MINELRES: Greece: Fwd: Rights groups denounce Greek prosecutors racist statement

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sun Feb 10 12:43:28 2008

Original sender: Greek Helsinki Monitor <office@greekhelsinki.gr>

Greece: Rights groups denounce Greek prosecutor’s racist statement

Athens, February 5, 2008 ­ Human rights groups today denounced as racist
a statement by Greece's top prosecutor suggesting that certain ethnic
groups are involved in crime. The rights groups demanded an apology and

The Open Society Justice Initiative and Greek Helsinki Monitor were
reacting to a statement made by Supreme Court Prosecutor George Sanidas
in December 2007. Sanidas, in describing crime in a section of Athens,
singled out as perpetrators "foreign women of African and non-African
origin" and "athinganoi." The latter term is a pejorative reference to
Roma. Sanidas has not amended or retracted his statement in the weeks
since he made it.

"Despite public criticism, Sanidas has not retracted or apologized for
his remarks," said Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson for Greek Helsinki
Monitor. "As a result of this racial profiling, African women and Roma
street vendors have been targeted and harassed by police. This racism is
especially disturbing when it comes from Greece's top prosecutor; there
is no place for such an attitude in 21st century Europe."

Sanidas made the statement in an order to the chief of the Hellenic
Police, calling for a crackdown on crime in the historical center of
Athens. The term ‘athinganoi' is widely recognized as offensive; a Greek
police memo states as much and says it should not be used by law
enforcement officials.

"It is unprofessional and inexcusable for the chief prosecutor to make
blanket accusations that members of a particular ethnic group are
involved in criminal activity," said Robert O. Varenik, acting executive
director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "Profiling entire
communities on the basis of their national origins is the prelude to
wholesale disregard of their rights, and such openly offensive language
adds insult to injury."

The rights groups noted that Sanidas' words were just the latest in a
string of anti-Roma statements by Greek law enforcement authorities.
They also noted that by targeting a specific racial or ethnic group,
police are engaging in ethnic profiling, which violates European and
international human rights standards.

In fact, in December 2007 Greece was found guilty of discrimination by
the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Petropoulou-Tsakiris
v. Greece. The court found a "general discriminatory attitude on the
part of the authorities" while investigating claims by a Roma woman of
police brutality. The woman claimed she was kicked by police during a
search and subsequently miscarried as a result of the beating. The
official investigation into her claims was not "sufficiently thorough
and effective," the court ruled.

The Justice Initiative is currently working to expose and reduce the
practice of ethnic profiling by police throughout Europe; a Justice
Initiative book examining ethnic and racial profiling in Europe will be
published later this year.

Contact: Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor: +30-2103472259

The URL for this page is:


The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute (OSI), pursues law reform activities grounded in the
protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal
capacity for open societies worldwide. The Justice Initiative combines
litigation, legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination
of knowledge to secure advances in the following priority areas:
national criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information
and expression, and equality and citizenship. Its offices are in Abuja,
Budapest, London, New Y! ork and Washington DC.


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