Circular Bans the Use of Derogatory References to Roma by Greek Police
16 December 2004
In follow-up to an August 3, 2004 meeting with representatives of the ERRC and its Athens-based partner organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), Mr Nikolaos Tasiopoulos, Chief of Staff of the Hellenic Police Headquarters informed the ERRC/GHM, via its Information Note issued on August 20, of its perspective on investigating racially motivated crimes. According to the Information Note, Greek legislation currently contains no provisions stipulating special investigation into possible racial motives for crimes; under the current law, investigation into possible racial motives depends on the facts available and the capacity of the investigating officer to find evidence of such.
In the Note, however, the Hellenic Police Headquarters "highly recommended that certain rules be laid down, defining cases in which the examination of the racial motive should be mandatory. This proposal however should not be interpreted as signifying that in all other cases, the review of racial motive should be excluded from the wider investigation into the motives." Hellenic Police Headquarters stated,
"[…] it is imperative that the existence of racial motive be investigated in depth and that all evidence of probative value be collected: When the alleged perpetrators confess to having committed the offence; When the victims and the witnesses of an offence make allegations of racial motive; When, according to probative evidence acceptable by the Code of Criminal Procedure, there are inferences of racial motive; and when the alleged perpetrators and the crime victims designate themselves as or are members of racial etc. groups."
It was further stated that such rules should apply throughout the entire procedure to all officials in the justice system and that investigators, police officers and judges should undergo anti-racism training.
Earlier, on August 4, 2004, Mr Tasiopoulos issued a circular banning the use by Greek police officers of derogatory references to Roma. The circular, No. 7100/26/5, entitled "Identification of members of the vulnerable group of Roma", states, "[…] when there is a need to identify a member of the vulnerable group of Roma, in correspondence, written and oral statements of the Agencies and your staff, you make use exclusively of the international terms Rom (Roma) or of the term Gypsy (Tsiganos in Greek). The use of derogatory terms, like "athigganos", etc., is not allowed".
The issuance of both the Information Note and the Circular followed a meeting with ERRC and GHM representatives during an ERRC visit to Greece in late July/early August 2004. The meeting, along with meetings with representatives of several government ministries, followed visits to several Romani communities in Athens, Spata and Aspropyrgos with Ms Livia Jaroka of Hungary, the first Romani Member of European Parliament and Mr Vasilis Paiteris, special advisor on Romani issues to the Greek Deputy Minister of Culture. A joint statement issued by Ms Jaroka, Mr Paiteris, the ERRC and the GHM is available on the Internet at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/organizations/ghm/ghm_02_08_04.doc. The ERRC and the GHM welcome the issuance of the Information Note and the Circular by the Hellenic Police Headquarters. Both organisations hope that the sentiments expressed therein will be acted upon and enforced.