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Friday, February 22, 2013

Uniting against War Crimes

Shabag square in Dhaka. Photo by

Bangladeshis have taken to the streets demanding the death sentence for former general Abdul Kader Mullah, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his war crimes committed during the liberation war in 1971. The protests have not only lasted since the 5th of February, but have gone viral on Twitter using #shabag. As in the Arab Spring, the Bangladeshi are making use of the internet as a tool to spread their message, the protests on shabagh square in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, have gained supporters worldwide.

In London supporters have gathered and protested but have faced attacks just as their counterparts in Bangladesh, where according to media reports over 14 people have been killed.

GHRD as a human rights organization recognizes the importance of the war trials as a means of breaking the pattern of impunity in Bangladesh, as highlighted in a GHRD researched documentary: "Culture of Impunity: Bangladesh"

At the same time GHRD maintains that due process is crucial in order to achieve reconciliation, and the death penalty is a breach of international law and as such should never be implemented.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Racism Threatens Human Rights of Immigrants

This blog post was written by members of the “Sunflower Seeds” a Greek network that organizes events to raise awareness among young people around issues related to quality of life, social demands and participation in decision making. Some of them also participated in the Youth-in-Action program taking place in The Hague in mid-January. Participants of the program have submitted several articles describing human rights issues in their respective countries. This blog post is focusing on the rise of racism towards immigrants.

Talking about human rights in Greece, there are several points that someone could focus on. Different groups of people have to watch their fundamental human rights getting violated on a daily basis.
-- People with disabilities have extremely limited access to everyday needs in the city
-- Rehabilitated people usually have no chance for integration since the judicial system does not recognize their effort to start a new life. Even the rehabilitation units are getting attacked with accusations against common sense
-- Religious minorities from different countries have no right to practice their religion (for example Athens hosts large Muslim populations but has no mosque)
 -- Immigrants are getting attacked on a daily basis from groups that often intend to kill 

 It seems like the Greek society, instead of trying to set a framework of support for minorities, follows the opposite direction. There is a constitutional flaw and a lack of effectiveness in the judicial system that has a big social and political monster growing in Greek society. It has to do with the rise of fascism, officially represented in the parliament by the party called "Golden Dawn". They prefer to call themselves a social nationalist movement rather than a party and they promote violence in every aspect. The members of "Golden Dawn" often refer to the words of Adolf Hitler and they clearly support blood purity in words, but also in actions. They want to limit blood donation just to Greeks (P. Eliopoulos, one of their MP members shown in the picture with the tattoo "sieg heil" of Nazis' troops). Unfortunately this example is the most peaceful one of their attempts to achieve blood purity. Their legal representative Elias Kasidiaris is accused of an armed attack against a university professor. Although he has publicly expressed his will to have a trial for the case, his trial has been postponed three times.

 There have been numerous known attacks from the leaders of “Golden Dawn” and their supporters against immigrants and supporters of left parties. Two weeks ago a young immigrant from Pakistan (27yrs old Sahjat Luqman) was stabbed to death from two supporters of "Golden Dawn", as it is described in and a few days ago, a 17year old student was stabbed in the face and the neck from someone that is said to be supporting the extreme party (the victim had advised his friend to keep a safe distance from the accused because of his extreme fascistic beliefs).
Vasiliki Georgiadou, a professor of Political Science at Panteion University and an expert on far-right radicalism says "they have dropped the label of Nazism and at the same time they play with nationalism. They use the ancient history as a camouflage to hide their real identity: that they are fans of Hitler and Antisemitism" 

Unfortunately, it seems that the media often presents the attacks in a manner that serves the deadly propaganda of “Golden Dawn”. For example, in the case of the murder of Sahjat Luqman, the first reports where talking about two Greeks, one "fireman" and one "unemployed", while the death squads are usually mentioned as patrols of "active citizens". 
There is also a definite support from the police that is shown by their presence on the streets, but also in the results of the last elections, where 50% of the police force voted for ”Golden Dawn”, as described in and

The biased police force is something that makes the work of the monitoring organizations harder. Most of the attacks against immigrants cannot be registered. For example the report from NCHR (National Commission for Human Rights) that was published in Oct 2012 with the support from 23 NGO's, recorded 87 incidents during Jan-Sept. In addition, the UN has published a report at the beginning of January indicating 200 racist attacks in 14 months, but it is widely understood that the number is much higher. In the video from Aris Chatzistefanou for you can see Javet Aslam – (Pakistani community leader) talking about 600 people taken to the hospital in a six month period. There are lots of cases that the police refuses to identify as racist attacks and the monitoring mechanisms cannot achieve a trustworthy and effective link with the immigrant communities. A further problem is the fee of 100 Euro that a victim has to pay to have a racist attack registered. Even the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe criticized the fee during his recent meeting with the Greek Minister of Justice.

We definitely have to mention though, that there is a big wave of solidarity for the immigrants that is expressed through demonstrations, activities and several social centers that offer shelter and support to the oppressed.
However, there is much more work and support needed on the way to monitor the actions of “Golden Dawn” and control their spread of terror. For this reason we suggest the creation of a platform that can get in direct contact with the immigrant communities, build effective links between them and achieve a better monitoring of the racist incidents. It can also work on raising awareness and communicating the need to achieve a better integration of the immigrant communities into Greek society.

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