Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Greek Helsinki Monitor 2003 Activity Report

The following is an excerpt from the Greek Helsinki Monitor's 2003 Activity Report. For the full text please visit their website at:

Human Rights in Greece Ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens: A Human Rights Event on the Occasion of GHM's Tenth Anniversary (1993-2003) Athens, 7-9 December 2003, kindly supported by the Open Society Institute.

In the framework of GHM's tenth anniversary, GHM organized an event before the 10 December Human Rights Day, with the participation of the following Inter-Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations: Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - Athens; European Roma Rights Center; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights; World Organization Against Torture; International Press Institute/South East Europe Media Organization; Minority Rights Group International.

On 6 December 2003, a working dinner for participants was held. On 7 December 2003, a working lunch with Deputy Minister of Interior Mr. Nikos Bistis, Deputy Ombudsman Andreas Takis and MEP and Chairperson of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities of the European Parliament Anna Karamanou was held to discuss the main concerns of each participant organization. It was followed by an afternoon and early evening visit with Nikos Bistis to the Roma settlements of Spata and Aspropyrgos. Nikos Bistis is the leader of the small center-left non-parliamentary party AEKA and had then recently joined the government. AEKA is the only political party that has systematically advocated for human rights in Greece, often jointly with GHM, including on "sensitive" issues like the ratification of the FCNM and the formal recognition of the Macedonian and the Turkish national minorities. It was also be the first time ever that a high level government official visited these Roma settlements, which have been visited to date by CHR-COE, ECRI, MG-S-ROM COE, OSCE HCNM, MEPs, INGOs, the Greek Ombudsman and -mainly foreign- journalists. Following the visit, Deputy Minister Nikos Bistis issued a strong statement and engaged in efforts to help solve some of the pressing problems through the end of his mandate in March 2004.

On 8 and 9 December 2003, the participants met with officials of the Ministries of Interior, Justice, Foreign Affairs, to discuss the related human rights concerns of participant organizations, to hopefully help establish a constructive dialog with Greek authorities, which had been lacking in the case of most of the participants; and to advocate specific solutions. There was also a meeting with representatives of "Rainbow", the political party of Greece's Macedonian minority, and the European Free Alliance (EFA) in the EP, where Rainbow belongs. For two consecutive Sundays (30/11 and 7/12), the First Party Congress of Rainbow had been cancelled following private and public pressure by the extreme right, nationalist, xenophobic party Hellenic Front (allied to Mr. Le Pen's National Front), as well as by other neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups, on local authorities or individuals in Edessa (Northern Greece) who had made meeting facilities available to Rainbow. Instead, public events and demonstrations were organized by these extreme right groups.