GREECE: Criminal investigations opened against human rights defenders

Extract from communication by Mary Lawlor, published on United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders on 09/03/2023 – accessible here.

In the communication, we express serious concern that the investigations reportedly opened against Messrs. Dimitras and Olsen, Ms. Williamson and Ms. Akhtar, may amount to the improper use of Greece’s legal framework to sanction their actions as human rights defenders, in particular their communicating of information to the Greek authorities as to the presence of persons within Greek territory seeking to claim asylum, a right guaranteed under European and international law. We express further that their status as members of human rights organisations may be being considered an aggravating factor in the case against them.

Mr. Panayote Dimitras is a Greek human rights defender and Spokesperson of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, a non-governmental organisation founded in 1993 to monitor and litigate on issues pertaining to human rights in Greece, including the rights of minorities and anti-discrimination.

Mr. Tommy Olsen is a Norwegian human rights defender and founder of Aegean Boat Report. He monitors and reports on the human rights situation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea.

Ms. Ruhi Akhtar is the Founder of Refugee Biriyani & Bananas, a non-governmental organisation which delivers urgent aid to displaced people worldwide, including in Greece.

Ms. Madi Williamson is a human rights defender and nurse specialised in health in migration contexts. She is the Director of In-Sight Collaborative, which provides humanitarian aid along migratory routes.