Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1991

Greece is a constitutional republic and parliamentary
democracy. In freely and vigorously contested parliamentary
elections in April, the conservative New Democracy party put
together a bare majority and formed a government under Prime
Minister Constantine Mitsotakis. The President, the largely
ceremonial Head of State, is elected by Parliament every 5
Activities of the police and security services are monitored
by a free press and an independent judiciary, although some
human rights groups believe that such oversight is less
effective in cases involving the Turkish-speaking and other
minority groups. Occasional instances are reported of police
mistreatment of criminal suspects.
One of the least developed countries in the European Community
(EC), Greece has a state sector bloated by a long tradition of
politically motivated hirings, and it is dependent on EC
subsidies. Government efforts to reduce the budget deficit
and strengthen the private sector are hampered by, among other
things, a high degree of polarization among the political
parties, which extends to the labor federations, employer
associations, and the bureaucracy itself.
The Constitution protects all fundamental human rights.
However, discrimination against some ethnic, religious, and
cultural minorities persists (see Section 5). The Government
has indicated its intent to address certain complaints of the
Muslim (primarily Turkish) minority in Western Thrace. It
denies the existence of a Slavic-speaking ("Macedonian")
minority entitled to claim rights within the framework of the
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. There
appears to be a pattern of obstacles to social, cultural, and
religious contacts between that minority and other
Slavomacedonians , many of whom were exiled from Greece to
Yugoslavia and elsewhere during the 1940 's. About 400
Jehovah's Witnesses are in prison due to the absence of
nonmilitary alternative service to conscription.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Neither government forces nor legal opposition organizations
engage in political killings. Responsibility for the murder
of a prison psychiatrist in February was claimed by a domestic
terrorist group.
      b. Disappearance
There were no reports of official abductions, secret arrests,
or clandestine detentions during 1990.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
A 1984 law, never yet invoked, makes the use of torture an
offense punishable by a sentence of from 3 years to life
imprisonment. Greek human rights groups contend that police
are overly reliant on confessions, leading to occasional
mistreatment or intimidation of criminal suspects. Amnesty
International (AI) brought several such cases to the attention
of the Government in 1990. A small number of cases of police
mistreatment were investigated in 1990 without charges being
brought against police. Late in 1990, prisoners took over
several prisons to protest overcrowding and poor treatment.
Order was restored with minimal force following pledges by the
Justice Ministry that improvements would be made in the early
release program.
Spurred by international protests over the poor treatment
received by the severely mentally handicapped inmates of a
psychiatric facility on the remote island of Leros, the
Government in 1990 undertook a long-range program to release
the less severely handicapped and create smaller, betterstaffed
facilities closer to the homes of the remaining
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution states that a judicial warrant is required
for any arrest except during the actual commission of a
crime. The legal system generally protects against arbitrary
arrest orders. Occasionally, suspects are briefly and
informally detained pending confirmation of their identity,
but there is no evidence of any serious infringement of civil
liberties. A person arrested on the basis of a warrant or
while committing a crime must be brought before an examining
magistrate within 24 hours and charged. The magistrate must
issue a warrant of imprisonment or order the release of the
detainee within 3 days of the examination unless special
circumstances require a 2-day extension of this time limit.
The effective maximum duration of detention pending trial is
18 months for felonies and 9 months for misdemeanors. Release
pending trial, with or without bail, is granted in limited
cases by decision of a judicial council.
Exile is unconstitutional and does not occur, except in the
form of an administrative decree of the loss of citizenship by
nonethnic Greeks (see Section 2.d.).
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for fair and public trials. The
independence of the judiciary is provided for by the
Constitution, but judges are occasionally accused of allowing
political criteria to influence their judgments. Defendants
enjoy a presumption of innocence, and defense lawyers are
available to all accused persons. A defendant or his attorney
may confront witnesses. Court sessions are public, unless the
court decides that privacy is required for the protection of
victims or in matters of national security. The latter
provision is not abused. A defendant may appeal a court
verdict to an appeals court. The decisions of military
courts, however, are not subject to review by the Supreme
Court, and these courts are criticized for inadequately
safeguarding the rights of defendants. Military courts have
no jurisdiction over civilians, except in draft refusal cases.
