Human Rights Watch urges Greece to adopt anti-racism bill

Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the Greek government to adopt new measures to curb racially-motivated crimes and protect victims of hate attacks.

“With people being attacked on the streets, Greece urgently needs to beef up its criminal justice response to hate crimes,” said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, calling upon the country’s coalition government to introduce a controversial anti-racism bill caught up in a domestic political tug-of-war over the past few weeks.

“This draft law contains some good provisions and should be improved in parliament rather than delayed further,” Sundeland said.

New Democracy, the conservative party in charge of Greece’s three-member coalition, is skeptical of the move, arguing that existing anti-racism legislation is sufficient and that the bill could be at odds with the Greek constitution.

On Thursday, junior coalition partners PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR) submitted their own bill to Parliament, based on legislation drawn up by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, who belongs to DIMAR.

Meanwhile main left-wing opposition SYRIZA has said it will put forward its own proposal, which is expected on Monday.

In her comments Thursday, Sunderland said that there might be “legitimate concerns about the overbroad scope of some provisions” in the bill, pointing out however that this should not be “an excuse for inaction.”

“Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and improve the bill in line with Greece’s human rights obligations,” she said.

In July 2012, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting an alarming surge in xenophobic attacks and the failure of the Greek police and the judiciary to prevent, investigate, and punish alarming vigilante violence targeting immigrants and asylum seekers.