European Bureau for Conscientious Objection
61, rue Henri Stacquet, B-1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 230 6813 / Fax: +32 2 245 6297
Europe moves ahead, Greece stays behind
Brussels, 8 February
In view of the trials of three Greek conscientious objectors in February, EBCO calls on the Greek authorities to stop the continuous persecution of Greek conscientious objectors and fulfil its international obligations by fully respecting their human rights, both in law and in practice.
“We strongly condemn the Greek practice of criminalisation of conscientious objection and we are expecting Greece to move ahead in order to meet the European and international standards, not stay behind. It’s simply unacceptable that Greek citizens have to appear before military courts and face prison sentences just because of their conscience”, Mr. Gerd Greune, EBCO President, said today.
Today, February 2nd, Evangelos Mihalopoulos faces trial by the Appeal Military Court of Athens on charges of insubordination. Evangelos Mihalopoulos, a conscientious objector on ideological grounds, refused to serve the punitive civilian service in 2007 and was sentenced by the Military Court of Athens to 8 months suspended imprisonment on 19 February 2010.
On February 16th, the Judicial Council of the Appeal Military Court of Athens will decide on the appeal of Nikolaos Xarhos against the bill of indictment by the Judicial Council of the Naval Court of Piraeus for a second charge of desertion. Nikolaos Xarhos was a professional soldier. In 1989 he took leave and went to Sweden where he was baptized as a Jehovah's Witness. In 2006 he came back to Greece and was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for desertion. In the appeal hearing in 2008 he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment suspended for 5 years. On 8 August 2010 he was sent a bill of indictment by the Judicial Council of the Naval Court of Piraeus for a second charge of desertion for the period starting from the day of his trial in the appeal military court until June 2007 when his resignation was accepted.
On February 23rd, Avraam Pouliasis will be tried by the Military Court of Athens on charges of insubordination. Avraam Pouliasis, a conscientious objector on ideological grounds, was called up for military service before 1998, when there was no civilian service, and he refused to serve. Now he is 48 years old, and not liable for conscription any more.
In 1997, Greece was by 19 years the last of the then members of the European Union to accept conscientious objection to military service and make a substitute service available for conscientious objectors by Law 2510/1997. Law 3421/2005 and recent Law 3883/2010 have amended some of the provisions of Law 2510/1997, but in many respects the law still falls far short of international standards.
EBCO’s detailed concerns are analysed in its Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review 11th session of the UPR Working Group, May 2011, on Greece.