Religious freedom in greece

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Address: P.O. Box 60820, GR-15304 Glyka Nera

Telephone: (+3) 010.347.22.59. Fax: (+3) 010.601.87.60.e-mail: website:

September 2002

This report was initially prepared in December 1999 on the basis of the common guidelines (shaded below) of an International Helsinki Federation project, covering most Balkan and Central European countries. It was revised three years later. The material presented here is as accurate as possible, though not exhaustive, nor fully up to date. Your comments to will be welcome. The report is based on the ten-year collective work of the staff of two NGO’s, GHM and MRG-G.

1. Background to History, Religious Demography and the Position of Religion in Society

- Outline briefly major historical developments in religious freedom and church-state relations during the late 19-th and 20-th century that you consider important to understand the present situation in your country: Please include in this overview all religious denominations that were historically present on the territory of your country as it is physically defined today. Please also include information on the canonical status of different churches.
The Orthodox Church in Greece has been considered as the protector of Greekness or of the so-called “Hellenic Orthodox Civilization.” The actual role of the Orthodox Church since the creation of the Greek nation-state has been interpreted in many diverse and opposing ways; nevertheless, in all Greek constitutions the Orthodox Church is accorded the status of the “prevailing religion.”1 Though most religious minorities will come to enjoy some kind of protection based on agreements and protocols, the fact that as of the foundation of the newborn Hellenic Republic the Orthodox Church was acknowledged as a prevailing religion led to inevitable violations of freedom of religion and belief which persist to the present.

Greece, like all other Balkan countries, has followed discriminatory policies against its citizens with a minority religious identity. This occurred despite the fact that almost all international treaties Greece signed since its independence in 1830 included clauses for the protection of religious minorities. The wars of this century (the Balkan Wars and the two World Wars), along with the resulting bilateral agreements with Bulgaria and Turkey to exchange the respective minority populations, contributed to the substantial cleansing of the current Greek territory from most of its non-Orthodox populations. It was similar to the other states of the peninsula, which was cleansed from the corresponding minority populations. Approximately 106,000 Muslims were left in Thrace (North-Eastern Greece) in exchange for roughly 110,000 Greeks who were left in Istanbul and in two islands, Gkeada (Imvros in Greek) and Bozcaada (Tenedos in Greek). This was done on the basis of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which called for the exchange of all Muslims of Greece with Orthodox Christians of Turkey. The 1928 census mainly acknowledged the presence of 63,000 Sephardic and 9,000 Greek Jews (mostly annihilated by Nazi Germany) and 28,000 Catholics.

According to Professor Adamantia Pollis, the central position held by the Eastern Orthodox religion as a sign of Greekness, the legal foundations of the Greek Orthodox Church and its symbiotic relation with the state, as well as the remaining limitations on religious freedom of minorities, testify the exclusion of Greece from the secular powers of the Enlightenment and the fundamental principles of most Western European states.2

