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Conscientious Objection in Greece
Greece: Conscientious Objector Sotiropoulos sentenced
Stop the intimidations and prepare the end of conscription
The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) is shocked at what happened today in the Appeal Military Court of Athens, where the Greek conscientious objector Dimitris K. Sotiropoulos was found guilty again on an insubordination charge and was sentenced to 10-month suspended imprisonment after a clearly unfair trial with problematic procedures.
“This was by definition an unfair trial and a public demonstration of militocracy. Not only a military court judged a civilian, which is a major human rights violation itself, but it didn’t even allow the unhampered defense of the conscientious objector. The military court was continuously and repeatedly restricting, interrupting and stopping the witnesses, the defense lawyer and the defendant himself, even during his apology, when he was trying to explain his incentives for the actions he is charged with”, Sam Biesemans, EBCO’s Vice-President stated today from Athens, after the trial of the Greek conscientious objector Dimitris K. Sotiropoulos. The witnesses who finally testified in defense of Sotiropoulos were Nikos Chrysogelos (former Green MEP), Afroditi Stambouli (Syriza MP) and Sam Biesemans (EBCO’s Vice-President).
EBCO urges the new government of Greece to finally turn the page and put a definite end to the greek militocracy and the trials of civilians before military courts. It’s high time for the greek government to stop the scandalous prosecutions of conscientious objectors and the blatant violations of their human rights. “EBCO calls for the full recognition of the right to conscientious objection for conscripts, reservists and professional members of the armed forces, in line with European and international standards without restrictions and obstacles, and for the abolition of the compulsory military service”, Sam Biesemans, EBCO’s Vice-President added.
Sotiropoulos, 48 years old and a founding member of the Greek Association of Conscientious Objectors (www.antirrisies.gr), has refused to enlist since 1992, declared publicly his opposition to violence and militarism, and asked to perform an equal alternative civilian service. At first instance, on 13 May 2014, and having already been exempted from conscription as a father of 3 children, he was convicted on an insubordination charge and sentenced to 10-month suspended imprisonment, 23 years after his initial insubordination. Unfortunately Sotiropoulos is not the only conscientious objector who is under prosecution in Greece. At least two more conscientious objectors will be judged this month by military courts on insubordination charges and more will follow. In addition, several conscientious objectors on ideological grounds have their applications for civilian service rejected by the Minister of Defence following negative opinions by the relevant Special Committee of the Ministry of Defence. This unacceptable practice continues and it is a vicious circle. These young persons are then called up for military service, and if they do not enlist, they are repeatedly persecuted, since insubordination is considered a permanent offence in the Greek legislation. So an endless circle of arrests and penal convictions begins, with suspended imprisonment sentences accompanied with huge administrative penalties of 6000 euros for each insubordination charge.
On Wednesday another total objector was sentenced. Those who opt to apply for CO status and perform the punitive alternative service, still face problems. I know at least about 3 cases of COs for ideological reasons, who have been rejected by the new Deputy Minister of Defense (who is from Syriza party - the coalition of "radical left") after a recommendation of the Special Committee which examines the applicants.
In a law coming at the parliament from the Deputy Minister of Defense, there's no substantial change to the legislation about COs. The only thing they provide is: If you come to serve the (punitive) alternative service by the end of 2016, ongoing prosecutions and fines you haven't already paid, will be quashed.
EBCO: Greece, trial of conscientious objector Sotiropoulos: Stop the intimidations and prepare the end of conscription. June 16, 2015 (www.ebco-beoc.org); George Karatzas, eMail, June 18, 2015.