CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS ATTACKED DURING SOLIDARITY ACTIONS FOR THE RESPECT OF THE LAW FOR THE HUNGER STRIKER DIMITRIS KOUFONTINAS
LAWYERS’ BLOCK GETS REPEATEDLY BEATEN BY THE POLICE FORCES
During the last weeks, the hunger strike of the life prisoner Dimitris Koufontinas, member of the “Revolutionary Organization 17 November”, has given rise to a series of legal debates and solidarity actions all over Greece, demanding the respect of the law and his transfer to the Korydallos prison, as per the legal provisions in force.
The Greek government has contested the mobilization in favor of Dimitris Koufontinas with an unprecedented level of suppression of the constitutional right to assembly and to the freedom of expression: demonstrations were dispersed minutes before they even began, while in parallel the Facebook pages of persons and organizations were massively blocked when they circulated information or comments regarding the hunger strike, or even mentioned the name of Dimitris Koufontinas, on the basis that they breached the community standards.
Greek lawyers have increasingly participated in these events, proving their strong commitment to fundamental rights. On February 24th some 50 lawyers organized a gathering in front of the Ministry of Justice, while a committee composed of representatives of the Alternative Initiative (a left-wing union of the Bar Association of Athens) and of our Lawyers’ Union for the Defense of Fundamental Rights was received by the Secretary of Justice and handed over to him a letter of protest signed by 1.000 lawyers. It should be noted that while the Greek National Commission for Human Rights -the instrument established by the law as the independent advisory body to the Greek State in human rights’ issues- and the Association of Greek Judges and Prosecutors signed resolutions in favor of a humanitarian and fair handling of the claims of D. Koufontinas, most of the Bar Associations of Greece, including that of Athens were reluctant to act similarly.
Following this first action, the “Initiative of Lawyers and Jurists” was formed spontaneously, calling to daily demonstrations during the whole week and participating in them with a distinct block, while the hunger striker’s health has been significantly deteriorating every day. It was on Friday, March 5th, when the government decided to disperse the demonstration of peaceful lawyers and attacked them totally unreasoned with water cannons and tear gas. Although this escalation was met with a wave of protests, the police repeated their brutality on Saturday morning, attacking the new demonstration once more, even before the citizens had an opportunity to start protesting. It is important to note that the lawyers participating in the protest, clearly declaring their legal capacity, were among the first to be deterred to even begin the demonstration, with the extended use of water cannons.
The official statement of the police, as stated below, is a milestone in the country’s transition to a new era of disproportionate police violence and clear disrespect of constitutional rights:
“At 12.00 today (Saturday, March 6, 2021), on the initiative of the “assembly of solidarity to the hunger striker D. Koufontina” and other associations, gathered (200) people in the area of Syntagma Square and tried to occupy the road of Filellinon Street.
The police forces, who rushed immediately, repulsed them using the necessary means, so that there would be no further escalation.
Subsequently, groups of protesters tried to occupy the road first on Stadiou Street, then on Panepistimiou and Akadimias Streets, obstructing the traffic of vehicles and pedestrians. And in these new efforts, the police forces repulsed them using the necessary means.
The groups of those gathered left in different directions at 13.15.
(29) people were detained by the police forces.
The traffic was obstructed for 15 minutes in a section of Stadiou and Panepistimiou streets.
The following video makes pretty clear what the Greek police understands under “necessary means”:
These attacks signal a serious breach of fundamental rights as well as a repression against lawyers, paving the way towards unknown totalitarian attitudes.
Respect of constitutional rights
End of police brutality
We stand in solidarity with the lawyers in Greece!
Keep your hands off the lawyers!
- European Democratic Lawyers (AED – EDL)
- Ένωση Δικηγόρων για την Υπεράσπιση των Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων (Ελλάδα)
- Legal Team Italia (Ιταλία)
- VSAN-Vereniging Sociale Advocatuur Nederland (Ολλανδία
- ÇHD – Progressive Lawyers’ Association (Τουρκία)
- RAV – Republikanischer Anwältinnen- und Anwälteverein (Γερμανία)
- European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH)
- Giuristi Democratici (Ιταλία)
- Legal Centre Lesvos
- Evelyn Durmayer, IADL permanent representative at the United Nations in Vienna (Austria)
- Catalan Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ACDDH)
- the National Association of Democratic Lawyers of South Africa
- the Center for Research and Elaboration on Democracy/Group of International Legal Intervention (CRED/GIGI)
- International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)
- Portugueses Association of Democratic Lawyers
- Ομάδα δικηγόρων για τα Δικαιώματα Προσφύγων και Μεταναστών/Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees (Athens)
- Ukrainian Association of Democratic Lawyers
- American Association of Jurists
- Özgürlük için Hukukçular Derneği (ÖHD)
- Hellenic Action for Human Rights “Pleiades”/ Ελληνική Δράση για τα ΑΝθρώπινα Δικαιώματα”Πλειάδες” (Greece)
- Lawyers WIthout BordersGreece/ Δικηγόροι χωρίς Σύνορα Ελλάδας
- DYYAD – Network for the Support of Human Rights Defenders/ ΔΥΥΑΔ – Δίκτυο Υποστήριξης Υπερασπιστών Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (Greece)
- Εναλλακτικη Παρεμβαση Δικηγόρων Αθήνας/ Alternative Intervention, Greece
- Legal support team/Ομάδα Νομικής Υποστήριξης “Ως Δαμέ” (Cyprus)