The Greek government needs to take action against the extreme right, including the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, says the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Nils Muiznieks. This could even involve outlawing the party.
The Athens govenrment have replied to the report: Greece responds to concerns over extreme right
There has been a dramatic increase in attacks on immigrants and the report notes, “A number of the reported attacks have been linked to members or supporters, including MPs, of the neo-Nazi political party “Golden Dawn.”
The party is openly neo-Nazi, and New Europe has party documents that include the closing line “Heil Hitler”. There have been allegations that the party has significant support amongst the police, who are accused of covertly supporting the party.
Muiznieks believes that the European Convention on Human Rights, and other international law makes it possible to restrict or even ban the party and individuals preaching racial and religious hatred. The human rights head said in his report, “Greek law, although insufficiently or completely unused so far, has the potential to curb and prevent manifestations of racial and other forms of discrimination by individuals and political organisations.”
Austerity measures, put in place by the EU have had an effect on the rise in extremism in Greece, the report says, “This situation appears to act as a strong magnifier of an already existing problem of intolerance and racism in the country.”
The Golden Dawn were hardly a fringe party before the financial crisis, mustering 0.23% of support, but in the 2012 elections they reached 7% and gained 18 MPs in the 300 seat Greek parliament.
The report covers the history of the party, tracing them to December 1980 and the publication of a magazine entitled “Golden Dawn” managed by the current leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who used to have ties with the leadership of the 1967-1974 military regime and who was convicted for involvement in terrorist bomb explosions in Athens in 1978. It notes, “Ideological documents on the party’s current website make clear the overtly racist underpinnings of “Golden Dawn”, similar to those of Nazism and fascism.”
The party is now getting between 14% and 18% in opinion polls, which could lead to them sending four or five deputies to the European Parliament after the 2014 European elections. This, combined with a rise in extreme right parties in the European Union, is causing real concern in Brussels where the parliament is making more use of its increased powers under the Lisbon Treaty.
The thought of openly Nazi deputies is causing the greatest concern over the harm it could do to the world’s perception of the parliament.
Greece’s Jewish community, of whom some 60,000 to 70,000 were murdered in the Holocaust, have also become extremely concerned over the rise of racism and anti-Semitism.
“The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece wishes to express its great indignation at the broadcasting, promotion and dissemination of the extremely racist sentiments displayed by Holocaust deniers and proponents of Nazism in Greece,” said a board letter addressed to Ioannis Alafouzos, president of the SKAI media group.
They continued, “We have repeatedly pointed out that the political system, the judiciary, civic bodies and the Mass Media have a duty to isolate and delegitimize ideologies that have resulted in crimes against humanity and the death of millions of people, including six million Jews.”
The letter was a response to appearances on television by Golden Dawn representatives. One MP notoriously attacked another panel member on one show.
The Council of Europe report says that between June and October 2011 there were 17 violent incidents, mainly against migrants that involved members of the party and several of their MPs have had their immunity lifted so they can face charges of violence against immigrants.
The commissioner is alarmed that Golden Dawn MPs are said to be entering parliament with firearms.
The Greek authorities were also criticized. “It is also regrettable that the Greek Parliament’s reaction to hate speech has been weak. Οn 18 October 2012, during a meeting of the parliament’s plenary, the Golden Dawn MP, Eleni Zaroulia, referred to migrants in Greece as “sub-humans who have invaded our country, with all kinds of diseases.”
There was little reaction to these widely reported remarks.
The commissioner is looking for a much better response, including enforcing existing laws, investigating allegations of collusion against law officials and putting in place bodies to monitor and examine the situation.
For Greece, the issue is traumatic. The arrival of the Golden Dawn horrified many, even those who could understand how economic hardship could drive people to the edges of politics. However, most Greeks regard them as shameful and opposing their traditions of hospitality and friendship.
During the Second World War, the Germans asked the Mayor of one of the islands, Zakynthos to provide them with a list of all the Jews on the isle. The next day Bishop Chrysostomos presented them with a list of just two names, his and the Mayor’s. The 275 Jews were hidden by islanders and survived.
Which Greece does the nation want to be?