The arrest and conviction of Muslim activist Ahmet Sadik, on
charges of "fomenting discord" by insisting on the Turkish
identity of the Muslim minority (see Section 5), provoked
widespread accusations (e.g., from AI ) that the charges were
political and that Sadik 's trial by a Komotini court did not
meet international judicial norms. An appeals court
subsequently commuted his sentence to a fine. There are
currently no political prisoners in Greece.
      f . Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Greek authorities generally comply with constitutional
prohibitions against invasions of privacy, searches without
warrants, and monitoring of personal communications. Judicial
warrants showing probable cause are required for home
searches. A series of early morning police raids in September
on the houses of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism
provoked wide public outcry. A former Prime Minister awaited
trial at the end of 1990 on illegal wiretapping charges.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech and the press is provided for in the
Constitution and generally respected in practice. The
Constitution allows for the seizure of publications which
insult the President, offend religious beliefs, contain
obscene articles, advocate violent overthrow of the political
system, or disclose military and defense information. Charges
are occasionally filed against newspapers for articles which
"insult authority." Late in 1990 a prosecutor filed charges
against several major newspapers for printing the proclamation
of a leftist human rights group in support of some alleged
terrorists. Almost all convictions on such charges are
reversed on appeal or commuted to nominal fines. A new
antiterrorism law passed in December 1990 gives the prosecutor
the right to ban publication of terrorist proclamations on
pain of large civil penalties.
In an effort to reduce ethnic activism by minorities, the
security services seize most Turkish and Yugoslav Macedonian
publications at the border. Members of the Muslim minority
contend that the security services jam broadcasts by Turkish
state television to Western Thrace, an accusation denied by
the Greek Government.
Commercial television was legalized in 1989, and private
channels now air a wide range of political viewpoints. The
state-owned television channels tend to emphasize the views of
the government in power but allot time to the activities of
opposition figures. Academic freedoms are protected by
democratically chosen faculty organizations, though such
groups tend to be highly politicized.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly. Police
permits are routinely issued for public demonstrations, and
there were no reports that the permit requirement was abused
in 1990.
The right of association is provided for by the Constitution.
However, requests by a minority group to found a "Macedonian
Cultural Center" in Fiorina were reportedly turned down by
Greek authorities. The Supreme Court ruled that the bylaws of
Turkish minority associations in Western Thrace were
incompatible with Greek law, due to their use of the term
"Turkish" to refer to their members (see Section 5). In
August the district governor of Fiorina reportedly barred
cultural festivities that included performances by a
Macedonian musical group.
      c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and
prohibits discrimination against religious minorities. The
Constitution also establishes the Greek Orthodox Church, to
which 98 percent of the population at least nominally adheres,
as the "prevailing" religion, and prohibits proselytism by any
religious group. In the first 6 months of 1990, 44 Jehovah's
Witnesses were arrested for proselytism, primarily for
distributing pamphlets. Only a handful were convicted and
sentenced, including an 86-year-old man who died before his
appeal could be heard.
Although Greece provides for alternative noncombatant military
service, it has no provision for nonmilitary alternative
national service to its universal conscription of men. In
September approximately 385 Jehovah's Witnesses were serving
prison sentences of between 3 and 5 years after having been
convicted by military courts for refusal to serve. A portion
of this sentence may be served in a minimum security
(civilian) agricultural prison, where each day served is
credited as 2 days toward fulfillment of the sentence. The
Jehovah's Witness organization complains that transfers to the
agricultural prison have been blocked and that members of the
sect are singled out for discriminatory treatment in the
overcrowded military prison. Jehovah's Witnesses complain
that the Government does not grant Jehovah's Witness clerics
the exemption from military service accorded Orthodox and
other recognized clerics. Three ministers from the Jehovah's
Witnesses were in prison in 1990 for refusing military
service. Late in 1990, the Supreme Administrative Tribunal
found in favor of one of the three ministers, overturning a
ruling by the Ministry of National Education and Religious
Affairs that the Jehovah's Witness faith was not a "known
Mosques and other Muslim religious institutions operate in
Western Thrace, where the bulk of Greece's Muslims reside. In
December, some members of the Muslim minority, denying the
validity of the Government's appointment of the Mufti (supreme
religious leader) of Komotini, moved to elect their own Mufti,
appealing to a never-applied 1920 statute. The Government
responded just before that election with a Presidential decree
abrogating the 1920 statute, confirming the 10-year tenure of
the current Mufti, and codifying procedures under which the
Minister of Education and Religion (with the advice of an
11-member committee of prominent local Muslims appointed by
the regional governor) will henceforth choose the Mufti from
the candidates who present themselves.
Another Presidential decree was also in progress at year's
end, designed to address a longstanding complaint about local
control of Muslim religious endowments (WAKF) . The decree
provides for direct election of five-member WAKF committees by
the minority.
