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Human Rights Watch
World Report 1999 - Greece

December 10, 1998

"A number of human rights abuses continued to plague Greece during 1998, especially regarding the treatment of the Turkish and Macedonian minorities, as well as of migrants. There continued to be government-imposed restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of worship. The government of Prime Minister Costas Simitis took some positive steps, including legalizing the presence of more than 400,000 mostly-Albanian migrants and abolishing article 19 of the citizenship law."

"As in previous years, the government recognized only one minority, the "Muslim" minority living in Thrace and protected under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The government continued to deny the existence of a Turkish minority, although most "Muslims" identify themselves as Turks, regardless of their ethnic origin. In August, the speaker of the parliament stated that the "Muslim and Christian population" of Thrace should be "homogenized." Ethnic minorities that are not officially recognized often suffered restrictions on their freedom of expression and association. Among these ethnic minorities legally denied recognition are Macedonians."

"In Florina (northern Greece) where most ethnic Macedonians live, four ethnic Macedonians were put on trial in September 1998 for "inciting citizens to commit acts of violence." The charges stem from an incident in September 1995 when a mob led by the mayor attacked and ransacked the offices of the ethnic Macedonian "Rainbow" party after the four defendants hung a sign in Greek and in Macedonian stating "Rainbow-Florina Committee." Those who attacked the offices were never indicted, although a complaint was filed by the "Rainbow" party. By contrast, the party was prosecuted for using the Macedonian language on the sign in a clear violation of the right to free expression. However, the party was acquitted on September 15 due to intense international pressure. As of this writing, another Rainbow leader is awaiting trial on similar charges of incitement for having brought calendars from Macedonia bearing the names of Greek towns in Macedonian and praising the inter-war pro-Macedonian policy of the Communist party."

"Many ethnic Macedonians who fled Greece as a result of the 1946-49 civil war were not allowed to enter Greece in 1998, even for brief visits, or to attend events related to the fiftieth anniversary of their exodus in July, despite written commitments to the contrary by the Greek government. In July 1998, the European Court of Human Rights found that Greece had violated article 11 (freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because the Greek courts had not allowed the establishment of the association "Home of Macedonian Civilization" in 1990."

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