Greece: humanist barred from human rights work

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 21 February 2023

Human rights defender and humanist leader, Panayote Dimitras

Humanists International is deeply disturbed to learn of the latest restrictions imposed on humanist and human rights activist Panayote Dimitras, which prevent him from conducting his legitimate human rights work through the Greek Helsinki Monitor. The sanctions represent an escalation in attempts to silence Dimitras.

On 24 January 2023, Dimitras was served a Judicial Council decision – issued at the request of prosecutors – handing down a ban on him carrying out any of GHM’s activities as well as traveling outside of the country, and 10,000 Euro bail, as well as a requirement to report to the police twice per month.

The decision was granted as a preventative measure pending trial on charges of “forming or joining for profit and by profession a criminal organization with the purpose of facilitating the entry and stay of third country nationals into Greek territory.” Part of a much wider pattern of harassment of migrant rights activists, prosecuting authorities brought the charges after Dimitras shared a list of names of individuals who had recently arrived in Greece and wished to apply for asylum on 13 July 2021. An action that he has taken on any number of occasions in the course of his work.

Multiple respected human rights advocates have spoken out in defense of Dimitras and others co-accused in this case, including UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor; Council of Europe human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic;Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.

Panayote Dimitras is the co-founder of the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and Minority Rights Group – Greece (MRG-G). He has been the official spokesperson of GHM since its foundation in 1992. In 2010, Dimitras co-founded the Humanist Union of Greece (HUG); he has been a member of HUG’s Secretariat ever since. Since 2012, he has been a member of the World Organization against Torture (OMCT)’s General Assembly. Between 2014-2020 he was a member of the Executive Board of the European Humanist Federation (EHF).

Dimitras is no stranger to harassment in response to his human rights work. He has faced repeated smear campaigns, threats of violence and judicial harassment in connection with his work for the Greek Helsinki Monitor. In June 2022, Dimitras was ordered to pay a fine of 200€ in court fees for each case after being found to have stained “without evidence the reputation of the Coast Guard” and exposed “Coast Guard officers to the risk of prosecution” in two separate cases. Dimitras had accused members of the navy of pushing migrants back.

Humanists International believes that human rights advocate Panayote Dimitras is being targeted solely for his peaceful advocacy for human rights, and calls on the Greek authorities to drop these spurious charges, as well as overturn all restrictions imposed upon him.

Photo by Nikola Radojcic on Unsplash

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