Independent Muslim Member of Parliament Ahmet Sadik, a sponsor
of the attempt to elect a new mufti, complained that the
minority had not been consulted on either measure. Members of
the minority also complain that district authorities have
blocked permits for the maintenance and repair of some
religious buildings, e.g., by demanding proof of title which
is not available.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution protects freedom of movement within the
country, foreign travel, and emigration. Ethnic Greeks
intending to emigrate and emigrants who return to Greece
experience no discrimination. However, Article 19 of the
Greek citizenship code makes a legal distinction between Greek
citizens who are ethnic Greeks and those who are not. Under
that article, nonethnic Greek citizens may be deprived of
their citizenship by a simple administrative decree if it is
determined that they moved abroad with the apparent intent not
to return. There is no hearing or judicial review, and no
effective right of appeal. No statistics on loss of
citizenship are published.
At least 122 Muslim Greek citizens lost their citizenship in
1988, and an additional 66 as of June 1990. Minority leaders
allege that many of those deprived of citizenship did, in
fact, intend to return to Greece. (They also say that a
smaller number lost citizenship in 1989.) An official of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the U.S. Embassy that the
Government intends to introduce legislation abolishing Article
Greece maintains a large military zone along its northern
border, in areas where many members of the Pomak and
Slavomacedonian minorities reside. Within the zone, movements
are strictly controlled, even for local inhabitants. Critics
charge that this zone is used as a means of controlling the
activities of the minorities. Foreign diplomats are allowed
into the zone only with special authorization.
Greek civil war refugees of Slavic ethnicity, who were
stripped of their Greek citizenship for participation in the
Communist-led insurrection of 1946-49, were expressly excluded
from the general amnesty and return of exiles completed in
Increasingly a destination for economic migrants, Greece
offers temporary asylum to a large number of bona fide and
other refugees from Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle
East. In 1990 Greece struggled to resettle more 20,000 ethnic
Greeks from the Soviet Union and confronted a sudden influx of
some 5,000 refugees from Albania late in December. The
Government expects the influx from the Soviet Union to
continue in 1991.
Resettlement is not available for most refugees who are not
ethnic Greeks. Because of limited resources and unclear
regulations, many bona fide refugees end up working illegally
at subsistence wages.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Greece is a multiparty democracy in which all citizens enjoy
full political rights, without regard to race, sex, religion,
or political persuasion. Greek citizens freely choose the
officials governing them. The President is elected by
Parliament to a 5-year term. Members of the unicameral
Parliament are elected to maximum 4-year terms by compulsory
universal suffrage (over age 18) and secret ballot.
Opposition parties function freely, have broad access to the
media, hold public meetings, and serve as a check on actions
by the Government. In April the conservative New Democracy
Party won exactly half the seats in parliamentary elections
(the third set of elections since June 1989), and a majority
government under Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis was
formed with the support of the single deputy from the centrist
Democratic Renewal Party. There are no restrictions, in law
or in practice, on the participation of women in government or
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Government has not objected to visits and investigations
by human rights organizations. However, visits by diplomats
to the border regions, where Greece's minority populations
reside, are subject to prior notification to and occasional
refusal by the Government, as well as surveillance by the
security services. Domestic human rights organizations are
allowed to operate freely and actively assist Greeks who
believe their rights have been violated. In 1990 domestic
human rights groups did not direct their attention to minority
issues inside Greece.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
The public perception in Greece of ethnic and religious
minorities is influenced by history. In the public mind, a
"Greek" has a Greek name, speaks the Greek language, and is an
adherent of the Greek Orthodox faith. Persons not meeting
these criteria tend to be regarded as outsiders or foreigners,
even if their ancestors have resided within the borders of the
modern Greek state for centuries. Conversely, immigrants of
Greek ethnic origin from the Soviet Union are now being
accepted by the public as "Greek" even though their ancestors
came from Asia Minor and never resided in Greece.
Under the Treaty of Lausanne, Greece recognizes an official
Muslim minority in Western Thrace, now comprising some 130,000
Turks, Pomaks, and Gypsies. There are smaller Turkish
communities (with no formal legal status) in the Dodecanese
islands and in Athens and other industrial areas. Pomaks
(Bulgarian-speaking Muslims) occupy the mountainous border
with Bulgaria, and Gypsies (both Christian and Muslim) are
scattered throughout Greece. There are remnant populations
speaking Albanian, Vlach (related to Romanian), and
Slavomacedonian dialects.
