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UN expert on racism urges Greece to reinforce the fight against hate speech and incitement to violence

ATHENS / GENEVA (12 May 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere, today urged the Government of Greece to effectively address and firmly punish openly racist discourse and incitement to violence.

“Stronger measures need to be taken to effectively address hate speech and verbal abuse against vulnerable groups including irregular migrants and minorities such as Roma people,” Mr. Ruteere said at the end* of his first official mission to Greece.

“Combating hate and prejudice is not just about financial resources, and in times of economic crisis, scapegoating the most vulnerable members of society only contributes to reinforcing a climate of hostility and violence towards such groups and individuals,” the human rights expert noted.

The Special Rapporteur, nonetheless, recognized the continuous and committed hospitality of the Greek population, “as citizens have been displaying efforts to save migrants from drowning and providing them with basic necessities despite strained resources due to the long lasting economic crisis.”

Mr. Ruteere also welcomed efforts and initiatives implemented by the Greek Government to address the issue of racist violence, including reforming the legal framework, establishing strong and credible institutions such as an Ombudsman and the National Commission for Human Rights, as well as the Public Prosecutors for racist motivated crimes and the special police units to assist victims of racist violence.

However, at the end of his five-day mission, he made a number of specific recommendations, including setting up more efficient mechanisms for victims to seek remedies and ensure their access to justice as well as the due punishment of perpetrators, among other things.

The human rights expert noted the official efforts undertaken to investigate acts of police violence through an internal oversight mechanism, but called for the creation of an independent body to guarantee transparency and credibility of such investigations.

“Finally, the Romas of Greece, while being for the vast majority Greek citizens, continue to face rampant discrimination and remain economically and socially disadvantaged, therefore I call upon the Government to take into account and urgently implement the numerous recommendations made by UN and European mechanisms,” the expert pleaded.

 

During his visit to Greece, from 4 to 8 May, Mr. Ruteere met with Government officials, representatives of the legislative and judicial branches, UN agencies in the country, the National Human Rights institutions, a broad range of civil society actors and private organisations.

A final report on the visit will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council in 2016.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15943&LangID=E

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity.  Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/SRRacism/Pages/IndexSRRacism.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Greece:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/GRIndex.aspx

For further information and media enquiries, please contact Thierry del Prado (+ 41 22 917 9232 / tdelprado@ohchr.org) or Yaye Ba (+41 22 917 9210 / yba@ohchr.org) or write to racism@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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