- To the degree possible, please list the religious denominations in your country with percentages of adherents according to: 1) the official sources, 2) unofficial surveys, 3) the denominations themselves, and 4) any other reliable sources. Please note specifically the differences, if any, in the information obtained from different sources.
The National Statistical Service has not included any questions to record religious minorities since 1951. “It may be assumed that this attitude of not including questions in recent censuses about even the linguistic and religious preferences of the population is consistent with a more general policy to discourage discussion on issues concerning ethnic, linguistic, or religious differences in Greek society.”3
The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne has guaranteed the rights of the Muslims of Thrace. The state has recently revised its estimate of the Muslim minority downwards, from 120,000 recorded in the previous estimate to 98,000 based on the 1991 census. It also claims, “50% of the minority are of Turkish origin, 35% are Pomaks (an indigenous population that speaks Slavic dialect and espoused Islam during the Ottoman rule) and 15% are Roma.”4 Using the same census, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group-Greece’s estimates are slightly lower and with a breakdown that is also slightly different. There are 90,000 Muslims, of whom approximately 50,000 speak Turkish as a mother tongue, 30,000 Pomaks and 10,000 Roma. Nevertheless, the majority of all Muslims, including Pomaks and the Roma, have a Turkish national identity today. Greek authorities were promoting a Turkish identity in the early 1950s under the so-called Fessopoulos Directives. Under the 1968 Protocol (which replaced a weak 1951 Educational Agreement), they banned the use of the attribute “Muslim” and instead imposed the attribute “Turkish,” and established Turkish-language education to all Muslims. The policy contributed significantly to the assimilation of most Pomaks and Roma by the Turkish dominant element in the Muslim minority. Turkish became the only taught minority language. Despite the rising tension between the two communities in Cyprus as well as the outbreak of violence against the Greeks of Istanbul in 1955, the enemy was, in line with the Cold War, Bulgaria and not the nominal NATO ally Turkey.
However, since the 1980s, not only have the Greek authorities been denying the Turkish identity, but also they have often persecuted and prosecuted it. This has led to the creation of a climate of mutual suspicion and recrimination between the minority and the state. The minority once again was identified as a religious one -- a Muslim minority. Moreover, subsequent policies of the 1990s were indicative of Greece’s attempt to promote the Pomaks’ identity through the acknowledgment of the multi-ethnic character of the Muslim minority. Substantial rewards were promised to Muslim minorities who would assume the Pomak identity. However, most Pomaks who felt that it was an effort to “divide and rule” met the policy with hostility. In this light, the status of the Muslims in Thrace has both a political and a religious.
A significant amount of immigrant population resides in Greece and, thereby, increases the members of the Muslim community in the country. The exact number remains unknown, since a large number of them remains still unregistered and therefore does not hold provisional or permanent residence permit. It is nevertheless estimated that around 200,000 to 300,000 Muslims from Albanian, African, and Arab origins are living in Greece. Most of these Muslims live in the large cities, with the largest population in the working class districts of Athens, which, however, lacks a mosque.

There are traditional populations of Jehovah’s Witnesses (estimated with all family members at 46,414), Jews (estimated at 4,000 - 5,000), Catholics (estimated at 50,000 of which some 5,000 of Eastern Rite Catholics who belong to the traditional Catholic minority), and Protestants (estimated at 20,000 - 25,000). As a religious minority, the Old Calendarists are far more numerous (700,000 to 1 million) and differ only in the fact that they belong to an administratively non-recognized Orthodox Church (as opposed to the New Calendarist, who are officially recognized). None of these religious minorities, with the exception of a significant number of the traditional Muslim communities living in Western Thrace as we have already indicated, currently proclaims a non-Greek national identity. Regarding religious minority population increase, Catholic immigrants arriving in Greece over the last decade from the Philippines, Poland, and other countries have raised the number of Catholics in Greece to over two hundred thousand. Similarly, the Protestant population has increased due to new immigrant arrivals, but no figures are available.

Orthodox Christians comprise 95% of the traditional Greek population. In the most recent census summer 2001, the total population was 11 million of which 10 million are considered to belong to families traditionally living in Greece, while 1 million belong to families that migrated to Greece in the 1990s.

  1. To the degree possible, indicate regional presence, city-country differences, political party affiliations and ethnic bases of different denominations.

Immigrant Muslim communities live primarily in Greater Athens and Greater Thessaloniki, while an important historical Muslim minority also resides in Thrace. Significant numbers of Catholics live in islands with a Catholic tradition, like Tinos and Siros, and in major cities like Athens and Thessaloniki. All the other religious minorities can be found throughout Greece. Religious minorities in Greece do not have a particular political affiliation. Generally their voters can be found in all political parties, although none of these parties has particularly favorable positions towards religious minorities. For ethnic affiliation see the answer to the previous question.