A violent incident in the Western Thrace city of Komotini on
January 29, in which Christian extremists smashed and looted
Muslim-owned shops without interference from nearby police,
called international attention to a pattern of economic and
societal discrimination affecting the minority. Greek
government policy in recent years has reflected the concern
that Muslims would eventually become, through their relatively
high birthrate, a clear majority in Western Thrace and would
settle in the district of Evros which adjoins the Turkish
border. As a result of that concern, members of the Muslim
minority have been almost completely prevented from purchasing
land in Western Thrace, have been denied access to subsidized
bank credits available to Christians there, and have faced
serious informal obstacles to receiving building permits,
tractor licenses, and other documentation needed to create
small businesses or exercise certain professions. Muslims
generally have not been hired by the state sector, and the
private employers in the depressed economy of the region also
have given employment preference to Christians. Large-scale
land expropriations for public projects have tended to be
concentrated in Muslim-owned areas. Muslims who migrated
elsewhere in Greece have faced little or no official
discrimination. Muslims who have moved to Turkey or elsewhere
for work or study have risked having their citizenship revoked
under Article 19 of the Greek citizenship code.
There are some indications that the Mitsotakis Government may
be shifting its policy regarding Western Thrace to emphasize
economic development and reduce official discrimination.
Press reports confirm anecdotal evidence that hundreds of
long-delayed driver's licenses and firearms permits were
issued to minority members during the summer of 1990. Muslim
sources report that some land purchases by Muslims were
approved in 1990, while other Muslims finally received title
deeds on family holdings. Planned expropriations for an
agricultural prison were canceled.
The Treaty of Lausanne guarantees the right to Turkishlanguage
education for the minority (and reciprocally for the
Greek minority in Istanbul). Chronic disputes with Turkey
over teachers and textbooks have left the minority school
system with outdated textbooks, poorly equipped schools, and
inadequately trained teachers. The imposition, only on the
minority school system, of a secondary school entrance
examination given in Greek has reduced minority school
Muslim villages elect Muslim mayors. In the principal towns
in Western Thrace, Komotini and Xanthi, Muslims are elected as
town councilors. Muslim candidates participated in the slates
of the three major national parties in the April parliamentary
elections and October municipal elections. Two independent
Muslim candidates were elected to Parliament in April.
However, a new electoral law voted by the Government late in
1990 set a 3-percent nationwide threshold which will
effectively preclude the election of minority candidates who
are not sponsored by a major party.
The Government, backed by Supreme Court rulings, bars attempts
by ethnic Turks to assert their Turkish (and hence ethnic)
minority status rather than the Muslim religious status
dictated by the Greek interpretation of the Treaty of
Lausanne. One of the two Muslim deputies in the current
Parliament, Ahmet Sadik, won an overwhelming share of the
minority vote after insisting in his platform on the ethnic
Turkish identity of the minority and campaigning for an end to
economic discrimination and for improved Turkish- language
education. Sadik insisted, however, that he is a loyal Greek
citizen operating within the Greek political system.
Northern Greece has a Slavophone Orthodox population, largely
rural and economically relatively underdeveloped, numbering
probably between 20,000 and 50,000, the remnant of a much
larger population that emigrated before and during the Greek
Civil War (1946-49) into Yugoslavia (the Socialist Federal
Republic of Macedonia) or abroad. The Government denies that
this population has a minority ethnic conciousness and imposes
restrictions on minority contacts with Yugoslavia to prevent
the development of such a consciousness and to encourage the
full assimilation of the population. For example, tight visa
requirements bar Yugoslavs suspected of Macedonian activism,
as well as some U.S. citizens of Slavic descent, from entering
Greece. Greece does not recognize the existence of a
Macedonian language and denies the validity of studies
undertaken or documents presented in that language. There are
no minority schools or language classes, in accordance with
the Greek insistence that Slavomacedonian is a nonliterate
There are broad constitutional and legal protections for
women; for example, equal pay is mandated for equal work.
However, women are only gradually becoming represented in the
higher echelons of business and government, as traditional
social barriers recede. The Government has a General
Secretariat for Equality of the Sexes, which coordinates
efforts to remove these barriers.
Violence against women is a problem identified by women's
rights groups, but there is a strong cultural bias against
reporting cases of rape, incest, and wife beating. There are
no reliable statistics to indicate its extent. Police and
local authorities generally do not intervene in domestic
conflicts. The social infrastructure for battered women is
almost nonexistent, despite past funding by the European
Community. Women's groups continue to press the Government,
which acknowledges the need for more active measures.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
All workers except the military and police are entitled to
form or join unions of their own choosing. The right of
association is provided for in the Constitution and in
specific legislation passed in 1978 and amended in 1982. In
1990 an estimated 35 percent of wage and salary earners were
organized in unions.
