PRESS RELEASE: “Shameful decision by the Greek Rule of Law: Not only are defenders of human rights not protected, but punished”.

Athens, 15 September  2017


Subject: “Shameful decision by the Greek Rule of Law: Not only are defenders of human rights not protected, but punished”.

The Transgender Support Association (GTSA), a non-government organization having a volunteer nature for the rights of the transgender community, with this press release, expresses its profound sadness and concern for the rule of law in our country, following the disgraceful decision of the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance lawsuit against a human rights defender for “defamatory slander” who had reported severe violations of human rights when being locked inside a police detention cell for the rights of her transgender woman client.

This case is in continuation of the daily pogrom police detentions against trans women having taken place from May until July of 2013 in Thessaloniki on a daily basis under the guise of identity verification and sex work, daily, while in fact the same transgender individuals were being detained, placed in a detained area inside locked cells, having filed lawsuits against them without sufficient evidence, and without these women being informed of such while being held, which was also confirmed by the prosecuting investigation, while simultaneously insults were being hurled toward their personality, as well as in at least three cases where police stopped three trans women in a car while the car was in motion, immobilizing it and without any excuse whatsoever taking them into custody[1].

The severe daily violations of the fundamental rights of transgender women peaked on the night of the 4th June 2013 when after the GTSA’s discussion with the Head of Pleiades, lawyer Electra Koutra herself went to the Plateia Dimokratias Police Station for the case of a transgender woman who had been detained for the third time in four days, and when the lawyer was initially obstructed to come into contact with the detained transgender woman, this became possible only after she had contacted the number “100” police Emergency Unit to report the obstruction of the exercising of her duties as a co-functionary of justice and human rights defender, and then when she managed to enter and requested to speak with her trans client (which incidentally the policeman himself in his statement claims that it was about a simple check without anything pending against the transgender woman), the policeman pushed her into the cell where the transgender woman was located and locked her inside for about twenty minutes, while the other policemen at the scene despite her protests, were joking telling her that “you wanted to lock yourself inside”, and later when she wanted to file a suit for the violations of her rights they refused to file it, and was forced to file the lawsuit at another police station[2].

All of the above caused a joint statement – protest from 19 organizations of the Civil Society[3], an intervention from Transgender Europe[4] , a press release from a group of MEP’s of the European Council[5] , a press release from the Thessaloniki Bar Association[6] , an urgent appeal from the OMCT-FIDH Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (joint action of the Organization against Torture and the International Federation of Human Rights)[7] , as well as parliamentary questions from a group of Greek Parliament MP’s in which the former Minister of Public Order, Mr. Dendias, replied in July of 2013, affirming that there were “targeted police operations and a special operational plan of action with the purpose of improving the image of the area”[8] , in fact confirming our complaints.

It is worth noting that apart from Electra Koutra’s lawsuit for her illegal placement in detention into a locked police cell together with her transgender client, another joint lawsuit followed by six transgender women for all the violations of their fundamental rights mentioned above[9] , the cases were correlated, and then archived in February of 2015 , in both the criminal and administrative levels[10]. They considered that the lawyer Electra Koutra “voluntarily” closed and accepted to be locked inside the detention area together with her transgender client. Concluding that, according to world-wide originality, she herself wanted to be locked-up, while it must be noted that in the meantime there were intense pressures from the Police either to change the accusation testimonies or to withdraw the lawsuits and intimidation, which had been publicly reported. Efforts which unfortunately produced results in the case of the transgender woman having been locked together with Electra Koutra, and this becomes obvious when in the conclusion of the signed Law 105 Sworn Statement of this transgender woman states word-for-word: “I wish the prosecution of the perpetrators of the crimes against me and our lawyer, despite being afraid that I will suffer retaliation, because these things can’t be happening in a democracy”.

After the case was archived the lawyer Electra Koutra appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) together with a transgender woman victim of the above police practices and a case file was formed (Koutra & Katzaki v. Greece, Application 459/16)[11] , and, is worth mentioning that the transgender woman was recognized by the ECHR according to her gender identity as a transgender woman, and not according to the gender registered at birth and stated in her documents, while the Greek courts, as in their fixed practices do the opposite, characteristic example this particular judge referring to the transgender woman in the male gender.