  1. Country’s Obligations under International Law

- What is the status of international law in your legal system?
Ratified international instruments take precedence over other Greek law as per Article 28 par. 1 of the Constitution: “The generally recognized rules of international law, as well as international conventions as of the time they are sanctioned by statute and become operative according to their respective conditions, shall be an integral part of domestic Greek law and shall prevail over any contrary provision of the law.”5
Therefore, as it has been argued in several international forums by the Greek State, international human rights instruments are, directly applicable by the courts and other tribunals or administrative authorities. Also, Greek courts have the power and the duty not to apply a legislative provision contrary to the Constitution or to international legal standards; they also give due attention to the case-law of the international judicial or quasi-judicial bodies when interpreting human rights instruments.

- What are the international treaties dealing with religious freedom to which your country is a party? Please indicate both multilateral and bilateral treaties.
Regarding religious freedom and the protection of the rights of religious minorities and of persons belonging to those minorities, Greece cooperates with international organizations of which it is a member: United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe, OSCE, ILO, and UNESCO.
Greece is a contracting party to several international instruments that should provide favorable conditions for religious freedom and for the protection of religious minorities.

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)

  • Geneva Convention (1956)

  1. Convention on the Prevention and Repression of the Crime of Genocide (1954)

  2. U.N. Convention for the abolition of any racial discrimination (1970)

  3. European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ratified in Greece with legislative decree (ratified in 1953, withdrew between 1967-1974 and it was again ratified in 1974)

  4. Protocol (No1) to the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (as above)

  5. Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1959)

  6. Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1975)

  7. Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief (U.N.) (1981)

  8. Convention concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (No. 111, ILO) (1984)

  • European Social Charter (1984)

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1985)

  1. European Convention on Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (1993)

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1997)

  • Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1997)

  • Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political

Rights (1997)

  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1970)

  1. Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) (signed 1997 not ratified)

  2. U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1992)

  3. Protocol no.12 to the European Convention on Human Rights on the

Prohibition of All Forms of Discrimination

  • The European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights (1997)

  • Amsterdam Treaty (1999)

  • Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1975)

  • Concluding Document of the Madrid Meeting of Representatives of the Participating

States held on the basis of the provisions of the Final Act relating to the follow up

to the Conference (1983)

  • Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension (1990)

  • Charter of Paris for a new Europe (1991)

Also, since 1985 Greece has recognized the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights,

the U.N. Committee against Torture, and the European Social Charter which provide the possibility for individual claimants to seek justice at an international level once the national legal means have been exhausted.

- How strictly has your country abided by the reporting procedures established by the international treaties to which it is a party? Were any recommendations made by those treaty bodies in regard to religious freedom? Were they implemented by your government?
Greek governments in the past rarely reported to the bodies established by the international treaties that Greece is a party of. In more recent years more and more often the Greek government is forced to do so in order to defend itself, since international and national NGOs who monitor the situation of human rights in Greece have submitted alternative reports to the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and other intergovernmental institutions, while the country was scheduled to be reviewed without state reports by bodies like CERD and CESCR. Thus governmental as well as alternative reports and presentations have been submitted to the UN committees of CERD, CRC, CAT, CEDAW and the OSCE.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, acting within the terms of his mandate, visited Greece from 18 to 25 June 1996 at the invitation of the Greek Government. During his stay, the Special Rapporteur visited Athens (18-22 June and 25 June) and Alexandroupolis (22-24 June) in order to meet with official representatives of, inter alia, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education and Cults, the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization, Justice and Defense, as well as the Prefect of Evros. He also met with religious and political leaders representing religious minorities (with the exception of the Orthodox believers of the Old Calendar), ecclesiastical authorities of the Orthodox Church, prominent individuals, and representatives of non-governmental organizations, including Greek Helsinki Monitor, Minority Rights Group-Greece, SOS Racisme, The Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights, The Ligue Hellénique pour les Droits de l’ Homme and Helsinki Citizens Group. He also visited places of worship. During his stay, the Special Rapporteur focused particularly on legislation regarding of tolerance and non-discrimination based on religion or belief, on the implementation of this legislation, and on policy in force.

