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Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Article 5(2) of the Greek Constitution states that “all persons living within the Greek territory shall enjoy full protection of their life, honour and liberty irrespective of nationality, race or language and of religious or political beliefs”.

Regarding the fight against racism the law “On the punishing acts and activities aiming at racial discrimination” 927 / 1979, amended by the Law 1419/1984 (Article 24), as well as the Aliens Act 2910/2001 (section 72) are usually applied.

In accordance with the section 1.1. of the Law 927/1979 “to wilfully and publicly, either orally or by the press or by written texts or through pictures or any other means, incite to acts or activities which may result in discrimination, hatred or violence against individuals or groups of individuals on the sole grounds of the latter’s racial or national origin or [by virtue of article 24 of Law 1419/1984] religion” shall be punished with either imprisonment for a term up to two years or a fine.

Belonging to an organisation whose purpose is promotion or activities of any nature relating to racial discrimination shall also be punished in accordance with this Act with up to two years' imprisonment or a fine.

Section 3 of Act 927/1979 states that refusal to provide services or sale of goods on the basis of racial bias are subject to a fine or 1 year in prison. The law also provides for liability for provoking or coercion to hate crimes.

The inadmissibility of racial discrimination is to some degree registered in a number of other laws and regulations in Greece, such as the Civil and Administrative Law, Labour Code, and even Resolution 1 of the Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting “On the ethics of journalism and advertising on radio and television” and a range of others.

In 2013, an amendment was made to Article 79 of the Criminal Code, which now provides that a hate crime due to race, colour, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or gender identity is an aggravating circumstance and the sentence cannot be suspended. However, this rule can be applied only at the stage of the court's decision on the sentence after the proof of guilt of the offender, which largely reduces its value to a minimum.

On September 9, 2014, Greek parliament passed the law that introduced tougher punishment for racism, discrimination and Holocaust denial.

Parties and organisations supporting racism would be deprived of government funding for one to six months. Minister of Justice will be able to fine people for racist statements for 10 to 100 thousand euros. Individuals guilty of racism or denial of the Holocaust or genocide can also be punished by a prison term fo three months to three years or a fine. MPs and government officials guilty of such offences can be imprisoned for up to 5 years. The law allows for prosecution even if victim does not come forward. This is a truly revolutionary law for Greece, where the main problem was leniency towards hate crime and hate speech.

However, in practice this legislation is not applied as actively. Institutional racism remains a problem in Greek courts. This applies even to cases in which the existence of a hate motive is obvious.

In 2015, an amendment was proposed to the Criminal Code of Greece - Article 361B, which criminalised the refusal to sell (purchase, distribute) goods and services on the basis of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, and geographical origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. The amendment became law in July 2016. The new article of the Criminal Code is directed, first of all, against the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn”, whose activists actively practiced actions for free distribution of foodstuffs during religious holidays to “clean” Greeks, and donate “clean Greek” blood. Meanwhile, Greek Parliament has been debating for many years on the issue of building a cathedral mosque at a Muslim cemetery in Athens. The bill has been under discussion since 2006 and was finally approved by the Parliament on August 3, 2016. Speaking in support of the construction of the mosque, many commentators argued that this is largely a social, rather than a religious project, because It is aimed at improving the situation with minorities in Greece. In particular, the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Nikos Filis said that Greece must avoid mistakes made by other European countries that left many communities of migrants in social isolation and thereby made them vulnerable to the threat of extremism. “It's really an elephant in the room: Europe has never understood that Islam is a reality,” he said in parliament. “The existence of underground and illegally erected mosques (in Athens) is a shame for our country.”

On October 1, 2014, the Greek government adopted a directive that regulates the creation of religious legal entities. Previously, only the Greek Orthodox Church, the Jewish community, and the Muslim minority in Thrace were officially recognised as religious groups in accordance with the law. In accordance with the new directive, several other groups that have had historical presence in Greece obtained such right. These include the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, several Protestant churches, as well as Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian and Assyrian Orthodox churches. In addition, a procedure for seeking the status of religious organisations was established. Non-traditional religious communities also acquired the opportunity to obtain the status of legal entities in the future. Such groups are required to meet certain requirements related to the number of followers, administration, and the observance of public order. Legal status is extremely important for communities, because under Greek law only religious organisations that have such status can officially own and dispose of property, manage houses of worship, private schools, charitable institutions, etc. However, under the new rules, religious communities that do not have this legal status, can still act in administrative and civil courts as plaintiffs or the accused.

On June 2015, the Greek parliament passed a law giving children of foreign nationals’ citizenship as long as they are born and raised in the country. The law was expected to affect nearly 200,000 second-generation migrants; including those whose parents arrived in the early nighties with an exodus from Eastern Europe, following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Prior to immigration policy reform in 1991, immigration legislation predated to the 1920s where it was extremely difficult for migrants to enter Greece legally.

Previously children born in Greece received what’s called a “maternity clinic certificate” rather than a proper birth certificate, which really gave them no legal status. Moreover, since they were not Greek nationals then they also had limited access to EU rights, including traveling and working within the bloc, voting and studying abroad.

