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Greek Policy - International Framework - EU Policy - UN Instruments (Human Rights Council)
A. Human Rights: Greek Policy
The protection and promotion of democracy, human rights and civil liberties constitute the fundamental principles of the Greek Constitution and an integral part of our national legislation. Greece attaches paramount importance to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the preservation of democratic institutions and the rule of law. Moreover, it supports the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other.
Greece considers that respect for human rights, promotion of democracy and the rule of law is interwoven with peace, justice, security, stability, eradication of poverty and cohesive socio-economic development.
Οur country devotes tremendous efforts (and financial resources) for the protection of the fundamental rights and human dignity of all people, and specifically of the most vulnerable: unaccompanied children, pregnant women, disabled individuals etc.
Greece, having as a principle the right to free education for all, which is guaranteed in our legislative framework, has put in place an emergency plan for the education of all the refugee and migrant children.
Furthermore, over the last year, priority measures have been taken in order to ensure the protection of unaccompanied migrant / refugee minors. The competent authorities have taken specific measures to the best interest of these children. Currently, draft legislation on guardianship, with a view to ensuring their best interest, is currently in the pipeline. At the same time, unaccompanied minors are being transferred to open accommodation facilities, with the aim to increasing the number of places available to them. In addition, new “safe zones” for unaccompanied minors are being created inside Reception and Identification centres.
In the field of multilateral diplomacy, within the UN system, our country demonstrates a steady interest in issues of Human Rights. It participates actively and constructively in the main multilateral fora, such as the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. Within the EU, our country participates actively and constructively in all tasks related to the protection, promotion, incorporation and integration of human rights into all policies and actions of the European Union (human rights mainstreaming).
Our country has signed and ratified the main international conventions protecting all human rights, in the context of the United Nations, since the 1960s (1).
The country drafted or is currently working on the following National Action Plans:
- National Action Plan for Human Rights (2014-2016), which is currently being revised. The aim, however, is the creation of a more comprehensive, effective and functional mechanism of implementation, promotion and protection of Human Rights.
- National Action Plan for Gender Equality (2016-2020)
- National Action Plan for the Rights of the Child
Furthermore, it is noted that on 9 September, 2014, a new anti-racism law was adopted by the Greek Parliament, (L.4285/2014), which aims to strengthen the existing anti-racist legislation and the integration of EU Council’s Frame Resolution of 2008 into domestic legislation.
In December 2014, the Greek Parliament adopted a new law (L.4443/2016), concerning equal treatment, which incorporates a number of relevant European Directives (Dir. 2000/43/EC, on equal treatment of persons, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, Dir. 2000/78/EC, on the forming of a general framework on equal treatment in work and labour, and Dir. 2014/54/EU, on measures that facilitate the exercise of the rights of workers, in the context of their free movement).
With the above law, a new regulatory framework is created, concerning the implementation of equal treatment. The competency of monitoring and promoting the implementation of this principle lies, from now on, with the Greek Ombudsman, both for the broader public and the private sector.
B. The international context - General
The issues of human rights are gaining more and more importance at the forefront of global interest, at initiatives and actions of individual countries, as well as multilaterally. The current trends in international politics include serious violations of human rights among potential threats to international legality, peace and security. In this context, a sufficient number of countries are using HR as a prominent foreign policy tool, either with initiatives that shape their image as pioneers and defenders of HR, or as a means of political pressure.
Particular challenges arise regarding the protection of various vulnerable groups such as children, women, persons with disabilities, refugees and asylum seekers, migrants, indigenous peoples, minorities. Moreover, the issues of racism, intolerance, human security, terrorism are emphatically introduced, as well as the compatibility of counter-terrorism on human rights, and the issue of rehabilitation of victims of HR violations. Particular attention is given to political and economic rights, as well as solidarity rights (i.e. the right to development, the right to the enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind, the right to a healthy environment, etc.).
All the above are part of a constantly evolving framework of institutions and monitoring mechanisms of the obligations of states, but with disproportionate effects on the practical level. The realization of United Nations resolutions and the compliance of member states with them, lies to a great extent on the political choices of their governments.
C. EU policy in Human Rights
At a EU level, there is a growing interest in the field of HR, in the light of the principle of a systemic approach towards HR (mainstreaming), which consists, primarily, in their integration in the stricto sensu political relations of the European Union (examination of HR issues during EU dialogues with strategic partners, monitoring of progress achieved in this sector by candidate countries, progress reports of the European Commission etc.).
It is underlined that both the EU’s and the member-states’ interest on the situation of HR in third countries has no geographical limitations (except for neighbouring countries or former colonies) and extends internationally.
D. Human Rights Council (UN HRC)
The Human Rights Council (HRC) was established by an UNGA resolution in 2006, in order to replace the Human Rights Commission. Greece has actively supported the efforts to create an effective HRC, with upgraded status, functionality and essential structures. In June 2011, the review process of the HRC was concluded, by adopting the relevant UNGA Resolution.
