Greek Ombudsman to Investigate Mayor Who Racially Abused and Threatened a Romani Family

01 July 2024

Brussels, Athens, 1 July 2024: The Greek Ombudsman is actively addressing a complaint filed by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Greek Civil Society Organizations, the Greek Helsinki Monitor, and Pro Bono Publico concerning an incident where the Mayor of Perama, Giannis Lagoudakos, racially abused and threatened a Romani mother and her children.

“This incident shows exactly why Roma often do not trust the institutions that should, in theory, help them. What most Romani people actually experience at the hands of many public institutions is abuse” said the ERRC’s President, Đorđe Jovanović. “This is also why Roma frequently do not report discrimination. They don’t believe that someone with significant political and societal capital, like a mayor, will ever be brought to justice for wronging people who are usually severely marginalised by society.”

In response to the complaint, the Greek Ombudsman, the national body for promoting equal treatment and combating discrimination, has committed to exercising its ex officio authority to investigate the incident thoroughly. The investigation will focus on any official actions, omissions, or decisions that infringe upon the rights or legitimate interests of Romani communities or their individual members.

Prior to this, the Greek Helsinki Monitor filed a criminal complaint with the Prosecutor of the Court of First Instance of Athens. Pro Bono Publico, the ERRC, and the Greek Helsinki Monitor also submitted a request for a disciplinary investigation regarding the incident to the Secretary of Decentralized Administration of Attica under a specific administrative procedure regarding elected officials.

In his video shared on social media, Mayor Lagoudakos could be seen publicly humiliating a Romani woman and her children. He threatened the woman with imprisonment and separation from her children, compared their living conditions to those of "pigs”, and directed a stream of water from a municipal water tank at them.

‘’Elected officials at all levels of government act as institutional guarantors of citizens' safety and the application of the Rule of Law. These acts intensify antigypsyism, as well as fear and insecurity within the Roma communities, and augment social exclusion, exposing the State, and posing serious risks to social cohesion and the maintenance of legal order” said Pro Bono Publico Director, Georgios Tsiakalos. ‘’In many instances in Greece and other EU member states, candidates seeking elected office, employ intolerant rhetoric against Roma communities. To prevent the scapegoating and further stigmatising of Roma for micropolitical gain, a robust system of disciplinary checks, proceedings and sanctions must be implemented in all levels of the administration’’ Tsiakalos added.

“This incident is reminiscent of the Greek authorities’ attitude towards Roma thirty years ago, when they were proudly publishing images from their violent actions against Roma. At the time, the joint work of ERRC and GHM launched in 1997 led to several international sanctions and deterred authorities from further such actions. Hence Mayor Lagoudakos’ racist and violent behavior, and his proud promotion of it, is a grave regression that Greek authorities should promptly sanction in a way that will make sure it will not be repeated” said Greek Helsinki Monitor Spokesperson, Panayote Dimitras.

This incident represents the latest of a series of hate crimes against the Romani communities in Greece. The ERRC reaffirms its commitment to stand with Romani communities throughout Greece, continuing to fight against racial discrimination and advocating for the protection of all individuals' rights and dignity. The ERRC and other Greek civil society organisations urge Greek authorities to act swiftly against such flagrant human rights violations and ensure justice is served.

The organisations will continue to monitor the examination of the case and the response from the relevant authorities.

This press release is also available in Greek.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Jonathan Lee
Advocacy & Communications Director
European Roma Rights Centre  
+32 49 288 7679

Panayote Dimitras
Greek Helsinki Monitor 
+30 2103472259

Georgios Tsiakalos
Director – Attorney at Law
Pro Bono Publico
+30 6987032383 


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