The UN Special Rapporteur Abdelfattah Amor “notes that there are limitations on freedom of worship which are inconsistent with internationally established human rights norms. (…) [He] considers the constitutional provisions prohibiting proselytism to be inconsistent with the 1981 [UN] Declaration and stresses the need for greater respect for internationally recognized human rights norms, including freedom to convert and freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private (…). These comments also apply to the [1938 and 1939] Necessity Acts concerning proselytism. Removal of the legal prohibition against proselytism is very strongly recommended. Failing this, proselytism could be defined in such a way as to leave appropriate leeway for the exercise of religious freedom. With regard to legislation governing places of worship, the Special Rapporteur is in favor of abolishing the Necessity Acts and elaborating a new law which would dispense with the need to seek the opinion of the Orthodox Church for the construction of places of worship and would confer on the State the competence to guarantee religious freedom (…). With regard to the legislation on identity cards, which provides for mention to be made of the holder’s religion, the Special Rapporteur recalls the resolution of the European Parliament (see chap. I, B, para. 30), which considered this provision, firstly, as a violation of the fundamental freedoms of the individual, particularly freedom of opinion and religious freedom, which are the exclusive province of the human conscience and, secondly, as a provision that should be abolished. The Special Rapporteur fully supports this resolution. (…) Lastly, regarding other legal issues, (…) the Special Rapporteur believes it necessary to ensure that internal law is consistent with international law. With regard to the revision of the Constitution, the Special Rapporteur would like to see the necessary changes introduced in that context or set out in formal texts, with assurances that they will be interpreted in a manner consistent with religious freedom.”
With regard to the Greek State, the Special Rapporteur made the following general recommendations:
(1) The Special Rapporteur recommends that the State in its religious affairs policy should consult representatives of human rights organizations, lay, religious representatives from all religious minorities, and the Orthodox Church. Such cooperation should result in a coherent religious affairs policy focused on tolerance and non-discrimination in line with the revised legislation. It should be based on the principle of respect for the rights and freedoms of each religious community, regardless of whether it is a State religion or a minority religion.
(2) The State should also adopt and apply administrative, disciplinary, training and other measures in order to forestall and penalize any act of intolerance or discrimination on the part of the authorities. These measures include, for example, matters having to do with access to administrative posts for members of religious minorities, permits for places of worship, respect in the school system for religious beliefs and convictions, and so forth.
(3) The Special Rapporteur believes that special efforts should be made to promote and develop a culture of tolerance and human rights. The Greek authorities could play an active role in increasing the awareness of the values of tolerance and non-discrimination based on religion and belief. In this respect, the Special Rapporteur is firmly convinced that lasting progress could be made primarily through education. In particular, by ensuring that school curriculum, school textbooks and properly trained teachers disseminate a culture that promotes tolerance in the fields of religion and belief.
(4) In addition, as he noticed problems of intolerance and discrimination in the fields of administration of justice and the media, the Special Rapporteur believes that it would be appropriate to make use of the Center for Human Rights program for advisory services (see E/CN.4/1995/91). Appropriate training of the personnel of the judicial system, the administration in general and the media in the areas of tolerance and non-discrimination based on religion and belief would be extremely useful.
(5) The Special Rapporteur also wishes to stress the importance of establishing a permanent interfaith dialogue between religious minorities and the Orthodox Church in order to combat all forms of intolerance and religious discrimination.
(6) Lastly, the Special Rapporteur reiterates the need to shield religious matters from political tensions and struggles so that religious freedom may express itself in characteristic contemplation and serenity. This would benefit all religious faiths, Greek society in general, religious freedom and human rights in Greece.6
No amendments to these laws, dating from the dictatorship of the 1930s, have been introduced. Neither the 1998 nor the 2001 constitutional amendments have not taken into account the UN recommendations. As a result, Greek legislation and practice has remained quite intolerant.
The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, (ECRI), in its Second Report on Greece, adopted on 10 December 1999, reports that: “The Greek Constitution establishes the Eastern Orthodox Church as the prevailing religion. Although the Constitution also provides for freedom of religion, non-Orthodox religious - notably other Christian - groups have faced administrative obstacles and legal restrictions on religious practice and their members often experience intolerant behaviour and sometimes discrimination. The problems encountered by these groups have included difficulties in obtaining and executing building permits and opening places of worship. Obstruction by local authorities has in some cases been decisive in this respect. Some members of these religious groups have also been arrested on grounds of proselytism. The European Court of Human Rights has found Greece in violation of religious freedom in cases concerning these matters. Although the situation in these areas is reported to be improving, for example as concerns prosecutions for proselytism, ECRI considers that considerable efforts are still needed to fully guarantee freedom of religion to minority religious groups and to promote a climate of tolerance. In particular, ECRI endorses the recommendations concerning legislative reforms and implementation of laws and policies issued in 1996 by the Special Rapporteur on religious freedom of the UN Commission on Human Rights and encourages the Greek authorities to strengthen their efforts to put these recommendations into practice.” Also, regarding identity cards, and reference to ones religious identity, the report recommends: “In its first report, ECRI suggested that any reference to religion be removed from identity cards, in order to limit overt or covert discrimination against members of non-Orthodox religions, who may in some cases be considered less “Greek” than Orthodox ethnic Greeks. ECRI understands, however, that the new identity cards, which are to be issued by the Ministry of the Interior, will contain a specific reference to religion. ECRI therefore reiterates its call for the removal of this reference.” Regarding the Jewish community, the report explains that, “Although there are no reports of problems in the exercise of freedom of religion by the Jewish communities in