Greece condemned for discriminating against Macedonian minority 

Read the interview with one of the main plaintiffs Mr. Sideropoulos (in Macedonian) after the judgement! 

Read also the press release by the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada.


GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR
& MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP - GREECE
P.O. Box 51393, GR-14510 Kifisia, Greece
Tel. 30-1-620.01.20; Fax: 30-1-807.57.67; E-mail: office@greekhelsinki.gr
___________________________________________________________________

PRESS RELEASE

13/7/1998

NEW CONVICTION OF GREECE BY THE EUROPEAN COURT ON MINORITY ISSUES.

INADMISSIBLE ATTITUDE OF THE (GREEK STATE-OWNED) MACEDONIAN NEWS AGENCY.

The cooperating organizations Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights
Group - Greece point out  that the unanimous conviction of Greece by the
European Court of Human Rights, on 10/7/1998, is the tenth conviction of
the country for violation of the rights of minorities which live in it.
Greece was convicted for the violation of the freedom of association
(Article 11 of the relevant European Convention), because the Greek courts
did not allow in 1990 the establishment of the "Home of Macedonian
Civilization" (as translated in English by the European Court).

Between 1993 and mid-1997, Greece was convicted seven times for violations
of the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses: the cases concerned either
convictions by Greek courts for proselytism (1 case), for refusal of their
clergy to do military service (3), for the opening of a house of worship
(1); -or expulsions of pupils from school for refusal to participate in
parades (1). In another case, Greece settled and allowed a house of worship
to operate to avoid another conviction.

In the course of the last seven months, Greece was convicted for the
violation of the rights of three other minorities. In December 1997, for
the refusal to recognize the legal personality of the Catholic Church of
Chanea (Crete); in February 1998, for the conviction of Protestant military
personnel for proselytism of civilians; and now, in July 1998, for the
establishment of an association by ethnic Macedonians. There has been no
conviction yet only for the Turkish minority, as a case of the former
deputy Sadik was rejected, despite the positive recommendation of the
Commission, for strictly procedural reasons (non-exhaustion of legal
remedies in Greece).

The most important argument of the recent Court decision is its position
towards the Greek courts’ and state’s view that the Home of Macedonian
Civilization was not allowed to be established as its founding members did
not aim simply at a cultural activity but at supporting the view that there
is a Macedonian minority. The latter is known to be considered
"non-existent" in Greece, an argument documented by the Greek courts and
state with evidence full of "scholarly" quotes even from texts dating from
the Nazi occupation period: "a guide to Salonika written by German
historians and archaeologists during the last world war states that…" In
countering this argument, the European Court mentions the binding character
for Greece of the OSCE documents which the country has signed and which
have usually been considered merely declaratory and without any legal
value. The Court states that the aims of the Home are "clear and
legitimate" and adds:

"Even supposing that the founders of an association like the one in the
instant case assert a minority consciousness, the Document of the
Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE
(Section IV) of 29 June 1990 and the Charter of Paris for a New Europe of
21 November 1990 – which Greece has signed – allow them to form
associations to protect their cultural and spiritual heritage.".

We consider as an important development that, the day after the publication
of the Court decision, six newspapers (Avghi, Ethnos, Eleftherotypia,
Exousia, Kathimerini, and Rizospastis) covered the news in a correct
journalistic way, something that happens for the first time with respect to
decisions of such "sensitivity," that usually go deliberately unnoticed.
They were certainly helped in that by the news items of the two state
agencies, the Athens News Agency and the Macedonian News Agency (MPA),
which reported immediately and accurately the related news item of the
French News Agency of 10/7. It was therefore surprising to see that the MPA
gave the impression to have "regretted" the first objective coverage: on
11/7 it released two lengthy and in essence rebutting items. In them,
Greece’s conviction was completely downplayed (in the first) or totally
omitted (in the second), as the purpose of these items was to show, as the
title of the third and last item showed, that:

"European Court Of Justice: The Defense Of The Greek Character Of Macedonia
Is Greece's Legal Right."

In the text of that news item, that title is explained by way of
distortions of, and by turning upside down the text of the court decision
(even with the use of quotation marks to make the forgery more convincing).
The item also distorts the meaning of the reference to the OSCE decision
while it presents mainly the views of the Greek courts (which are naturally
stated in the text of the European Court), but in ways that could give the
impression that they are adopted by the latter. Finally, we need to point
out that MPA chose to include in its 11/7 English language bulletin only
the distorted news item on "Greece’s vindication" confirming the impression
that the first, objective coverage of the matter was "outside editorial
policy."

We therefore call upon the Director of MPA and the supervising Minister for
the Press Mr. Reppas, who have both shown in the past correct "sensitivity"
on such matters, to make their views public on this issue, which does not
happen for the first time, in a way that will exclude its repetition in the
future. Thus, they will avoid the international negative exposure of Greece
as a country where the state media can use principles of "journalism" which
can be found only in authoritarian regimes.