Unions receive most of their funding through a Ministry of
Labor organization, the Workers' Hearth, which distributes
mandatory contributions from employees and employers. Only a
few of the more powerful unions have dues-withholding
provisions in their contracts with employers. The
International Labor Organization (ILO) has expressed concern
about the Workers ' Hearth and its status as a government
agency. New labor legislation passed in December will
eliminate Workers' Hearth funding for labor unions effective
in January 1992.
More than 4,000 unions are grouped into regional and sectoral
federations and two umbrella confederations, one for civil
servants and the other for private sector workers. The unions
are highly politicized, with factions within the labor
confederations and individual unions linked with each of the
principal political parties, but they are not controlled by
the parties or the Government in their day-to-day operations.
There are no restrictions on who may be a union official.
There are no restrictions on international contacts. Greek
unions are affiliated with several international trade union
secretariats, and the General Confederation of Greek Labor
(GSEE) is affiliated with the European Trade Union
Confederation and the International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions.
Some 300 to 350 strikes took place during the past year,
including broad public sector strikes in September and
December which caused considerable disruption and public
irritation at the labor federations. Although the courts can
declare strikes illegal, the effective right to strike was
legally restricted in 1990 only by the Government's power to
declare the civil mobilization of workers when there is a
danger to national security, life, or property, or to the
social and economic life of the country. This provision is
used sparingly, but is considered by the ILO to exceed the
standards of ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association. In
September, following a prolonged bank employee strike, the
Government mobilized 30 Bank of Greece employees needed to pay
the salaries of public employees.
Addressing union complaints that most labor disputes ended in
compulsory arbitration, legislative remedies were enacted in
1989 which provide for mediation procedures with compulsory
arbitration as a last resort. In 1990 the Ministry of Labor
was still working on implementing procedures to bring the law
into effect.
In December the Government enacted legislation which
eliminates the Workers' Hearth payments to unions and will
restrict the right to strike by requiring skeleton staffs
during strikes in public service institutions—electricity,
transportation, communications, banking—which serve "social
needs" defined by the Government. A general strike took place
in December to protest the antistrike law. Full implications
of the new law will not be clear until it is implemented.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and bargain collectively is ensured by
legislation passed in 1955 and amended in 1990. Antiunion
discrimination is prohibited. Complaints of discrimination
against union members or organizers may be referred to the
Labor Inspectorate or to the courts, where most cases are
resolved. Recent court rulings have mandated the
reinstatement of improperly fired union organizers.
There are no restrictions on collective bargaining for private
workers, although social security benefits, legislated by
Parliament, are excluded from the collective bargaining
process. Civil servants collectively negotiate their demands
with the Office of the Minister to the Prime Minister, but
have no formal system of collective bargaining. Greece has no
export processing zones.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the Constitution
and is not practiced. The ILO's Committee of Experts,
however, continued in 1990 to express concern over legislation
dealing with mobilization in emergencies and punishment of
seamen, which it considers not in conformity with the ILO
Conventions on forced labor. The Government has responded
that it has initiated reform of the emergency mobilization
legislation and that it does not consider the maritime
legislation to violate the Conventions.
d. Minimum Age of Employment of Children
The minimiim age for work in industry is 15, with higher limits
in certain activities. In family businesses, theaters, and
the cinema, the minimum age is 12 years. Enforced by
occasional labor inspectorate spot checks, these age limits
are generally respected. However, families engaged in
agriculture, food service, or merchandising often have younger
family members assisting at least part time.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Minimum wages and salaries, established by the national
collective bargaining agreement (negotiated annually between
the GSEE and the Employers' Association) and by branch
collective agreements, are generally respected by employers.
In May, however, the Government froze wage indexation for 4
months, thereby violating the national collective bargaining
agreement. The Government cited imminent economic crisis and
previous excessive wage increases to justify this action. The
minimum wage established by negotiated agreements was $20 per
day as of September, sufficient for a decent standard of
The maximum legal workweek is 40 hours in the private sector
and 37.5 hours in the public sector. Legislation in July 1989
allowed greater flexibility in business hours as long as, over
a period of time, the average workweek did not exceed the
legal maximum. The law mandates an annual paid holiday of 1
month per year and sets maximum limits on overtime.
Minimum standards of occupational health and safety are
provided for by legislation. Although the GSEE characterizes
health and safety legislation as satisfactory, it charges that
the enforcement of the legislation, the responsibility of the
Labor Inspectorate, is inadequate, citing statistics
indicating a relatively high number of job-related accidents
in Greece. Inadequate inspection, failure to enforce
compliance with regulations, outdated industrial plants and
equipment, and poor safety training of employees all
contribute to the accident rate. Inspectors are prohibited
from divulging the names of workers who lodge complaints about
unsafe working conditions.