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IHF Report - UN Commission on Human Rights

April 24, 1998


Protection of Ethnic Minorities
Report by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Fifty-Fourth Session - Geneva, 16 March - 24 April 1998 (Item No. 16)

The Macedonian Minority

The Macedonian minority is still not recognized by the Greek government and consequently faces various forms of harassment and discrimination. These include restrictions on freedom of cultural expression, violations of the freedom of association, harassment of its political party, Rainbow, denial of entry to Greece by ethnic Macedonians and former Greek citizens living abroad, and citizenship issues.

On 24 June 1996, the European Commission of Human Rights declared admissible the complaint against Greece, filed by founder members of the association Home of Macedonian Culture. They wanted to challenge decisions of the Greek courts, at all levels, rejecting registration of their association since 1990. This was the first time that a case involving discrimination against the Macedonian minority in Greece reached the European Court and won admissibility. The Greek state attempted to refute the applicants’ claim by arguing that no such minority existed in Greece.

After the country's Civil War (1944-1949), many ethnic Macedonians left Greece along with other Greek citizens, who although of Greek origin had fought with the communist forces. A 1982 law allowed ethnic Greek refugees to return. Ethnic Macedonians still have no right to return. Moreover, even short visits to participate, for example, in weddings or funerals are usually prohibited. Also their children are often denied entry.

On 14 October 1997, the trial Vasilis Romas, Costas Tasopoulos, Petros Vasiliadis and Pavlos Voskopoulos opened in Florina. They were charged in their capacity as leaders of the Rainbow party. The case dates back to 1995 when on 13-14 September the Rainbow office in Florina was attacked by a mob of people, led by the mayor of Florina. Before that police, at the order of the local prosecutor, had removed the sign outside the party office saying "Rainbow-Florina Committee," written both in Greek and Macedonian. The defendants are accused of "having incited mutual hatred among the citizens so that common peace was disturbed" because they had hung up the sign with Slavic texts. They are charged on the basis of Article 192 of the Greek Penal Code with inciting citizens to commit acts of violence. No charges have been raised against those people who attacked the office.

Border authorities have regularly checked and occasionally seized printed material carried by people entering Greece from Macedonia.

     
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