The highlight, but also a sign of audacity when, after the archiving of the case, a compensation suit was filed by the policeman who had pushed and illegally locked the lawyer Electra Koutra claiming damages of 80,000 euros. Note that not only wasn’t he criminally and administratively penalized, for severe violations of human rights, but claimed compensation on the basis of the previous archiving, and indeed the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance partly accepted damages of 5,000.00 euros plus the policeman’s court expenses. By this embarrassing decision by the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance, which in fact rewards police arbitrariness for violating every concept of the rule of law, the judge:

  • accepts as legal the hours-long detention in a locked police cell and indeed on a daily basis and sometimes also twice daily of transgender citizens under the pretext of identity verification and with pending accusations of sex work not proven from anywhere but based on the capacity of transgender identity,


  • accepts and indeed considers, as she precisely states, “of minor importance”, the prevention of a lawyer co-functionary of justice, to have access to her transgender client,


  • considers it a non-reprehensible practice and justifies the lawyer having access to her non-detained –as the policeman himself states- client only in a locked police cell and only if she is also locked inside as well by the policeman,


  • accepts, in world-wide originality, that a lawyer, herself, chose by herself to be locked in a police cell, in order to be able to meet with her client, without even she herself, nor her client, being considered detainees,


  • accepts without circumspection the result of a sworn administrative inquiry carried out by the same colleagues of the policeman, and that the Council of Europe knowingly has in its public letter condemned these practices requesting an independent authority to examine these cases [12], considering these types of sworn administrative inquiries as unreliable, and while in the sworn statement of the transgender client it is clearly stated that “I fear I will suffer retaliation”, something that did happen since the transgender woman suffered intimidation to change her testimony,


  • doesn’t take into account any of the complaints and interventions by international bodies and organizations condemning the violations of the fundamental rights of the transgender women who suffered, but especially for the lawyer herself defender of human rights, nor even the admittance of the former Minister of Public Order that everything took place on the basis of an operational scheme to “improve the image of the city” of the transgender “contaminants”,


  • accepts the filing of the case of the co-applicant transgender woman, according to the identification data, while the ECHR according to her gender identity, the judge refers to the transgender woman in the masculine,


  • in essence and torment-free accepts the accusations of sex work of transgender women without this being proven in any way, despite that all the transgender women were found innocent and despite that from April of 2013 the Athens court accepted that: “the coincidence of the capacity of a transgender individual with her presence at a specific geographical location cannot mean that the individual is engaged in sex work, let alone of “harassing” passers-by. On the contrary, referring an individual, though, to trial with only the coincidence of the above, means that her gender identity is criminalized, and this cannot be tolerated in a favored democratic society” , in a trial where the human rights defender herself shielded the rights of the transgender community[13].


  • ends by accepting, the “slanderous” indeed, defamation against the lawyer who didn’t keep silent but dared to report all that happened against her, without even ever publically reporting the name of the policeman anywhere, except in her lawsuit, because the lawyer wanted to defend, not only her rights against police arbitrariness, but also her function and the prestige of the Rule of Law,


  • discourages the implementation all of these and the fear of damages and/or criminal prosecution against defenders of human rights not to report is raised as a Damoclean saber, since in essence police arbitrariness triumphs unpunished.

This shameful decision, exposes our country of severe human rights violations before the international community and constitutes the sum of the pathogenicity of a deficient State of Law that not only doesn’t protect defenders of human rights as it ought to according to the Directives of the Council of Ministers of the European Union as formulated since 2013[14] , but also the OSCE Guidelines for the Protection of Fundamental Rights of Human Rights Defenders[15] , but punishes them when they proceed with the self-evident for the protection of their honour and integrity, for the protection of victims of human rights violations, against their functioning as co-functionaries of justice, but also against the severely injured State of Law that cannot otherwise but concern us all, for indeed, since, it has already been requested to provide explanations from the Hellenic Government both for the treatment of the lawyer, as well as for the transgender seeking action, while third-party leading protection institutions have intervened both by lawyers as well as by lgbt individuals and are awaiting the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Transgender Support Association, in spite of all these sad developments, will not stop being on the side of victims of police arbitrariness and violence, defenders of human rights and in claiming their protection as it did in submitting its proposals for the improvement of the drafting of a law by integrating into Directive 2012/29/EE for the establishment of the minimum standards relevant to the rights, the support and the protection of victims of crime and the replacement of the Council’s Decision-Framework 2001/220/DEY, where it proposed per application of the European organizations’ previously-mentioned directives, the addition of the article for the protection of the rights of human rights defenders[16] . We specifically proposed the following wording: “The defenders of individual victims’ rights, advocates or members of non-governmental organizations, which assist in the protection of the victim, are in need of protection if that is requested, due to the particular risk of targeting, victimization, intimidation or retaliation, by the perpetrator, the prosecuting authorities or by any third party”. In particular this point we consider to be particularly important, since, both by United Nations bodies reports, as well as by the OSCE, it is indicated that often individual rights defenders are vulnerable to targeting, victimization, intimidation or retaliation. As has been moreover proven by this shameful decision.

This sad decision, cannot in any way discourage any human rights defender from upholding the State of Law, and cannot be anything but the springboard for the unfolding on behalf of the Civil Society and of each person respecting the State of Law and the democratic principles, of all the necessary forms for the claiming and restoration of the integrity of the state of law, but also in the awarding of real justice against all those who delivered impunity to those responsible.


SYGGROU 29, 1st FLOOR, ATHENS, 11743
Tel. 210.9210697
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~ από Σωματείο Υποστήριξης Διεμφυλικών στο 15 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2017.

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