Greece, antisemitic material often appears in the extreme right-wing media, and antisemitic undertones have also surfaced from time to time in public debate. ECRI encourages the authorities to keep the situation under review.” Finally, on the Muslim Minority of Western Thrace the report explains that: “The situation of the Muslim minority of Western Thrace is determined by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and various other international agreements. The majority within the Muslim minority identify themselves as Turks, although this general category includes Pomaks and Muslim Roma as well. Greece officially recognizes the Muslim minority in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne. Many members of this minority of Turkish origin, however, feel discriminated against and persecuted for reasons arising out of the practical implementation of the Treaty of Lausanne.” A major issue for the Muslim minority of Western Thrace concerning their freedom of religious expression concerns administration of charitable foundations and free elections of muftis. “The administration of private charitable foundations used to support education, social welfare and minority activities. Members of the Muslim minority complain that their right to establish, manage and control such foundations is not respected by the Greek state, due to the role played by the latter in the appointment of the management boards of these foundations. ECRI considers that the right of the Muslim minority to establish, manage and control such foundations should be fully respected in accordance with Greek domestic law and the Treaty of Lausanne. It is also noted that, although Mosques operate freely in Western Thrace, the Greek Government retains and exercises the right to appoint muftis (Islamic judges and religious leaders), arguing that the appointment by the government is necessary due to the fact that muftis have judicial functions in certain civil matters (e.g. marriage and divorce, alimony, guardianship and emancipation of minors, interstate succession, etc.). This position is unsatisfactory to many members of the Muslim minority of Western Thrace. Some Muslim communities have, however, elected unofficial muftis, and in 1998 one of them was fined, - after receiving a prison sentence from a court of first instance - for usurping the authority of the official mufti. The ECRI stresses that the right of the Muslim minority to democratically choose its religious leaders should be respected. ECRI suggests that, given such an over-riding principle, it would be possible to find a means of ensuring that the persons in question have the necessary abilities to carry out these administrative duties.”7
The Greek constitution gives the Eastern Orthodox church the status of an official religion, relegating other religions to a disadvantaged status. In September 1996, in a judgment against Greece for violation of article 9 on religious freedom, in the case of Christian Jehovah’s Witnesses, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) criticized Greek legislation for “allowing far-reaching interference by the political, administrative and ecclesiastical authorities with the exercise of religious freedom” and for “imposing rigid or indeed prohibitive conditions on the practice of religious beliefs by certain non-Orthodox movements,” concluding that there is “a clear tendency on the part of the administrative and ecclesiastical authorities to use these provisions to restrict activities of faiths outside the Orthodox Church.” This case gave the Court the opportunity to express some important thoughts and principles on religious freedom: “the freedom of thought, conscience and religion protected by Article 9 is one of the foundations of the democratic society. In its religious dimension it is one of the most vital elements that form the identity of the devotees and their perception of life. It is also a precious attainment for atheists, agnostics, sceptics, and indifferent alike. Pluralism, which is inseparably linked with the democratic society, is dependent on it… The freedom of religious expression is not only exercised collectively, in public and within the circle of the co-believers. It can also be exercised individually and in private. In addition, it includes, in principle, the right of somebody to try and persuade their neighbours through teaching. Without the recognition of this right the freedom to change religion or beliefs protected in Article 9 would become void” 8 In another case against Greece brought to the ECHR in relation to violation of Article 9 concerning several JWs who had been persecuted and convicted for illegal operation of religious venues the Court produced a verdict that was extremely critical to Greece. In particular, it condemned Greek legislation for “allowing the flagrant intervention of political, administrative, and ecclesiastical authorities in the exercise of religious worship” The Court even moved a step further from the previous case in explaining the notion of religious freedom. In its decision it included the following thinking: “the right to religious freedom, as it is meant by the Convention, excludes any estimation by the state on the legality of religious beliefs or the way of expressing them.”9
Two other cases reached the ECHR concerning the refusal of two Christian Jehovah’s Witnesses pupils to participate in the National Day school parades. The Court in its ruling did not ascertain that a violation of Article 9 had occurred. It did, however, find that Article 13, in conjunction with Articles 9 and 2 of the First Protocol, had been violated. Specifically, the Court referred to the absence of a national authority responsible for examining the pupil’s petition. The Court expressed its surprise at the expulsion of the two pupils for their refusal to participate in the parades and put forward the general principle that “the parents have the right to enlighten and inform their children, to exercise in relation to the children their natural parental function as educators or to guide their children to a path in line with their own personal religious or philosophical beliefs.”10 Further, we will be presenting these and other cases taken by ECHR in detail.
These two cases and their rulings changed considerably the position of pupils from other religious communities in Greek schools. According to the latest related law (Presidential Decree 121/1998) on primary school education, the exemption of those pupils from the classes on “religiousness” and from the compulsory participation in the Morning Prayer and mass were secured. In relation to the National Day parades, no official exemption has been foreseen but any form of penalty against pupils refusing to participate is forbidden. In addition, the second grade “religiousness” book for the Lyceums, which had a special chapter preaching intolerance towards other religious denominations, was abolished, though later replaced by others that continue to contain negative statements about the non-Orthodox religious communities.
The Council of Europe’s Directorate General of Human Rights, in its Memorandum to the Greek Government (14-05-1998) noted that:
1. The prerogative of the Minister of Education, who is legally responsible to assess whether there are “substantial reasons” to approve or not to approve applications for the foundation and operation of temples and houses of worship, is extremely broad.

