Roma Charged Under Sanitary Decree Found Not Guilty

On December 1, 2003, the One-Member Misdemeanour Court of Nafplio acquitted twenty-seven Roma from Glykeia, near Nafplio in the Peloponesse region of Greece, charged in accordance with the Common Ministerial Decree of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Health No. A5/696/1983 "Sanitary Provision for the Organised Relocation of Wandering Nomads". The defence argued inter alia that the defendants were not itinerant and hence that they fell outside the 1983 Decree's scope of application, an argument that the court accepted and it rendered a verdict of not guilty. The five Romani men and twenty-two Romani women were charged because they had allegedly settled on land in Glykeia without permission from the end of November 1998 through June 17, 1999. However, in 1986, the Prefectural Council of Argolida decided to create the existing settlement and relocated the Roma living in the area. TheERRC provided legal representation for the group, in co-operation with Mr Spyros Kloudas, a local lawyer.

This was not the first time members of the Glykeia Romani community were indicted under the 1983 Sanitary Provisions. In 1999, the same twenty-seven Roma faced identical charges before the One Member Misdemeanor Court of Nafplio, which acquitted them on grounds that their continuing residence in the area was due to necessity in accordance with Article 25 of the Greek Penal Code. It is to be noted that the Roma have been living in the settlement since 1986, when the Prefectural Council of Argolida decided to create the existing settlement and relocated there the Roma living in the wider area.

The December 1, 2003 decision of the One-Member Misdemeanour Court of Nafplio will constitute an important precedent against potential future criminal indictments and sentencing of Roma for "settling illegally" because although the 1983 Sanitary Provision has been amended by virtue of the Joint Ministerial Decision 23641/2003 "Amendment of the A5/696/25.4.1983 Sanitary Provision for the organized settlement of itinerant persons", the latter still concerns "itinerant persons". This term is essentially a euphemism for Roma, as Article 6(3) of the Joint Ministerial Decision 23641/2003 excludes from the scope of its application all those categories of persons to which it could be applicable, such as farmers in agricultural areas or of cattle-breeders in summer or winter grasslands and travellers in general. (ERRC, GHM)

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