The right to acquire Greek citizenship is now granted to children of immigrants who were born in Greece, attend a school or higher education institution in the country. The right to acquire Greek citizenship is also granted to children who have a diploma of Greek secondary, vocational or higher education, as well as children who have studied for 9 years in the Greek school or have completed 6 years of secondary education. On December 22, 2015, the Greek Parliament passed a law on civil unions of same-sex couples. The new law allows same-sex couples to enjoy some of the rights granted to traditional couples, including medical proxy and inheritance rights, but does not guarantee such rights for transsexuals. In addition, the outdated provisions of criminal law, such as the provision on “unnatural impropriety” (Article 347), were also abolished. Furthermore, an Expert Committee was established to draft a law on the recognition of gender identity.

In June 2016, the Secretary-General for Human Rights in the Ministry of Justice, Kostis Papaioanou, publicly promised to repeal some obsolete articles on blasphemy. This was preceded by an open letter addressed to the Ministry of Justice by a dozen human rights and atheistic organisations from around the world, including the International Humanistic and Ethical Union and the Humanist Union of Greece (HUG), who appealed to the Greek government to respect freedom of thought and freedom of speech, and repeal the laws on “blasphemy.”

There is also article 199 of the Criminal Code: “On blasphemy concerning religion,” which reads: “Anyone who publicly and maliciously blasphemes the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ or any other religion tolerable in Greece is liable to imprisonment for a term not More than two years. “ Greece, along with Ireland and Poland, remains one of the last European Union members, where blasphemy laws imply prosecution, fines and even imprisonment.

In 2016, the Law 4368/2016 “On measures to accelerate the work of the government” was adopted. Article 33 (1) of this Law provides for the right of uninsured people from socially vulnerable groups to have free access to medical care and hospitalisation. Previously, this right was not granted to illegal migrants, except for minors, pregnant women, etc.

In December 2016, in Greece a new anti-discrimination law No. 4443/2016 was accepted. It prohibited discrimination based on race, color, and ethnicity in the labor and employment sector. However, outside the framework of the current legislation such areas as education, the social sphere, and the provision of goods and services remain. But the motives for hatred did not become an aggravating circumstance in 2016, when crimes were committed in Greek criminal law.

In May 2016, the Greek government took positive steps to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable groups of refugees in such areas as housing, food, and medical services. It is important that the country has been implementing a project for a number of years for refugees' children, who are trained at public expense . In August, the Greek Parliament adopted a legislative provision on the establishment of special classes for refugee children of school age. In October, about 580 refugee schoolchildren, asylum-seekers, and migrants began classes in the capital of Athens and in Thessaloniki.

It is interesting that in June 2016 at the legislative level, at the initiative of the Ministry of Migration Policy, the composition of appellate bodies was changed. It was the last instance where refugees could apply after decision on their deportation. The decision was made after the scandal that erupted when appellate committees massively refused migrants to review their cases. Now the appeal committees consist of 3 persons - two judges from the administrative courts (administrative courts of first instance and the appellate court) and one person proposed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In July 2016, the Greek court took an important step in protecting the rights of sexual minorities, allowing citizens to officially change their sex without changing it surgically. However, this decision creates a legal contradiction between the terms "gender change" and "gender identification", replacing it with the notion of "gender identity". In the near future, this can create great difficulties of a bureaucratic nature, both in Greece and in the EU countries.

In June 2019, Greece became the ninth country in Europe to introduce a non-consensual rape law, meaning that non-consensual sex is rape. In its concluding observations to Greece following its 2012 review, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) expressed concern about ongoing sexual violence and the limited number of prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators. The Committee was also concerned that rape and other forms of sexual violence are not explicitly included as forms of torture in the State party's Criminal Code 26 and 25. Ibid. document CAT/C/GRC/CO/5-6, para. 23. 26. 17 recommended that Greece explicitly include rape and other forms of sexual violence as a form of torture in the amendment to article 137A of the Penal Code instead of "serious assault on sexual dignity".

The Greek National Commission on Human Rights included the same recommendation in its comments on the draft government report to CAT. Although the Greek government did not include rape and other forms of sexual violence in the torture amendment to Article 137A of the Penal Code, on June 6, 2019, it amended the Penal Code to recognize that non-consensual sexual intercourse constitutes rape. It clearly states that physical violence is not required for the crime to be considered rape and that the focus is not on resistance. However, these changes are still inconsistent with the recommendations of the Committee and the NHRC that rape and other forms of sexual violence are considered forms of torture.

In addition, the new Penal Code, revised in July 2019 due to the change in government, increases penalties for crimes with racist characteristics for both the lightest and most serious forms of crime. While racists were punished with sentences of up to one year for their misdemeanors before July 2019, they are now punished with sentences of up to 1.5 years. In especially serious cases, the punishment increases by an additional two years. Generally, these sentences are added to those for other offenses if a hate motive can be proven.

In addition, the new Criminal Code expands the category of criteria for selecting victims by eliminating the term "hate crime" (!!!). Victims can be selected based on the characteristics of race, color, religion, genealogy, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, and identity or gender characteristics. All individuals within Greek territory, whether Greek or foreign, enjoy absolute protection of their life, honor and freedom, without distinction as to nationality, race, language or religious or political beliefs, as provided for in article 5. 2, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, while the prosecutor shall indicate and emphasize racist motives.

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