by the Government.

There are broad constitutional and legal protections for women, including equal pay for equal work, but the GSES 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 such as the legal and medical professions in large numbers.


The Government is committed to providing adequate basic health and education services for children. However, some social groups, such as Roma and illegal immigrants, are underserved, according to child health specialists. A 1993 study of child abuse estimated that 4,000 children are abused each year. The Child Health Institute, which receives referrals of children who have been abused, reports that its cases involve physical abuse (52.5 percent), neglect/malnutrition (37 percent), burns (7 percent), and sexual abuse (3.5 percent), the latter including sexual exploitation (most common), incest, and rape. Legislation enacted in 1992 prohibits and provides penalties for all forms of mistreatment 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.

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 staffing 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 recent years, Greece has experienced a rise in the population of street children 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.

Few children are available for adoption by childless couples. As a result, cases of prosecution for the sale of Greek babies to childless couples have been reported. In May the Thessaloniki public prosecutor conducted an inquiry into allegations of a baby selling ring in a local maternity clinic which reportedly sold over 400 "orphans" to childless couples between 1935 and 1975. Some of the natural parents reportedly consented to give their children up for adoption while others were duped by clinic doctors and staff, who declared the newborns dead. In September the press reported the arrest of three Bulgarian women in northern Greece who were charged with attempting to sell their babies. The women were reportedly part of a network which has brought more than 100 pregnant women from Bulgaria to give birth in Greek hospitals.

People with Disabilities

Legislation mandates the hiring of disabled persons in public and private enterprises employing more than 50 persons. However, the law is reportedly poorly enforced, particularly in the private sector. The law states that disabled persons should number 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 that of Secretary General of the Ministry of Welfare.

The Construction Code mandates physical access for disabled persons to private and public buildings, but this law too 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. Since 1993 the Government has been replacing old city buses with new ones with stairs specially designed for the disabled. The new Athens subway lines under construction will provide full access for the disabled.

Religious Minorities

Several 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 are not routinely extended to other recognized religions. Rather, the non-Greek 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.

Members of several non-Greek Orthodox churches report receiving death threats or threats against the careers of family members if they did not disassociate themselves from their religion.

According to Jehovah's Witnesses, teachers no longer face difficulties gaining or keeping employment in public and private schools, except in rare instances in rural areas. Jehovah's Witnesses are now treated as a "known religion" for the purpose of employment by the Ministry of Education, which hires public school teachers. Court cases involving Jehovah's

Witnesses who claim employment discrimination now number only three: one pending before the Council of State and two in lower courts.

In 1994 there were six cases regarding employment discrimination against Jehovah's Witnesses, one of which reached the Council of State. Each case involved the refusal of the Ministry of Education to grant teaching permits to the Jehovah's Witnesses. In the lead case, which dated from 1989, the Administrative Court of Appeal in Patras overturned the Ministry's decision; although he subsequently received his permit, the Jehovah's Witness reportedly intends to file a civil suit against the State to collect damages. As a result of this decision, all six litigants (after filing new applications) received permits by June.

Leaders of the Jewish community in Greece have lobbied the Greek government for several years to delete anti-Semitic references from Greek public school textbooks. Although the Government deleted two such references in 1994, three references to Jews as moneylenders remain.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are communities in Greece which identify themselves as Turks, Pomaks, Vlachs, Roma, Arvanites, and Macedonians or Slavomacedonians. Many are fully integrated into Greek society. The only minority Greece formally recognizes is the "Muslim minority" referred to in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The Government insists on the use of that rubric to refer to several different ethnic communities. A substantial part of the Muslim minority is ethnically Turkish or consists of Turkish- speakers in western Thrace; the Government estimates their number at some 120,000 persons. In addition to people of Turkish origin, the Muslim minority includes Pomaks 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 Section 2.b.).

Northern Greece is home to an indeterminate number (estimates range widely, 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" (self-decribed "Macedonians" are hereafter referred to as "Macedonian") and assert their right to minority status. The Government continues to harass and intimidate some of these people, including placing 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" did not declare themselves openly for fear of losing their jobs or for fear of other sanctions. The Government's sensitivity on this issue stems from a widely-held belief that people who claim to be members of a "Macedonian" minority may have separatist aspirations. Greece's dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over that country's name heightened this perception.

