Press Release on recent legislative amendment on combating racist crimes

Athens, 10/06/2014. The Racist Violence Recording Network welcomes the recent legislative amendment that moves in the direction of combating hate crimes and in particular (a) facilitates the victims and essential witnesses to report racist incidents and (b) broadens the ability of prosecuting authorities to investigate the racist motive. The Network notes that, after a period of decline, there are signs of resumption in crimes committed due to racial or ethnic origin, religion, color, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or disability. Thus, the Network puts forth specific additional proposals, given that the most important parameter in a legislative amendment is its effective and unhindered implementation, which is not always evident.

More specifically:

A. Protection of victims and essential witnesses: In its three years of operation, the Racist Violence Recording Network has repeatedly pointed out that racist violence cannot be effectively addressed without guarantees for the ability to report it. The provisions on the protection of undocumented migrant victims (J.M.D. No. 30651/2014) -i.e. the provisions which suspend the detention and deportation of victims and essential witnesses, and adopt special procedures for granting residence permit on humanitarian grounds for the time deemed necessary to prosecute and convict the perpetrators- constitute a positive step in this direction. The Network points out the need to integrate these provisions in the Immigration and Social Integration Code, so that they obtain their appropriate legal status. The Network also underlines the need a) to refrain from prosecuting persons entering illegally and b) to prohibit the arrest and detention of the victims and witnesses who press charges, for the period between pressing the charges and the issuance of the special prosecutor’s act. Thus, victims will not experience both the consequences of such criminal proceedings and of a possible secondary victimization when they turn to the competent authorities in order to press charges, while they will also be encouraged to lodge the relevant complaints.

B. Investigation of racist motive: Until recently, the racist motive was taken into account in the sentencing stage. Thus, both the law enforcement and the prosecuting authorities did not to take into account the racist motive at the initial stage of investigation and prosecution, considering that it is related only to the stage of the decision on the sentence, thus after the guilt of the offender has been established. The criminal investigation and prosecution for the murder of Shehzad Luqman is a significant, but not unique, example.

Therefore, the establishment of a general aggravating circumstance for crimes with bias motivation (81A of the Criminal Code) is a clear message to organized groups of racist violence perpetrators and therefore constitutes a positive development. According to the recent legislative amendment, it is now necessary to prosecute hate crimes on the basis of the specific criminal offence as regulated in the Criminal Code, in conjunction with the general aggravating circumstance regulated in Article 81A of the Criminal Code. Consequently, the investigation of bias motivation both at the stage of preliminary investigation ordered by the Public Prosecutor and at the stage of ex proprio initial investigation by the police becomes even more necessary.

Given the above, the Network points out the need to ensure the implementation of Circular no. 7100/4/3 dated 24.5.2006 on the obligation of law enforcement personnel to investigate racial motivation, to collect relevant data, to record and/or report on a specific form each incident against a person due to national or ethnic origin, color, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, no matter if a complaint has been lodged or not. In fact, the Network proposes the updating of the above Circular, in the light of the recent legislative amendments.

Additionally, the Network considers necessary the adoption of a legislative provision that ensures the ex proprio motu prosecution of all offenses committed with bias motivation and the victims’ exemption from fees when filing a complaint according to criminal law and/or a civil action.

C. Mandate of the Offices and Departments combating racist violence within the Greek Police: The Racist Violence Recording Network marks as positive the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the recently adopted Law No. 4285/2014. Since the main challenge remains the fight against hate crimes, and given the emerging increase in hate crimes against LGBT persons, the Network emphasizes once more the need for explicit inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity within the mandate of the Offices and Departments against Racist Violence.

Further information:

Eleni Takou, 210.7233216, racistviolence@nchr.gr

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