Press Release: «G.T.S.A. strongly protests for the archiving of a group-lawsuit because of the pogrom against the trans people in Thessaloniki and the illegal custody of the lawyer who defended their rights».

PRESS RELEASE

Athens, February 27, 2015

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«G.T.S.A. strongly protests for the archiving of a group-lawsuit because of the pogrom against the trans people in Thessaloniki and the illegal custody of the lawyer who defended their rights».

Greek Transgender Support Association, N.G.O. for the protection of the rights of the trans community, is strongly protesting with this press release for the archiving of a group-lawsuit – that was filed in July 2013 – due to the pogrom against the trans people in Thessaloniki which was closely linked to the lawsuit filed by the lawyer Electra Leda Koutras because she was illegally held in custody – among other offences against her that took place in June 2013 – while she was exercising her profession as the defending attorney ,of the trans people that were then persecuted in Thessaloniki.

More specifically, a team of seven trans women filed in Thursday July 11, 2013 to the District Attorney of Thessaloniki a lawsuit against the law enforcement officers that hauled them without any specific accusation and because they were subsequently been put in custody without being informed of the reason why they were retained, plus because they were subjected to abusive behavior. Their lawsuit concerned actions of torture and other serious violations of human dignity, illegal detention, abuse, unprovoked insult and other offenses. They were also requested that the lawsuit to be associated with another incident that happened during the early hours of June 5, 2013 after Electra Leda Koutras filed a lawsuit against the orderly officer and the other attending law enforcement officers because she was arbitrarily held in custody at the Demokratias Square Police Station in her attempt to get in contact with her trans customer.

We must also remind that this blatant case of human rights violations against the trans women because of their gender identity, but also against their lawyer who was defending their rights, had provoked reactions at national, European and international level. We off-handedly mention the following Parliamentary Questions: No. 11381/ 04.06.2013 introduced by MP M. Giannakaki, No. 11551/ 06.06.2013 introduced to the Parliament by MPs Av. Amanatidou, I. Gaitani, P. Dritselis, Ch. Karagiannidis, B. Katrivanou T. Kourakis, A. Stabouli, D. Tsoukalas, D. Charalambidou and No. 11530/ 06.06.2013 introduced by MP M. Giannakaki that were tabled in June 2013 and in which the then Minister of Citizen’s Protection and Public Order, Mr. Nikos Dendias, replied that the systematic arbitrary arrests were made “in order to aesthetically improve the image of the city”. The Bar Association of Thessaloniki reacted at a national level with a press release on 07.06.2013for the illegal custody of the lawyer Electra Leda Koutras, stressing that: “The illegal detention that refrains an attorney from exercising his/hers profession as a defender of his/hers client and his/her confinement in the jail not only violates every sense Constitutional legality but literally trivializes the institution of justice and the very sense of the Greek State”. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights OMCT-FIDH reacted at international level and directly expressed deep concerns about the violations of the rights of the trans people and their defenders. Moreover there were strong protests by a group of MEPs (LGBT Intergroup) on the same issue, and also by other European and international civil society organizations (Amnesty International, Transgender Europe).

From all the above is plainly obvious that the Ministry of Justice and the Administrative Authorities that conducted a Sworn Administrative Inquiry decided to turn a deaf ear and put the case in the archives. In their opinion, Electra Leda Koutras was “voluntarily” held in custody and agreed to be locked in the adductor area along with her trans client. In other words, the conclusion – and something that belongs to the sphere of global novelty – the lawyer aimed to be jailed out of her own free will. In fact, the officer responsible for the Sworn Administrative Inquiry states in his analysis that the complaint filed by a team of trans people and the complaint filed by their lawyer Electra Leda Koutras were lawsuits filed with one and only purpose: to reduce the number of police checks which had intensified during that time due to the “daily calls from complaining citizens”, apparently because the officer shared the same opinion with Mr. Dendias, that of a “clean city” where trans people had no part in it.

As a matter of fact, the District Attorney of Thessaloniki states in his archiving reasoning that, as regards to the “other cases, the law enforcement officers had serious suspicions about the authenticity of the ID cards of the trans women taking into account all the facts (place, time, trying to be abscond at the sight of police officers, the photo in the ID cards was not in accordance with their appearance)”. In short, according to the Attorney’s General opinion the arbitrary arrests of the trans women due to the fact that they were at a certain location and at a certain time of the night are only solely justified on the grounds of gender identity (in some cases, as admitted by the officer conducting the Sworn Administrative Inquiry, the arrests were conducted even when the trans women were in their cars – just as we denounce). Indeed, as he states in his conclusion: “the officers were obliged to address the trans women in the gender stated in their ID cards, to address them as males in other words”, and thus threw the thesis of the Greek Ombudsman that explicitly mentions in the Diversity Guide for public officials in order to combat discrimination» that: “Gender identity must be understood as a concept and thus be a respected definition of the perception anyone has about her/his gender, regardless of what it is stated in their ID card or in any other official document”, in the waste basket.

It must be also noted that the Police exercised in the meantime strong pressure asking the trans women either to change their initial statement or to withdraw their lawsuit or even tried to intimidate them, issues that came to our attention. Unfortunately, they succeeded in only one case, and it becomes obvious to the naked eye that when the events cry, when national, international and European institutions declare their strong and unequivocal condemnation, the authorities insist that Electra Leda Koutras volunteeringly chose to be locked away in the Police Station’s detention facility. We must mention at this point what a trans woman states in her signed Solemn Declaration: “I wish the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes committed against me and against our lawyer, although I fear that by doing so I will suffer retaliation, because such things cannot happen in a democratic state”.

Greek Transgender Support Association (G.T.S.A.) states its deep concern at the serious human rights violations that took place in Thessaloniki, which cannot be expected in a state that applies the Rule of Law. Violations that trivialize our democratic institutions and depart from every concept of law. Violations that flout international and European conventions and institutions for human rights, as well as the authorities that are responsible to apply the principles of equal treatment of the Greek Ombudsman that explicitly states that regardless of what it is in the ID card, gender identity and self-identification chosen by a person must be respected.

We declare our full support to the lawyer and President of the Greek Action for Human Rights, Electra Leda Koutras, as well as to any trans person whose fundamental human rights are cruelly violated.

At the same time, we stand by their side in their effort to take actions against the archiving of their case and in case their appeal is rejected, we are going to bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights, because our will is absolutely committed to Justice, as our constitutional principles are against any discrimination and promote the principle of Equality.

Finally, all the above show the necessity of a direct legal recognition of gender identity and the possibility trans people to be able to change their documents without any medical interventions, as we have repeatedly mentioned, the strengthening of anti-discrimination legislation with an explicit reference of gender identity and the need for specialized seminars on sexual orientation and especially gender identity in the Law Enforcement Units with the participation of specialists, the Greek Ombudsman and the LGBTI Civil Society Organizations. More than that, we need institutions that will protect the human rights defenders, who unfortunately they often put themselves in danger because of their human rights protection activities.

Greek Transgender Support Association (G.T.S.A.) Board of Directors
29 Syggrou Avenur, 1st Floor, Athens – GR 11743
http://www.transgender-association.gr/
transgender.support.association@gmail.com

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~ από Σωματείο Υποστήριξης Διεμφυλικών στο Μαρτίου 6, 2015.

 
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