NO JUSTICE FOR HUNGER STRIKER KOSTAS SAKKAS

Kostas Sakkas’s health is deteriorating rapidly. As of today, he is 32 days into a hunger strike, protesting his unlawful pre-trial detention by the Greek authorities, which now extends to 31 months. On June 17th, Sakkas was moved from prison to a general hospital, where doctors monitor his condition closely. Meanwhile, New Democracy, the leading party in Greece’s government coalition, responded to mounting criticism by attacking the main opposition party, SYRIZA, and saying that the opposition should “stop defending everyone accused of anarchy and terrorism”.

According to a medical report by Olga Kosmopoulou, MD at Nikaia General State Hospital, Kostas Sakkas’s life is in imminent danger. She points out that the hunger striker has already lost a lot of body mass, and his heart or other vital organs could fail at any moment.

Nevertheless, Public Prosecutor Ioannis Moraitakis proposed today that the detainee’s petition for release be rejected. The Judicial Council is scheduled to discuss the matter within the next few days.

Sakkas went on hunger strike on June 4th, the day on which the extension of his pre-trial detention was supposed to have ended.

Greek law allows for a person accused of a crime to be detained before trial for a period of up to 18 months. In exceptional cases, and provided certain legal conditions are met, this period may be extended to 30 months. In 1996, a law was passed (2408/1996), which provides that a single case against any person may not be broken up into several partial sets of charges, resulting in successive pre-trial detention terms, which would exceed the legal 18 month limit. This law was a result of several convictions Greece suffered in the European Court of Human Rights.

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HUMAN RIGHTS? WHAT’S THAT?

Τhe National Commission for Human Rights is an independent body, founded in 1998 to advise on human rights issues. It functions under the supervision of the Prime Minister of Greece. It is internationally acknowledged, and assessed under the Paris Principles, adopted by the UN.

Greek Riot Police in action (photo via enet.gr)

Greek Riot Police in action (photo via enet.gr)

On December 21st 2012, NCHR sent a letter to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. This letter (the full Greek original, here), along with a description of the Commission’s function and responsibilities, included an unprecedented complaint, concerning the General Secretary of the Greek Government Takis Baltakos, who is directly responsible for the personnel and infrastructure of the NCHR. According to the letter, signed by the President and two Vice-Presidents of the NCHR, the General Secretary has met with them only once, on December 7th, and on that occasion treated them with disdain. Mr Baltakos declared to the NCHR that “he is not interested in the Commission’s work or human rights, or the country’s associated international obligations”. He added that he “consciously up to now has done nothing to facilitate the work of the Commission” and that he “does not intend to act in any way to address the serious functional problems faced by the Commission, or initiate any procedure within his field of responsibility, even if that means that the NCHR is left without any scientific personnel”.

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