Athens, 2 July , 2013
Joint Press Release from Greek Transgender Support Association and Hellenic Action for Human Rights – “Pleiades”:
«Alarming answer for the Rule of Law from the Minister of Citizen’s Protection to three questions set by ten members of the parliament about the arbitrary arrests of transgender individuals and the illegal detention of their lawyer, Electra Koutra.».
“Alarming answer for the Rule of Law from the Minister of Citizen’s Protection to three questions set by ten members of the parliament about the arbitrary arrests of transgender individuals and the illegal detention of their lawyer, Electra Koutra.”
The Greek Transgender Support Association (G.T.S.A) and the Hellenic Action for Human Rights -“Pleiades”, with the current press release notify the answer of the Minister of Citizen’s Protection, Mr. Dendias, to three questions set by members of the parliament about the arbitrary arrests of traG.nsgender individuals and the illegal detention of their lawyer, Electra – Leda Koutra and express their serious concern about the disregard of the seriousness of the allegations, for the disrespect of the conditions for an independent and non-biased investigation of incidents of police arbitrariness and for the complete reluctance for any investigation, concerning the so called “adductions” of transgender individuals at the region of Thessaloniki.
Specifically, beyond the intense reactions in national, European and international level (footnote 1*) the following questions were set in parliament: 11381/4-6-2013 by the MP, Ms Giannakaki (http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/Koinovouleftikos-Elenchos/Mesa-Koinovouleutikou-Elegxou?pcm_id=8c07f159-7241-40e0-a4f6-14d8edfb038b), 11551/6-6-2013 by the MPs L. Amanatidou, I. Gaitani, P. Dritseli, H. Karagiannidi, V. Katrivanou, T. Kourakis, A. Stampouli, D. Tsoukalas, D. Haralampidou (http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/Koinovouleftikos-Elenchos/Mesa-Koinovouleutikou-Elegxou?pcm_id=1033caa6-7f0a-462f-919b-5e667f9a4071), and 11530/6-6-2013 by the MP Ms. Giannakaki (http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/Koinovouleftikos-Elenchos/Mesa-Koinovouleutikou-Elegxou?pcm_id=0c8e36f5-94a5-43a1-9eed-884c6fbe43b7).
The Minister of Citizen’s Protection, Mr. Dendias answered to these three questions: you can read the complete answer here: http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/UserFiles/67715b2c-ec81-4f0c-ad6a-476a34d732bd/8126234.pdf.
From the whole answer we focus on the following:
- We formulate our serious concern for the assumption of “targeted police actions” of the “Special Operational Action Plan” of the General Police Headquarters of Thessaloniki, which as it is mentioned in the Minister’s answer, aims to “tackle, among others, prostitution and exploitation of the sexual life of socially and economically vulnerable individuals, to enhance citizens’ feeling of safety and to improve the image of the abovementioned areas” and in a non understandable way it is mentioned in relation to the systematic illegal detention of transgender individuals, which reached, in terms of insolence and obsolescence of institutions, the illegal deprivation of freedom of movement of their lawyer, Ms. Electra Koutra. We ask to be informed, together with the society, about the exact content of the so called “targeted police operations” and about the way that the Ministry intends to use them to “improve the image of Thessaloniki’s areas” where these operations take place. We wonder if, according to the authorities’ view, the presence of transgender people “downgrades the image” of certain areas and in which way the minister considers that the systematic arrests, the illegal detention and the bullying against transgender people can “aesthetically heal the landscape”. In any case, what becomes obvious from the minister’s answer is –the definitely wrong! – stereotypical attitude that all the transgender co-citizens of ours do sexual work, but also that only the existence of a transgender person in specific territories signals the right of the police officers to lead this person to the police station , detain him/her and insult his/her personal dignity.
- While the complaints refer to unnecessary arrest of transgender women, there is no discussion about that. Instead, there is a reference to “different genital orientation”. Sexual (and not genital as it is wrongly mentioned) orientation is not a “special case” its just sexual orientation- this on its own represents discrimination and reveals the intolerable ignorance of the responsible Ministry for the notions they call upon. Secondly, it is not sexual orientations that matters for transgender people but gender identity. Although, the Ministry in its answering document, underlies the recruitment of experts trained in human rights, from the same response it is proved once again that the relevant services are in complete ignorance. Before the Ministry indulges itself in more complex aspects of rightful protection, they have at least to understand the basic meanings and definitions of specific notions, which according to international scientific principles, is the “first step” for admission to any field of knowledge.