The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an international forum for dialogue and coordination of the activities of UN organs on human rights issues, as well as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and is composed of 47 elected member states, divided into five geographical groups.
Particular attention is given to the UPR mechanism, which was launched in April 2008, and is one of the basic actions of the HRC for equitable evaluation of states from other UN member states (peer to peer review), concerning practices which member states follow for the enjoyment / protection of human rights, on the grounds of international obligations and commitments.
In this context, Greece was examined for its performance in the field of human rights, by the competent Universal Periodic Review Working Group (UPR), in Geneva, at its 25th session, in Geneva, between 2-13 May, 2016. Greece was examined by 88 UN member-states, acquiring positive reviews regarding the state of Human Rights in its territory and, more specifically, the efforts that the country makes in order to continue rescuing migrants and refugees in the sea.
Since the HRC is considered as the organ that uses human rights to promote policies and wide scale strategies in which Greece is actively involved, during its meetings (2), it is considered as a promotion spot of the struggle towards the protection of human rights, which our country is giving nowadays.
We are focusing our work in fora such as the Human Rights Council, on cross-regional initiatives aiming to tackle important social and economic rights such as the right to work (including unemployment), the world drug problem and human rights, the enjoyment of cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage, youth and human rights as well as the promotion of human rights through sports and the Olympic Ideal.
Greece has the lead on this last resolution and has organized a series of side events including on equality in sports with participation of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and on racism in sport. On 28 September 2016, Greece organized, with the International Olympic Committee, a side event on sports as means of integration of refugees and migrants into local societies, with the participation of the flag bearer of the Refugee Olympic Team from South Sudan, Ms Rose Lokonyen. Our attention in the area of economic, social and cultural rights emanates also from the fact that the promotion and protection of these rights is an interrelated component for the realization of Civil and Political Rights.
In the area of civil and political rights as such, we actively support a series of EU and other initiatives regarding the protection of human rights defenders, the fight against racism and other forms of discrimination, including those based on religion, gender and sexual orientation. Additionally, considering that the promotion and protection of freedom of expression is a fundamental prerequisite for building inclusive democracies, we are one of the main sponsors of the Human Rights Council resolution for “the Safety of Journalists”
It should also be noted that, in the context of the Third Committee of the 70th UN General Assembly (November 2015), upon Greece’s initiative, the resolution for the protection of journalists “Safety of Journalists and the Ιssue of Ιmpunity” was adopted, which is since submitted every two years.
Moreover, our country participates in the “Friends of Journalists Group” in all fora (UNGA’s Third Committee, Human Rights Council and UNESCO.
The Human Rights Council, during 2016 and until April 2017, held four regular (31st, 32nd, 33rd and 34th) Sessions and two special ones (25th and 26th), in which Greece had active participation.
● Country Visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, Mr. François Crépeau (12-16 May 2016):
During the above period, the said Special Rapporteur visited our country, within his mandate (Greece maintains a standing invitation to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council).
During his stay in our country, Mr. Crepeau met representatives of the political leadership, as well as senior officials of various Ministries and Agencies, and visited various reception centres throughout Greece. At the conclusion of his visit, Mr. Crepeau issued a report with observations and recommendations to the Greek side, which will be published soon.
● Country Visit by the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi (23-25 Aug 2016):
During this period, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi visited our country for a second time. He had talks with political leadership representatives and visited refugee / migrant accommodation facilities in Attica and Central Macedonia. The purpose of his visit was to assess the humanitarian needs of refugees / migrants, as well as to find ways of further assistance and humanitarian response on the part of UNHCR, in cooperation with the Greek authorities.
● Country Visit of the Goodwill Ambassador (UN) on Refugees, Ms. Angelina Jolie (15-17 May 2016):
During the above period, the Special Envoy of UNHCR, Ms. Angelina Jolie, visited Greece, in order to express her full solidarity with the affected people, as well as with our country, which is called, amid generalized difficulties, to cope with the ongoing refugee / migration flows.
Ms. Jolie visited several accommodation facilities in Athens and Thessaloniki and spoke with representatives of the political leadership and municipalities, expressing her support to all interested parties and to highlight this plight to the international community.
● Greece’s Examination by the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Geneva, 3-4 Aug 2016):
During that period, an examination of Greece by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which is an obligation under the relevant international convention (ICERD), took place in Geneva.
The representatives of the competent Greek Agencies presented their policies and changes to which our country has proceeded with, on addressing racial discrimination.
(1) Greece has signed and ratified: 1965: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1966: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (and the Optional Protocols), 1966: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1979: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (and the Optional Protocols), 1984: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (and the Optional Protocol), 1989: Convention on the Rights of the Child (and the 1st and 2nd Optional Protocols), 2006: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (and the Optional Protocol), 2014: International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
(2) There are at least 3 HRC sessions per annum