During a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, Humanists International’s Advocacy Officer, Lillie Ashworth, delivered a statement drawing attention to Dimitras’s situation and criticized the ongoing criminalisation of individuals assisting refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Greece.
Panayote Dimitras, a humanist and prominent defender of human rights, has faced threats of violence and judicial harassment for carrying out his work defending the rights of migrants. He has been accused of running a “criminal organization,” and currently faces a travel ban and a ban on carrying out any human rights activities in the name of his organization, the Greek Helsinki Monitor. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders has said that action against Dimitras is strongly suggestive of an arbitrary criminal investigation.
The statement pointed out that Dimitras’s case is part of a broader pattern of persecution, in which individuals have faced criminal prosecution for acts such as providing food, water and first aid to people arriving on Greek shores, or for carrying out search and rescue missions.
Humanists International called on Greece to ensure civil society, human rights defenders, and journalists are allowed to do their work free from judicial harassment and criminalisation, and reminded Greece that “solidarity and compassion for others are not criminal acts, and that the voices of human rights defenders are essential to ensuring a just and democratic society for all.”
During the same Human Rights Council session, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, presented a report she made after an official visit to Greece, in which she expressed serious concern about the situation. She has previously commented that, “It shouldn’t be a crime to help people. In Greece, it is made to seem like it is.” She has previously spoken out in defence of Dimitras and other people seeking to help migrants in Greece.