(OMCT – World Prganisation against Torture – 29 November 2018) The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Greece.
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about new threats against the volunteers of Advocates Abroad and particularly against its Executive Director, Ms. Ariel Ricker, in the context of a smear campaign against the organisation. Advocates Abroad is a legal aid civil society organisation which aims to inform refugees of their rights in Greece.
According to the information received, Ms. Ricker and the volunteers of Advocates Abroad have received more than 37,000 death and rape threats, particularly over social media channels following a smear campaign initiated with the publication of a video distributed by a far-right group. The video distorted the work of Advocates Abroad upholding migrants’ rights by presenting out of context excerpts of a conversation held with Ms. Ariel Ricker recorded with a hidden camera. The video misrepresented the work of the organisation and tried to make it appear as if Advocates Abroad were instructing asylum-seekers to lie and misrepresent their stories so as to be granted refugee statute in Europe.
OMCT recalls that this is not the first attack against Ms. Ariel Ricker and Advocates Abroad and highlights that the situation of human rights defenders and solidarity actors in Greece has been critical for years. Human rights defenders working on migrants’ and minority rights are consistently targeted for their legitimate work and face different types of attacks, including surveillance, arbitrary arrests, detentions, ill-treatment, entry bans and expulsion. Moreover, several complaints related to racism and minority’s rights have not been investigated and/or have been sent to the “archive of unknown perpetrators”. OMCT is particularly concerned by the continued increasing of violent attacks and threats against minority rights defenders in Greece.
OMCT condemns the smear and threats campaign against Advocates Abroad and recalls the essential role that organisations like Advocates Abroad are carrying out to defend the human rights of people in the move in a context of systematic violations of international human rights standards by the European Union and its member states. We urge the Greek authorities to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Ricker and all the members of Advocates Abroad and to establish guarantees for the right to defend human rights in Greece.
On April 22, 2018, at around midnight, Ms. Ariel Ricker was attacked and hit by a brick thrown at her head while she was standing guard in a solidarity circle to protect women and children refuges gathered for several days in Sappho Square, Lesvos, to protest against the conditions in Moria camp, from a group of rioters. The brick broke the safety helmet Ms. Ariel Ricker was wearing and was concussed and felt to the ground. Another solidarity actor was roughly hit with a brick 20 minutes later. Hours later, after being able to reach the hospital, Ms. Ricker was examined briefly by one nurse, then given one X-Ray and one MRI, and sent home without medication or prescription for medication.
These attacks took place in the context of a broader assault against the refugees gathered in Sappho Square, that began around 20:00, by a group of rioters. Firecrackers, bottles of water, stunners, flares, glasses from the cafes, and bricks were continuously thrown all night by the rioters at the refugees and the solidarity circle.
The police had formed four lines but failed to adequately defend the refugees and the solidarity actors and human rights defenders who were accompanying them. They even threatened multiple times to beat refugees and solidarity actors, including Ms. Ricker if they did not stay within the solidarity circle and put away their cameras. Additionally, although the attacks happened before their eyes, the police did not arrest the perpetrators of the attacks against Ms. Ricker and other defenders, while they arrested over 100 protesting refugees for illegal camping.
Please write to the authorities in Greece, urging them to:
- Put in place all necessary measures to guarantee the security and the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Ariel Ricker and all other members of Advocates Abroad, as well as of all minority rights defenders in Greece;
- Put an end to all acts of harassment against Ms. Ariel Ricker, as well as all minority rights defenders in Greece, so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance or fear of reprisals;
- Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;
- Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments ratified by Greece.
- Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Alexis Tsipras, Email: email@example.com
- Minister of Justice Mr. Stavros Kontonis Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alternate Minister for Citizens Protection of Greece, Mr. Nikolaos Toskas, Fax: +30 210 692 9764, Email: email@example.com
- General Secretary for Transparency and Human Rights, Ms. Maria Yannakaki, Fax: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece, Mr. Ioannis Tsaousis, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 732 21 50; Email: email@example.com
- Ambassador of Greece, H.E. Eleftheria Galathianaki, Embassy of Greece in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: (+32) 2 545 5585, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Permanent Representative of Greece, H.E. Papastavrou Andreas, Permanent Representation to the European Union (EU), Fax: +32 2 5515651, 5127912 Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Greece in your respective countries.
Geneva-Brussels, November 29, 2018
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
Created in 1985, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) works for, with and through an international coalition of over 200 non-governmental organisations – the SOS-Torture Network – fighting torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and all other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in the world. OMCT and its SOS-Torture Network are today one of the leading networks working for the protection of human rights defenders at the international level.
 See OMCT’s Written Submission to the 35th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the against minority human rights defenders”, issued on February 21, 2018.
 See OMCT’s Urgent appeal “Greece: Impunity regarding the attacks perpetrated in December 2016 against minority rights defenders“, issued on February 21, 2018
 See the Observatory (OMCT-FIDH), Urgent Appeal on the break-in and arson attack of the Afghan Community Centre’s premises in Athens and the threats targeting the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR), GRE 001 / 0318 / OBS 036, published on March 30, 2018.
 See https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-23/greece-police-disperse-migrant-protest-on-lesbos-island)