Greece's coalition government is divided over a draft law introduced by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, which aims to combat the increasing racist attacks in the debt-ridden nation. EurActiv Greece reports.
The bill stipulates that "those who publicly, orally or through the press or the internet or any other means cause or instigate violence against a group or a person based on race, religion, heritage and sexual orientation" can be imprisoned for up to six years and fined up to €20,000.
The government coalition comprises, the centre-right New Democracy (ND) party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and Roupakiotis' Democratic Left (DIMAR) party.
New Democracy: The existing legal framework is satisfactory
In an effort to avoid displeasing the right-wing of ND supporters, the general secretary of the ministerial council, a close associate of Samaras, said the provisions of the bill already existed in the current legal framework. He added that “only some small amendments are needed”, but not a new law.
The move was strongly criticised by coalition partners and by the main opposition party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza).
“Our stance is clear: It is essential to establish and implement a strict legal framework that will act as a deterrent against racial violence and will put an end to the immunity of crimes against immigrants”, Syriza said in a statement.
Syriza accused New Democracy of winking at the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which sees its rates rising in the polls.
“New Democracy not only does it block the submission of the anti racist bill in the Greek Parliament, but also does whatever is necessary to pave the way for the rise of Golden Dawn”, Syria said in the statement.
The other two coalition partners, PASOK and Democratic Left, asked New Democracy to proceed with the vote of the bill pass by the Greek parliament.
“The new draft law aims at combating the racial hatred and neo-Nazi violence … all the political parties that respect democratic procedures, have the responsibility for the enactment and enforcement of the Law … This bill cannot be part of any sort of political parties’ games,” said a statement by PASOK, which in the past had submitted a similar bill.
“The bill … is an obligation of our country and has to be present in the institutional framework of our political system. Democracy except for tolerance also has rules. And these rules must be respected by all,” Fotis Kouvelis, leader of Democratic Left, recently stated.
Golden Dawn a 'shame' for Greece and EU
In the meantime, the annual report of Amnesty International for human rights violations in 2012 shows an increasing number of hate crimes in Greece.
It also mentions allegations of human rights violations by the police, including torture and excessive use of violence.
According to the Greek TV channel SKAI, John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International called Golden Dawn a “fascist organisation” that encourages the use of violence.
“It is a shame for Greece and the EU,” he said.