Following an official visit to Greece between 13 to 22 June 2022, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, published a statement presenting her preliminary observations and recommendations. During her visit, she met with the Legal Centre Lesvos and other human rights defenders across Greece.
In her statement she adopted one of Legal Centre Lesvos’ primary recommendations: to bring the current law on anti-smuggling (Migration law) fully in compliance with the UN Protocol on Smuggling. As demonstrated in our submission, the Greek legislation currently in force is overly broad and vague, which gives the opportunity for its misuse in criminal proceedings and has led to the prosecution and conviction of human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights work.
Among others, she expressed being “concerned by reports of human rights defenders, in particular those supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, being targeted by hostile comments, including by key stakeholders in the government. They are described as traitors, enemies of the state, Turkish agents, criminals and smugglers and traffickers. Such statements, especially when coming from high level officials, contribute to overall negative attitudes towards the role and work of human rights defenders, both by the larger population and by the police and other relevant agencies. This is turn further diminishes the available space for human rights defenders to operate in and may impact upon their activities and contribute to their self-censorship. Vilification of individual human rights defenders in the media, smear campaigns and death threats online and offline place serious burdens on those who the State should be championing as allies in complying with their obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.”
Legal Centre Lesvos’ full submission to the Special Rapporteur can be read here: