Greece
19.08.09
Urgent Interventions

Judicial harassment against Messrs. Vasilis Sampanis, Thanasis Sampanis and Lefteris Sampanis

CASE GRE 190809
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Judicial harassment

Geneva, August 19, 2009

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Greece.

Description of the situation:

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, about the judicial harassment against Mr. Vasilis Sampanis, President of the “Cultural and Housing Association of Greek Gypsies “Agios Ioannis” Psari - Aspropyrgos”[1], Mr. Thanasis Sampanis and Mr. Lefteris Sampanis, both members of the aforementioned association.

According to the information received, on July 1, 2009, Messrs. Vasilis Sampanis, Thanasis Sampanis and Lefteris Sampanis have been informed that they were summoned by the Prosecutor to appear in court on October 9, 2009 following a lawsuit filed by the Mayor of the municipality of Aspropyrgos, Mr. Nikolaso Meletiou, on allegations of “threats” (Article 333 of the Greek Criminal Code), punishable by a prison term of up to one year, “disturbance of public offices” (Article 334 par. 3 of the Greek Criminal Code), punishable by a prison term between six months and five years, and “insult” (Article 361 par. 1 of the Greek Criminal Code), punishable by a prison term of up to one year or a fine.

Those charges follow events dating from 2007. Indeed, on July 4, 2007, in the morning, around 70 residents of the Gypsy settlement in Psari Aspropyrgos gathered in front of the Aspropyrgos town hall demanding that specific measures be taken by the Municipality for improved living conditions in the settlement. As the demonstrators continued to stand in front of the town hall, Mr. Vasilis Sampanis, Mr. Thanasis Sampanis, Mr. Lefteris Sampanis and Mr. Vasilis Paiteris, a well-known Rom musician and politician and at the time Advisor to the Government on Roma issues, gathered in a two hour meeting with the Mayor, a number of non-Roma residents, journalists and police officers.

Subsequently, Messrs. Vasilis Sampanis, Thanasis Sampanis and Lefteris Sampanis were taken to the police station following claims by the Mayor about their actions and behaviour regarding their presence in front of the city hall. They were eventually released a few hours later in the afternoon. Even though the Mayor did not press charges against them at that time, he reserved the right to do so at a later stage. On August 20, 2007 and following a decision of the city council of Aspropyrgos on July 10, 2007, Mr. Nikolaso Meletiou filed a lawsuit against the three members of the “Cultural and Housing Association of Greek Gypsies “Agios Ioannis” Psari - Aspropyrgos”.

Furthermore, according to the local paper Thriassio, which covered the demonstration in an article published on July 5, 2007, Mr. Paiteris referred to the racist behaviour of the municipality towards the Roma community. Also there was no reference to any offending or threats on the part of Messrs. Vasilis Sampanis, Thanasis Sampanis and Lefteris Sampanis. In addition, during the preliminary investigation, the mayor and eyewitnesses on his side testified unlike the defendants’ witnesses who were not given the possibility to do so.

The International Secretariat of OMCT expresses its utmost concern about the judicial harassment against Messrs. Vasilis Sampanis, Thanasis Sampanis and Lefteris Sampanis and believes that these acts of harassment actually aim at sanctioning their human rights activities.

Actions required:

Please write to the Greek authorities urging them to:

  1. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Vasilis Sampanis, Thanasis Sampanis and Lefteris Sampanis;
  2. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against them as well as against other human rights defenders in Greece;
  3. Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, especially its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and its article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
  4. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Greece.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, Prime Minister, Prime Minister’s Office at the Hellenic Parliament, Greek Parliament Blgd, Constitution Square, Athens, Greece. Fax: + 30 210 3238129, Email: pressoffice@primeminister.gr
  • Ms. Fani Palli-Petralia, Minister for Employment and Social Protection of the Hellenic Republic, Stadiou str. 29, 10110 Athens, Greece. Fax: + 30 210 321 3688
  • Ms. Dora Bakoyannis, Foreign Minister, Athens, Greece, Fax: + 30 210 36 81 433, Email: minister@mfa.gr
  • Mr. Nikos Dendias, Minister of Justice of the Hellenic Republic, Ministry of Justice, Mesogeion 96 Av., 11527 Athens, Greece, Fax: +30 2107755835
  • Mr. Giorgos Kaminis, Ombudsman for Human Rights, Fax: +30 210 7289643
  • H.E. Franciscos Verros, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue du Léman 4, 1201 Geneva Switzerland, Email: missionofgreece@bluewin.ch, Fax: +41 22 7322150
  • Permanent Mission of Greece to the European Union, 25 rue Montoyer, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 512 79 12 / + 32 2 551 56 51. Email: mea.bruxelles@rp-greece.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Greece in your respective countries.

Geneva, August 19, 2009

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

[1] The « Cultural and Housing Association of Greek Gypsies Agios Ioannis Psari – Aspropyrgos defends the rights of the community Agios Ioannis Psari - Aspropyrgos.

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