Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Macedonian Political Refugees Once Again Denied Democratic Rights by Greek Authorities

Greek Helsinki Monitor & Minority Rights Group - Greece

Topic: Macedonian Political Refugees Once Again Denied Democratic Rights by Greek Authorities

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and Minority Rights Group-Greece (MRG-G) denounce today's refusal by Greek authorities to dozens of ethnic Macedonian political refugees and relatives to enter Greece, preceded in recent days by similar refusals to a smaller number of such persons. These persons or their relatives had left Greece in the end of the Greek Civil War of the 1940s, alongside ethnic Greeks who both fought with the losing communist side. In 1982, the Greek state decided to redress the consequences of the civil war by allowing back in the country only the ethnic Greek political refugees: this was discrimination on ethnic grounds among a group of former Greek citizens, which is contrary to international and European human rights standards. In May 2003, the Greek state announced its intention to allow the right to visit and consider the possibility of repatriation of the ethnic non-Greek political refugees, after an apparent broad consensus had emerged in the areas these persons had inhabited (mainly Florina and Kastoria in Western Greek Macedonia). However, the announcement was followed by a general backlash by influential conservative and/or nationalist politicians, media, scholars, etc. which led the government to backtrack and announce a limited right to a twenty day visit and only between 10 August and 31 October 2003 to those persons. It turned out that this was to apply only to those ethnic Macedonians whose birthplace was not mentioned with the old Macedonian name (used before the "Hellenization” of village and town names in the 1920s) and who were not on the state's blacklist of activists.

Greece may strictly speaking have the right to object to the use of only the Macedonian names for birthplaces in the passports of some of these persons. However, it has found a way to deal with the more important problem of the name of the Republic of Macedonia it does not recognize: the holders of the passports of that country get visas on separate paper, as the whole document is not recognized by Greek authorities. Greece could have done the same for the persons with Macedonian names of their birthplaces. Alternatively, Greece stamps mail and products from Macedonia with the phrase "recognized as FYROM”. A similar procedure could have been used here as well.

Finally, Greek authorities officially stated that some 80 Macedonian activists living abroad are on a "blacklist.” Preventing their entrance on grounds of their activism directly contravenes the special UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and EU provisions for the state's responsibility to respect and even defend NGOs and human rights activists. Moreover, in early July 2003, a Greek court in Florina rejected once again the registration of an ethnic Macedonian association, the Home of Macedonian Civilization, despite the fact that the ECHR convicted Greece in 1998 (case of Sidiropoulos and others) for a violation of freedom of association following a previous series of court refusals to register the same association in the late 1980s. Greece had -apparently deceivingly- pledged to the Council of Europe that it would conform to the ECHR ruling.

The international community has an obligation to urge Greece to conform to its international obligations or else sanction it; otherwise, it will reinforce the impression that there are double standards in the respect of human rights.