OPINION

A black hole in law and order

In Greece there is the rule of law. This means that, ostensibly, laws are enforced and violations invite punishment. But all this is theoretical. Apart from the problems linked to the dispensation of justice, in some areas law enforcement is actually seen as a deviation from democracy. The laws of the Greek state do not apply to Greek universities. Here, there is immunity against all kinds of lawlessness. Self-styled anarchists regularly destroy university property. A few years ago, the National Technical University of Athens was burned but no one was punished, evidently because this act of vandalism was seen as a «symbolic protest by the repressed student movement.» Almost anyone can destroy property and act violently – without facing penalties for this behavior – if they are on the grounds of a Greek university. Experience shows us that authorities are unlikely to penalize such offenses – and we are not talking about some dictatorial regime which criminalizes freedom of expression but a democratic state whose duty it is to punish lawlessness. Two recent events, under-publicized as they were, prove the reality of the situation. A few weeks ago, a group of students dragged the vice dean of Xanthi’s Democritus University out of his office and barricaded his doorway with bricks. This was all carried out in front of television cameras. The local prosecutor witnessed the attack and launched proceedings against the offenders. But the senate of the National Technical University of Athens retorted that «the prosecutor should not have a say in such academic disputes, even if they are relatively extreme.» As this comment was issued by the senate of one of the most respected seats of learning in the country, we should ask a few questions. Firstly, how «academic» was the dispute in which the Xanthi prosecutor intervened? And how extreme would such a dispute need to be to justify a prosecutor’s intervention? We all saw a group of students dragging a university professor out of his office. Would they have had to beat him up to justify a prosecutor’s involvement? There was a second recent example of lawlessness at a Greek university, related by a professor of ancient history at Athens University. On November 22, 40 offices on the fourth floor of the university’s history and archaeology departments were found to have been broken into and computer equipment removed. Police did not visit the site to take fingerprints as students would not allow their precious university immunity to be violated even in a case warranting criminal charges. There is a black hole in Greece’s law and order – and it is hidden behind the ideology of university immunity.