Advocacy statements

Call for Greece to protect human rights defenders and drop charges against Panayote Dimitras

  • Date / 2023
  • Location / Greece
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention


Humanists International

UN Human Rights Council, 52nd session (27 February – 4 April 2023)

General Debate Item 4

We are deeply concerned about the hostile environment for human rights defenders in Greece, and the ongoing criminalisation of individuals assisting refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Space for civil society is shrinking due to smear campaigns targeting civil society actors, bureaucratic obstacles to NGO registration procedures and undue pressure on journalists.[1]

There is one case in particular we wish to bring to the attention of this Council. Humanist human rights defender, Panayote Dimitras, 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.[2] The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders has said that action against Dimitras is strongly suggestive of an arbitrary criminal investigation.[3]

His 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.[4]

We call on Greece, as an observer of this Council, to drop the spurious charges against Dimitras, and to overturn all restrictions imposed on him.

More broadly we call on Greece to ensure civil society, human rights defenders, and journalists are allowed to do their work free from judicial harassment and criminalisation.

We remind 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.

[1] https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/greek-authorities-should-reverse-the-trend-undermining-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders-and-journalists

[2] https://humanists.international/2023/02/greece-humanist-barred-from-human-rights-work/; https://humanists.international/case-of-concern/panayote-dimitras/

[3] https://twitter.com/MaryLawlorhrds/status/1618196397270130688

[4] United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Statement on preliminary observations and recommendations following official visit to Greece, 22 June 2022, https://srdefenders.org/statement-on-preliminary-observations-and-recommendations-following-official-visit-to-greece /

Suggested academic reference

'Call for Greece to protect human rights defenders and drop charges against Panayote Dimitras', Humanists International

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