Secretary Kerry Urged to Highlight Golden Dawn Trial and Refugee Crisis during Visit to Greece
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged Secretary of State John Kerry to raise concerns about the rise of the far-right and the ongoing refugee crisis during his visit to Athens this week. The trip comes amid the Greek government’s prosecution of dozens of senior leaders and members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party for membership in a criminal organization inciting violent acts including the murder of musician Pavlos Fyssas.
“Secretary Kerry should highlight the importance of the trial and offer technical assistance as a friend and ally to Greece in this challenging time. No other extreme right party in Europe is as stridently racist, nativist, and violent as Golden Dawn, none is so unapologetically anti-Semitic, and none so openly calls for the overthrow of the government,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “Getting the trial right matters, and not just for Greece. It would demonstrate to the United States and other European governments how to navigate the social unrest that accompanies economic crises in a way that confronts hate groups and protects minorities.”
Human Rights First notes that a fair and credible trial is far from a given. The judiciary in Greece is subject to influence, corruption, and inefficiency, as the State Department has recognized in its annual human rights report. Witness protection is particularly critical in this case, as judicial officials and individuals providing testimony have already been subject to threats of physical violence. Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to offer technical assistance to the Greek government to ensure that this trial is a fair and full accounting, to provide support for a revitalized witness protection program, and to send embassy personnel to monitor the trial.
Greece also stands on the front lines of a refugee crisis that has seen millions flee war and hardship, and its efforts to welcome new arrivals must be consistent with international human rights standards. Secretary Kerry should call on the Greek government to redouble its efforts to ensure the safety of all asylum seekers, to provide adequate search and rescue teams along the Aegean, to ensure respect for non-refoulment and access to asylum, and to certify that reception conditions are consistent with international human rights standards.
Secretary Kerry should further urge Greece to increase its capacity to receive and house refugees at points of entry, including vulnerable children, and enhance its efforts to effectively screen refugees who are in need of protection for relocation to other European countries. These needs will be exacerbated by cold winter conditions, and the United States should pledge its support to the Greek government in these efforts.
“The refugee crisis has led to a backlash and growing support for Golden Dawn’s in the parts of Greece most affected by the arrival of those fleeing war and atrocities, including the islands of Kos and Lesvos,” noted Corke. “If the Greek government does not meet its fundamental obligations in protecting those seeking refuge, it is likely to push even more Greeks toward the virulent racist and anti-migrant rhetoric of Golden Dawn, increasing the likelihood of violent confrontations.”