Human rights watchdog says racist violence in Greece 'a real threat to democracy'

Europe’s top human rights watchdog on Friday urged Greek authorities to take action against the burgeoning wave of attacks against migrants in the country describing racist violence “a real threat to democracy.”

“Impunity for the rising number of racist crimes in Greece has to end,” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said at the end of a five-day visit to Greece.

“The police, prosecutors and courts need to become fully acquainted with and give effect to existing anti-racism legislation... by which Greece is bound,” he added.

Between October 2011 and December 2012 more than 200 racist attacks were recorded by the racist violence recording network headed by the UNHCR and the National Commission for Human Rights.

Muiznieks urged Greece’s political leaders to “firmly condemn and sideline every person and organization that promotes hate speech and engages in hate crimes,” but stopped short of seeking a ban on Golden Dawn, which he described as a “neo-Nazi” party.

Golden Dawn currently controls 18 seats in Greece's 300-member Parliament. The Public Issue poll for January gave the party 10 percent of the vote, putting it in third place ahead of government coalition partner PASOK.

While welcoming the establishment of the 70 anti-racist police units and the appointment of a special prosecutor in Athens to deal with racist crime, the CoE official urged the Ministry of Public Order to take “all necessary measures in order to create an independent and effective police complaints mechanism that would enhance the public’s trust in police forces.”