The complete text of the Court’s decision can be found at its Internet
address:

http://www.dhcour.coe.fr/eng/SIDIROPOULOS%20&%20OTHERS%20ENG.html

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------

THE MACEDONIAN NEWS AGENCY NEWS ITEM

[08] EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE: THE DEFENSE OF THE GREEK CHARACTER OF
MACEDONIA IS GREECE'S LEGAL RIGHT

Web Posted: 16:35 GMT+2

Strasbourg, 11/07/1998 (MPA) It is the legal right of the Greek authorities
and the country's courts to face every attempt aimed at disputing the Greek
character of Macedonia and its residents as well as, its territorial
integrity, according to a European Court of Justice ruling that was issued
after examining an appeal that challenged the Greek court decisions based
on which, the establishment of an association in Florina, north-western
Greece had been rejected because it indirectly raised the Macedonian issue.

The refusal of the Greek courts to recognize the association named "The
House of the Macedonian Culture" in Florina was based on law and sought
legal purposes, mentions the European Court of Justice, even though it
found that in the specific case the restriction of the freedom to associate
was not necessary. The court observed that if the association's founders
goals were illegal they could be faced by dissolving the association in
question based on article 105 of the Civil Code.

The European Court of Justice in Strasbourg examined the case after an
appeal by four people, who adduced their alleged "Macedonian national
origin" and "Macedonian national conscience".

The European Court of Justice recognized as legitimate the Greek courts
right to face what they judged to be an intention to challenge the Greek
identity of Macedonia and its people as well as, the country's territorial
integrity, taking under consideration the situation existing at that period
of time (1990) in the Balkans and the political differences between Greece
and FYROM. In the decision is made a specific reference to Greece's
complaints over the threat that FYROM's hostile propaganda was posing at
the time of the events, its attempt to claim that the name Macedonia was
Slav and the inclusion of certain articles in FYROM's Constitution toward
that purpose as well as, the systematic promotion of the nationalist idea
of a "united Macedonia".

___________________________________________________________________

THE FRENCH NEWS AGENCY NEWS ITEM

Greece condemned for discriminating
against Macedonian minority

Fri 10 Jul 98 - 15:55 GMT

STRASBOURG, July 10 (AFP) - The European Court of Human Rights on Friday
condemned Greece for having banned an association called "The House of
Macedonian Civilisation."

Four people brought the case on behalf of a group of about 50 people who
said they were of ethnic Macedonian origin and had a "Macedonian national
consciousness."

The Court ruled that Greece had violated the applicants' right to liberty
of association.
The plaintiffs come from Florina, northern Greece, near the border with
Macedonia. It awarded the applicants a total of 40,000 drachmas (13,300
dollars) in costs. They had been claiming nearly 100 million drachmas in
damages and costs.

The Greek administration and court had refused to register the association,
ruling that its objective was to create a Macedonian Slav state with access
to the Aegean Sea.

The appeal court in Thessalonica based its decision on the belief that the
group wanted to challenge the Greek identity of the northern Greek region
of Macedonia, challenging the country's territorial integrity.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Greece was wrong to ban the
association, since it was not without means to pursue its leaders if the
activities did indeed prove to be dangerous.

Since Macedonia's independence from Belgrade in 1991, Athens has disputed
its right to use that name, saying it implies that the Skopje government
has territorial designs on the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

It took until March this year for a Greek government spokesman to refer to
the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as "Macedonia of Skopje".

_______________________________________

Greek Helsinki Monitor &
Minority Rights Group - Greece
P.O. Box 51393
GR-14510 Kifisia
Greece
Tel. +30-1-620.01.20
Fax +30-1-807.57.67
e-mail: office@greekhelsinki.gr
http://www.greekhelsinki.gr
________________________________________
 

Hristos Sideropulos za sporot protiv gr~kata vlada 

Pobeda na makedonskiot narod


Grcija treba da se odnesuva kako demokratska zemja. Da ne prifati nas kako narod {to `ivee tamu i da ni gi dade ~ovekovite prava

Denovive Evropskiot sud za pravata na ~ovekot go zavr{iprocesot Sideropulos i drugite protiv gr~kata vlada, zapo~nat pred okolu osum godini, a koj otkako gi pomina site sudski instanci vo Grcija svojata zavr{nica ja dobi na 10 juli vo Strazbur. Evropskite sudii vo svojata odluka rekoa deka Grcija go prekr{ila ~lenot 11 od Evorpskata Konvencija za pravata na ~ovekot so koj se regulira pravoto na slobodno zdru`uvawe na gra|anite, osuduvaj}i ja dr`avata da im isplati 4 milioni drahmi na tu`itelite, vo rok od tri meseci. Glavniot inicijator na procesot, mnogupati osuduvaniot Makedonec vo Grcija zaradi negovoto javno priznanie za etni~kata pripadnost, Hristos Sideropulos, odlukata na Evorpskiot sud ja ocenuva kako golema satisfakcija za Makedoncite vo Grcija i ohrabruvawe za natamo{nata borba za nivnite prava.