A 1994 report by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki entitled "Denying Ethnic Identity--the Macedonians of Greece" charged 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. The report also states 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 individuals to identify themselves as members of ethnic minorities. It states that such self- identification nevertheless 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 courts deny requests by individuals and groups to identify themselves using the ancient term "Macedonian," because some 2.2 million ethnic (and linguistically) Greek citizens in the northern Greek region of Macedonia already use the term to identify themselves. The Government does not define the Slavic dialect spoken by some thousands of northern Greeks as "Macedonian," and government officials deny that it is a separate language at all. The officials also note that Greece regulates the establishment of all commercial language academies and question whether advocates of "Macedonian" language schools meet the relevant requirements. They say that the Government would not interfere with the holding of informal language classes within the Slavophone community. When a political party hung a bilingual Greek and Slavic name sign outside its office, the public prosecutor in Florina confiscated the sign and charged the party with instigating division. In response, the Party sued the mayor and other officials. These cases remained open at year's end.

The Secretariat for Adult Education (a government agency) estimates the number of Roma in Greece at some 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 laborers, peddlers, and musicians throughout the country. Government policy is to encourage the assimilation of Roma. Poverty, illiteracy, and social prejudice continue to plague large parts of the Roma population. The Secretariat for Adult Education conducts education and training 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 usage of public health facilities by Roma is low because of the low rate of integration of Roma communities into 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 Roma camps also contributes to their low rate of access.

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 (now reduced to about 3,000). 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 faculty and teaching materials in sufficient number and quality.

Under a 1952 educational protocol, Greece and Turkey may annually exchange 35 teachers on a reciprocal basis. The teachers serve 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. In Greece 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 1995 no Muslim Greeks succeeded in passing the entrance examinations to attend a Greek university. The Government has enacted several measures that should improve the educational situation of Muslims in Thrace. A new education bill provides incentives for Muslim and Christian educators to reside and teach in isolated villages. The new law also permits the Minister of Education to give special consideration to minority, i.e., Muslim, graduates of Muslim high schools and of the Special Pedagogic Academy of Thessaloniki for admission to Greek universities and technical institutes.

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 and Komotini, while Muslims hold seats on the town council, there are no Muslims among the regular employees of the prefecture. Ethnic Turks and other Muslims in Thrace claim that 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 provide 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.

Claims of discriminatory denial of Muslim applications for a license to operate businesses, own a tractor, or construct property have diminished greatly in recent years. Two Muslims were allowed to open pharmacies in Komotini after overcoming a long series of hurdles imposed by the Government and Orthodox Christian competitors. Basic services provided to Muslim-populated neighborhoods and villages (electricity, telephones, paved roads) in many cases continue to lag far behind those provided in non-Muslim areas.

In May Turkish Minister of the Presidency Gildirim Aktuna was slightly injured during a visit to Thessaloniki when rightwing and pro-Kurdish demonstrators breached police security lines; one grabbed him by the neck. Demonstrators also broke a window on his bus, pelting it with rocks, eggs, and coins. Officials said that poor police planning was responsible for the breaches of security. While acknowledging the inadequate security, officials also complained that provocative statements made by Aktuna prior to this incident heightened the chances for such demonstrations against him. No arrests were made, and no police officials were demoted as a result of the incident. Turkish government officials visited Greece on several other occasions without incident.

In December the Defense Minister reported that members of the Pomak Muslim minority would for the first time be allowed to advance to the rank of reserve officers in the military. Members of the Muslim minority in Rhodes are much more integrated into local society.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The 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 workers (nearly 1 million persons) were organized in unions. 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.

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.

Legal restrictions on strikes include a mandatory period of notice, which is 4 days for public utilities and 24 hours for the private sector. Legislation mandates a skeleton staff during strikes affecting public services, such as electricity, transportation, communications, and banking. 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 1995 the courts declared a majority of strikes illegal for a variety of reasons, but no striking workers were prosecuted.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Legislation 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 are respected in practice. There are 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 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 1992 and applies to the private sector and public corporations (the military and civil service excluded).

Antiunion discrimination is prohibited. The Labor Inspectorate or a court investigates complaints of discrimination against union members or organizers. Court rulings have mandated the reinstatement of improperly fired union organizers.

Greece has three free-trade zones, operated according to European Union regulations. Greek labor laws apply equally in these zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the Ministry of Justice enforces this prohibition. However, the Government may declare the "civil mobilization" of workers in the event of danger to national security, life, property, or the social and economic life of the country. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts has criticized this power as violating the standards of ILO Convention 29 on forced labor.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment in the industrial sector is 15, 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 Work

Collective 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 current minimum wage of $24 daily and $529 monthly (Dr 5,338/119,220), effective July 1, 1995, is 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. 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 its most recent review of this issue 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 were cited as contributing to the accident rate. Workers do not have the legal right to remove themselves from situations they believe endanger their health. They do have the right, however, to lodge a confidential complaint with the Labor Inspectorate. Inspectors have the right to close down machinery or a process for a period of up to 5 days if they see safety or health hazards which they believe represent an imminent danger to the workers.

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Wednesday, 6 March 1996