Ø It is also mentioned that a legal file has been formed and a sworn administrative inquiry is conducted against a police officer. However, this, as it is concluded from the answer, refers only to the incident which took place in the morning of 5/6/2013, in relation to the illegal detention of the lawyer Electra Koutra and not to the arbitrary “adductions” (with consequent long lasting detention in the police station) of transgender individuals. Secondly, the accusations from the lawyer’s side do not refer only to one police officer (the one who locked up the lawyer in the detention room illegally) but to all the officers who were present at that moment and encouraged psychologically the perpetrator and who violated the law by not doing what they were legally obliged to do.
It is a commonplace that our country receives international criticism for the lack of independence among the services which are responsible for the investigation of alleged acts and ommissions of the police officers, since these services fall under the direction of the Ministry of Citizen’s Protection, like the denounced police officers. In this frame, we wish for this case to function as a stimulus for the democratic reflexes of this country and for the formation of a legal framework which will be consistent with European standards and with the requirements of the Conventions mentioned by Mr. Dendias in his answer, as the latter have been legally formed by the European Court of Human Rights. Hereby we mention the decision of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, entitled as “Independent and Effective Investigation of the Allegations against the Police”.
We stress that a system of allegations against the police must be understandable, open and accessible and to express a positive attitude and understanding towards issues related with sex, race, nationality, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and age. It must be effective and proper and must contribute in the development of a culture of care in providing policing services.
An independent and effective system of allegations against the police is, first of all, an essential element for the function of a democratic and responsible police.
Additionally, in relation to Mr. Dendias answer.
Ø It is mentioned that “trainings and educational programs for the employees are conducted on the issue of human rights protection, racism and xenophobia”. In this direction, we would be interested in knowing whether if and when such programs have been conducted referring especially to sexual orientation and mainly to gender identity, as well as in relation with the protection of the defenders of human rights as it is confirmed in the article 19 of the relevant binding text of the European Commission.
Ø There is also a reference to the constitution of Stations against Racist Violence, according to P.D. 132/2012. However, in the specific Presidential Decree, there is no reference to sexual orientation or gender identity in the field of protection from racist violence. They are profoundly omitted, despite the repeated interventions of the Civil Society and despite the relevant commitment undertaken by our country towards the E.U. In this direction the broadening of the P.D. in the field of protection with the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, is necessary. The protection of the defenders of human rights is also necessary, as they constitute also a vulnerable group.
Greek Transgender Support Association (G.T.S.A) and Hellenic Action for Human Rights – “Pleiades” ask once more from the authorities to establish responsibilities for both the arbitrary “arrests” (literally: detention) of transgender individuals, after their targeting in the frame of “police operational actions” and for the police arbitrariness against the lawyer, Electra Koutra, as well as to respect the international and European requirements for the independence of the investigation and the fight against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Greek Transgender Support Association
Zan Moreas 17, Koukaki, Athens – 11741
Hellenic Action for Human Rights – “Pleiades”
Voulgaroktonou 42, Athens – 11472
Note 1*: We mention again that, apart from the questions in the parliament, the issue raised the direct mobilization of the Civil Society as a whole (see joint public announcement of 13 organizations for the human rights http://www.amnesty.org.gr/%CE%BA%CE%BF%CE%B9%CE%BD%CE%B7-%CE%B4%CE%B7%CE%BC%CE%BF%CF%83%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CE%B4%CE%B7%CE%BB%CF%89%CF%83%CE%B7-2 and of the LGBT organizations http://hellenicaction.blogspot.gr/2013/06/lgbt.html), reaction – press release of the Lawyers’ Association of Thessaloniki http://www.dsth.gr/web/guest/news/announcements?p_p_id=bs_news&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-2&p_p_col_pos=4&p_p_col_count=5&_bs_news_struts_action=%2Fext%2Fnews%2Fload&_bs_news_mainid=2121&_bs_news_loadaction=view&_bs_news_redirect=%2Fweb%2Fguest%2Fnews, urgent call from the International Watch ΟMCT-FIDH: http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/greece/2013/06/d22270/?prn=1, press release of the lgbt Intergroup of the European Parliament (and relevant statements of members of the European parliament) https://transgendersupportassociation.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/%CE%B4%CE%B5%CE%BB%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%BF-%CF%84%CF%85%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%85-%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%83-lgbt-intergroup-%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%85-%CE%B5%CF%85%CF%81%CF%89%CF%80%CE%B1%CF%8A%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%85-%CE%BA%CE%BF/), while in parallel, received an important share of the Greek and international news reports.