Greece

 

  Conscription:

Yes

 

  Conscientious objection:

1997

First recognised in Law No. 2510/97.

Service

 

Military:

12

 

Civilian:

15

 

Minimum age

 

Conscription:

18

 

Voluntary enlistment:

18

 

More 

https://ebco-beoc.org/greece

Prosecutions and fines for insubordination still continue, including against COs.

On 26/10/2020 Greece brought another civilian to stand trial before a military court, and what is more, he was a conscientious objector, whose application to serve civilian service was rejected by the Ministry of Defence.[1] EBCO noted that it is not just a paradox, it’s a multiple blatant violation of European and international human rights standards. And it’s also a scandal, because K.K. had applied to serve an extremely punitive civilian service, and nevertheless he was not allowed to.

K.K., 45-year-old now, declared his conscientious objection on ideological grounds in 2003, and applied for civilian service, which at that time was 30-month-long, whereas the military service was 12-month-long. His application was rejected by the Ministry of Defence in 2004, following a negative opinion by the consultative special committee, widely known as “Conscience Examination Committee”. His appeals were also rejected. K.K., remaining always consistent with his beliefs, did not join the army. So he was subsequently charged with insubordination, and he was fined 6.000 euros. He refused to pay the fine, and finally the Tax Service confiscated the money from his bank account.

A representative of EBCO attended the trial as an observer at the Military Court of Athens. EBCO called for the charges against K.K. to be dropped and for the confiscated money to be returned to him. K.K. was finally acquitted on procedural grounds.

K.K. should have not been prosecuted in the first place, as his prosecution is in violation of the European and international human rights law. More specifically Greece’s treatment of K.K. throughout the years constitute:

  • Violation of his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights)
  • Violation of the right to freedom from discrimination (Article 26 of ICCPR and Article 14 of the ECHR) as he has been discriminated for reasons of belief.
  • Violation of the right to be free to leave any country, including his own (Article 12.2 of ICCPR and Article 2.2 of the 4th Protocol to the ECHR), as he has been prevented to travel abroad for several years.
  • Violation of the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law (Article 14.1 of ICCPR and Article 6 of the ECHR, as found by the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of conscientious objectors tried in military courts).

The continuous persecution of K.K. and violation of his human rights illustrate not only the vindictive stance of the military authorities against the conscientious objectors, but also reflect the situation of many more conscientious objectors in Greece despite numerous condemnations by international human rights instruments and the repeated promises of several Greek governments for reform. Last but not least, it shows the even more discriminatory treatment of conscientious objectors by the current government, which has even abolished some of the positive amendments introduced by the previous government.

An appeal against last year’s increase of the length of alternative service to the Council of State (Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court) is still pending.

The procedures for the CO status have resumed in July 2020. They had been suspended, after last year's law 4609/2019, of the previous government, changed the composition of the 5-member Special Committee (a.k.a. Conscience Examination Committee) by reducing the number of military officers from 2 to 1, and increasing the number of university professors from 2 to 3. Therefore, a new committee needed to be appointed by a Joint Ministerial Decision, which was issued with almost 15 months of delay.

The major issue in Greece in 2020 is the increase of militarization. Starting in 2014, the Military has entered (in Greek) to the refugee reception facilities, participating either to the construction or to their management or other operations (e.g. catering). According to the politicians, participation of the Army guaranteed the proper use of funds, as well as the effectiveness of the operations they were involved to. It is a phenomenon that has been noticed several years ago in other countries; now it has started also in Greece. Today the Army, using EU funds, is actively involved in more than 30 asylum seekers facilities and first reception centers.

By the end of 2019, the Head of the Armed Forces has officially declared in the Parliament that “the Hellenic Army is taking any responsibility needed, in order to defend the security of the external borders, as well as the internal security”. Later on, the vast majority of the Greek media (officially controlled by the Prime Minister’s Bureau, funded with over 30 million Euros during the pandemic period), started highlighting the urgent need for new armaments. In September the Prime Minister announced extra defence spending, while the media still tend to disagree regarding the suppliers (France, Germany, USA) and the total costs (2-10 billions).

Given the Greek fiscal situation, few voices have been raised against these plans. The Greek Communist Party mainly, as well as DiEM 25, some smaller left parties and radical anarchist groups.

On the occasion of the 3d National report of Greece [2] on the implementation of the Revised European Social Charter, in June/July 2020, the Greek National Commission for Human Rights [3], Amnesty International [4] and EBCO [5] submitted three different documents with comments, to the European Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europe, mainly on the issue of the duration of alternative service, in violation of Article 1, para. 2 of the European Social Charter (“the right of the worker to earn his living in an occupation freely entered upon”), highlighting last year's increase. EBCO and Amnesty International also cited the issue of the suspension of the procedures for CO status, by that time.

In its submission [6] on 25/06/2020 EBCO concluded that conscientious objectors in Greece face multiple violations of their right to earn a living in an occupation freely entered upon, both in terms of the excessive duration of alternative service (compared with the duration of military service) as well in terms of the delays (lengthy procedures, further delays, current “freeze” for more than a year) in processing their applications. Greece should take immediate measures in terms of legislation and practice in order to be in conformity with Article 1§2 of the Charter.

On 03/03/2020, in a joint submission with IFOR, EBCO informed the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief about the negative developments concerning the right to CO in Greece.

 

[1] EBCO Press Release Brussels 24-10-2020: Is this democracy? Greece brings another civilian before military court, available at https://ebco-beoc.org/node/469

[2] Greece, 3d report on the Revised European Social Charter https://rm.coe.int/greece3-en-simplified-report-collective-complains/16809ce324

[6] Brussels - 25-6-2020 - Continuing violation of the European Social Charter in the case of alternative service for conscientious objectors in #Greece. Submission of EBCO to the European Committee of Social Rights https://ebco-beoc.org/node/466