Gospodine Sideropulos kako posle se, ja do`ivuvate odlukata na Evorpskiot sud od Strazbur

- Slu~ajot be{e eden spor so gr~kata vlada za koj nie ne posakuvavme da stigne do tamu, da ja sudime Grcija. Zo{to kako lojalni gra|ani na taa dr`ava treba{e da se dr`ime do site ramki... kako gra|anin. No Grcija ne ja prifati na{ata `elba da si formirame na{e kulturno dru{tvo i taka otkako gi pominavme site sudski stepeni vo dr`avata stignavme na Evropskiot sud. Tamu sudot ednoglasno re~e deka ima Makedonci vo Lerin i deka mo`at da si formiraat dru{tvo. Jas toa go gledam kako edna pobeda na makedonskiot narod. I }e prodol`ime nie ne samo vo Lerin. Ova e po~etok i vo drugiot makedonski gradovi vo Grcija Makedoncite da si pravat kulturni centri.

Osven neguvaweto na etni~kite belezi vo tie kulturni centri dali }e imate i drugi barawa do gr~kata dr`ava na primer vo obrazovanieto?

Obrazovanie za Makedoncite i crkva, imame staveno kako barawa vo OBSE, vo ON i vo drugi me|unarodni institucii. Nie o~ekuvme od Grcija da gi prifati, zo{to ne sakame i ovie barawa da stignat povtorno vo Evorpskiot sud, za da pobedime sigurno tamu. Mislam deka za ova Grcija }e razmisli mnogu podobro. I }e prifati, zo{to odime vo nov vek, so novi misli, i Grcija treba taka da se odnesuva, kako demokratska zemja. Da ne prifati nas kako narod {to `ivee tamu i da ni gi dade ~ovekovite prava.

Spored va{ata procenka kolku etni~ki Makedonci ima vo Grcija sega.

Etni~ki Makedonci vo Grcija ima nad eden milion, no ne site se ~uvstvuvaat taka. Dali se 500-600 iljadi, pomalku ili pove}e, ne se znae, zo{to na popisot {to se pravi sekoi deset godini nema pra{awe za etni~kata pripadnost na gra|anite. Toa ne mo`am da vi go ka`am to~no. No veruvam deka denes nad eden milion Makedonci `iveat vo Grcija.

B.G., Nova Makedonija, 16 juli 1998



Press Release – July 20, 1998

Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada

Border Crossing into Greece – Association of Refugee Children from
Aegean Macedonia

The Second World Reunion of the Association of Refugee Children from
Aegean Macedonia began on July 15, 1998 in the Republic of Macedonia and
was scheduled to end with an historic trip to Edessa (Voden) Greece on
July 19, 1998.

The former child refugees, evacuated from Greece during the Civil War of
1946-49, have consistently been denied entry into Greece simply because
they assert their Macedonian ethnic identity. Former child refugees who
assert a Greek identity have been allowed to return to Greece.

Several hundred Macedonians, under the supervision of a number of human
rights organizations including the Greek Helsinki Monitor, the
Macedonian Helsinki Committee and the Rainbow Party, attempted to cross
the border from the Republic of Macedonia into Florina (Lerin) Greece on
the morning of July 19, 1998. After being held up unnecessarily for
several hours at the border and having their personal belongings
examined, most of these people were allowed entry. The Greek government
seemed intent on delaying the celebrations planned in Edessa (Voden) as
the expression of Macedonian culture is not tolerated in Greece.

However, approximately 30 people, including the executive of the
Association of Refugee Children from Aegean Macedonia (from Canada) were
denied entry and given no reason by the Greek government. These people
do not have criminal records and as Canadian citizens do not require
visas to visit Greece. The Greek government turned them back only
because of their involvement in Macedonian organizations overseas and
because they assert a Macedonian ethnic identity.

The MHRMC and ARCAM call on the international community to condemn
Greece’s actions and to apply pressure on the Greek government to comply
with all human rights conventions to which it is a signatory and allow
these ethnic Macedonians to freely cross the border into Greece.

Bill Nicholov
Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada
P.O. Box 44532
2376 Eglinton Avenue East
Toronto, Canada
M1K 5K3
Tel. 416-202-8866
Fax 416-412-3385
nicholov@sympatico.ca
mail@mhrmc.on.ca
http://www.mhrmc.on.ca