2. There should be a legislative initiative to fix a deadline within which the Minister of Education should have decided upon the requests for the foundation and operation of a temple or a house of worship.

3. The Greek government has the responsibility to inform the Greek courts over the content of the ruling in the case of Manousakis and others and see to its implementation by the Greek justice system.
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) (committee of independent experts to the European Social Charter) received a complaint by the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) against Greece (8/2000) that the provisions of Act no 2510/1997 which allows conscientious objectors to perform civilian service instead of military service, as well as their application in practice, are of a punitive nature. It contends that the modalities and conditions for the performance of this civilian service amount to forced labour. ECSR concluded six against three votes that the situation in Greece is not in conformity with article 1 paragraph 2 of the Charter because the duration of civilian service is 18 months longer than that of the corresponding military service. A conscientious objector may therefore perform alternative civilian service for a period up to 39 months. ECSR considers that these additional 18 months, during which the persons concerned are denied the right to earn their living in an occupation freely entered upon, do not come within reasonable limits, compared to the duration of military service. It therefore considers that this additional duration, because of its excessive character, amounts to a disproportionate restriction on “the right of the worker to earn his living in an occupation freely entered upon”, and is contrary to Article 1 par. 2 of the Charter.
In 2002, in its concluding observations the UN’s Committee of the Rights of the Child, in its report on Greece, expressed “its concern at reports of administrative and social pressures being placed on children from religious minorities including, for example, the requirement that a student’s secondary school graduation certificate indicates, where this is the case, that the student does not practice the Greek Orthodox religion. (…) The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that a child’s religious affiliation, or lack of, in no way hinders respect for the child’s rights, including the right to non-discrimination and to privacy, for example in the context of information included in the school graduation certificate.”11

