Greece: Council of Europe Committee of Ministers ignores Commissioner for Human Rights information and subscribes to Greek state version on Patras Roma evictions
Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) is astonished by the content of the Council of Europe (CoE)’s Committee of Ministers (CM)’ Reply to Written Question No. 502 by Mr Cilevičs: “Implementation of the European Social Charter by Greece: Forced evictions of Roma” adopted on 14 March 2007. The CM based the reply exclusively on the report by the Greek government. Thus, it ignored the publicly available letter of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (CHR) Thomas Hammarberg to the Greek government on that same topic, following his visit to the Roma concerned: in it the Commissioner confirmed the concerns raised by the PACE member.
GHM believes that ignoring rulings, reports, or letters with concrete information by CoE human rights expert institutions like the European Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights, or the European Committee of Social Rights negatively affects the credibility of the CM and the respect the CM must show to PACE when answering the latter’s questions. The full texts of the CM reply, the parliamentary question, and the CHR letter follow.
In the CM reply it is claimed that “the families of [Patras] Greek Roma registered in parts of and settled in the Makrigianni – Rodopoulou district, are sheltered, with their consent, in rented apartments, paid by the municipality. The same measures have been taken with respect to the Roma settled in the Riganokampos district. (…) It is inaccurate to refer to ‘forced evictions’ as the term suggests the existence of legal settlements and legal tenants, which is not the case. (…) There have been administrative acts of evacuation and expulsion in response to the unlawful occupancy of land and to arbitrary and illegal settlement of tracts of public land.”
Yet, the CHR wrote: “However, the brief visit to Patras illustrated to me that there are remaining problems. I saw Roma families living in very poor conditions. Also, I met with a family whose simple habitat had been bulldozed away that same morning. It was obvious that the ‘procedures’ for making them homeless were in total contradiction to human rights standards I referred to above. (…) As regards the current situation in Makrygiannis and Riganocampos, I would like to request further information on the measures taken to compensate and relocate Roma families after eviction or ‘administrative suspension’ and on their security of tenure in current housing.”
Greece misinformed the CM on the evictions. The authorities’ “administrative acts of evacuation and expulsion” were annulled in 2005 as abusive by magistrates while related criminal charges were dropped. The summer 2006 evictions were illegal as they were not the result of any administrative act or court procedure. Video footage (including BBC’s) documents these evictions. Greek Gypsy Union chairman Yannis Halilopoulos was in fact threatened with arrest when shooting evictions. It is also publicly known that one court brief mentioned in the CM reply included the investigation of the magistrates who annulled the administrative protocols of eviction of the Roma in Riganokampos and Makrigianni. The CM finally ignored the Commissioner’s concerns on the aggressive, threatening and racist attitude of the non-Roma neighbors who disturbed his visit; the lack of obvious protection from the police present; and the non-condemnation by local authorities of anti-Roma racism.