- Does your country adhere to a mechanism of individual complaint established by an international treaty? Please indicate if any cases of religious freedom violation in your country have been considered by treaty bodies.
Greece adheres to the mechanisms of individual complaint to the ECHR and to UN CAT but not to UN CERD. Below are listed cases of religious freedom with judgments against Greece (or, in the cases of Pentidis and Tsavachidis, friendly settlements to avoid judgments against Greece) by the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights. They concern all religions: one case for the dominant Orthodox Christian Church, as well as nine for the Christian Jehovah’s Witnesses, and one each for the Catholics, the Protestants and the Muslims (in October 2002 a judgment on two applications by Mehmet Agga, the other –besides Ibraim Serif- Muslim mufti selected by the minority, is expected). The array of the cases reflects the extent of the problems of religious freedom.

  • “Kokkinakis v. Greece” (14307/88), 25 May 199312

  • “Holy Monasteries v. Greece” (13092/87;13984/88), 9 December 199413

  • “Manoussakis and others v. Greece” (18748/91), 26 September 199614

  • “Valsamis v. Greece” (21787/93) 18 December 199615

  • “Efstratiou v. Greece”, (24095/94) 18 December 199616

  • “Tsirlis and Kouloumpas v. Greece” (19233/91;19234/91), 29 May 199717

  • “Georgiadis v. Greece” (21522/93), 29 May 199718  

  • “Pentidis and others v. Greece” (23238/94), 9 June 199719

  • “Canea Catholic Church v. Greece” (25528/94), 16 December 199720

  • “Larissis & others v. Greece” (23372/94;26377/94;26378/94), 24 February 199821

  • “Tsavachidis v. Greece” (28802/95), 21 January 199922

  • “Serif v. Greece” (38178/97), 14 December 199923

  • “Thlimmenos v. Greece” (34369/97), 6 April 200024

  1. Directory: bhr -> english -> organizations
    organizations -> Minority rights group – greece (mrg-g) Address: P. O. Box 60820, gr-15304 Glyka Nera
    organizations -> Minority rights group – greece (mrg-g) Address: P. O. Box 60820, 15304 Glyka Nera
    organizations -> P. O. Box 60820 gr 15304 Glyka Nera, Greece
    organizations -> Minority rights group – greece (mrg-g) Address: P. O. Box 60820, 15304 Glyka Nera
    organizations -> Minority rights group – greece (mrg-g) Address: P. O. Box 60820, 15304 Glyka Nera
    organizations -> Minority rights group – greece (mrg-g) Address: P. O. Box 60820, 15304 Glyka Nera
    organizations -> Minority rights group – greece (mrg-g) Address: P. O. Box 60820, 15304 Glyka Nera
    organizations -> Greek helsinki monitor (ghm) minority rights group – greece (mrg-g)
    organizations -> 45 rights groups from 21 euro-mediterranean countries decry frequent and grave violations of foreign detainees’ rights in greece

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