Identity – History
League’s activities are mainly based on the voluntary contribution of its members. Its resources come mainly from the subscriptions of more than 500 members, donations and funding of activities in the frame of partnerships with other organizations, designed and proposed in accordance with the statutory purposes and ensuring its independence.
The Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) is the oldest human rights organization in Greece.The first attempt for its foundation was made in 1918 by G.. Kafantaris, Al. Delmouzos, G. Petsopoulos, and others. The League was set up, originally, in 1936 with Aleksandros Svolos as president and was dissolved by the dictatorship of the 4th of August. It was reinstituted in 1953. Except from Aleksandros Svolos, other important figures took on the role of presidency within the organization, such as I. Tsirimokos, Str. Someritis, Agni Rousopoulou, Dimitris Kallitsounakis, Thaleia Kolyva.
The dictatorship of 1967 dissolved HLRH. Faidon Velgeris was one of the main witnesses against the Greek government in the infamous “Greek case” at the Council of Europe. This process created an important precedent: Greece was the only state that has ever been evicted from the Council of Europe for systematic violation of human rights. The League during this period was particularly active in Paris, as it was outlawed in Greece, and after the fall of the junta (1974), it was set up again in Greece. According to its statute, the League “undertakes activities in the domain of dissemination, advocacy and development of principles that reckon to humans integrated to social structures, rights and freedoms”.
For a detailed review of the League’s history, see the article “The history and interventions of the Hellenic League for Human Rights (1918-2013)” (Michalis Moraitidis, PhD in Contemporary History)
Since cease of dictatorship, in the Board of Directors, many people have been active, among others, Phaedon Vegleris, Aristovoulos Manesis, John Souriadakis Nikos Frangakis, Nikos Alivizatos, Chrysa Hatzis, John Ktistakis Yannis Ioannidis Michalis Tsapogas, Cleo Papapantoleon Kostis Papaioannou, Dimitris Sarafianos Nikos Paraskevopoulos Dimitris Christopoulos, Konstantinos Tsitselikis.
The theoretical processing of contemporary data and the status of the rights at national or international level, the prevention of violations with daily vigilance and intervention for the protection of victims, are the primary tools that the non governmental sector can provide as a contribution to the restriction of human rights violations.
The means through which the goals of the League are achieved include the study of problems citizens are facing, at individual and/or collective level, the elaboration and submission of proposals for their solutions, the provision of legal assistance, public awareness raising and deepening of public dialogue on human rights, through the organization of public presentations, conferences, publications, and other means that are deemed appropriate under the circumstances. To maximize the achievement of its goals, the League envisages the cooperation with other national or international bodies active in the field of human rights (human rights organizations, Greek Ombudsman, National Commission for human rights, and international organizations, Council of Europe, UN). The League since its establishment is a regular member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (www.fidh.org). Since August 2016, Dimitris Christopoulos is elected at Fidh’s presidency.
In Thessaloniki since 2008, operates the Thessaloniki’s Group of League, which had historical action between 1964 -1967. The group is active in rights issues in North Greece. Also, in 2015 the Crete’s Group has been formed.
The latest elections for the board of the Hellenic League for Human Rights held on April 2021.
The Board was constituted as follows:
Chairman: Andreas Takis
A’ vice chairman: Ioannis Ioannidis
B’ vice chairman: Elena Markou
Secretary General: Fotini Kokkinaki
Treasurer: Lefteris Papagiannakis
Deputy Secretary: Aikaterini Pournara
Members: Ioannis Tasopoulos, Christos Iliadis, Pia Koilia
Deputy members: Kiriakos Aggelakos, Alexandros Sakellariou
Human rights in contemporary context
The HLHR was founded and developed in an environment of a shrinking democracy; an environment where the struggle for the protection of human rights was politically dangerous but nevertheless focused on its goals. The post-1974 period in Greece provided a safer environment for human rights defenders. Nevertheless, this new era revealed itself to be a lot more complex in what concerns understanding, preventing and challenging the new forms of violations which arise from the social complexity of our times.
- The widening of the Greek, like any liberal, Democracy and the subsequent embracement with human rights, resulting in their invocation as a means of political legitimacy for their obsolescence,
- Shortcomings with regards to the observation of guarantees provided for by the penal procedure especially regarding high risk groups, such as prisoners, foreigners, etc.
- Anti-terrorist legislations and their multiple consequences in the domain of the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.
- The perpetual issue of State-Church relations, and validly certified problematic situation of religious freedom in Greece.
- The revival of ethnic conflicts in the near abroad geographical environment of the country and the intervention of the “international community” on the pretext of protecting human rights, in particular those of minorities.
- Migration to Greece coupled with weak or non-willingness of state mechanisms to regulate legally the phenomenon and to find solutions to problems such as legality conditions, detention, expulsion etc.
- The survival of traditional phenomena of minority and cultural diversity in Greek territory in connection with the radicalization of an important part in Thrace and Western Macedonia, are just some of the most illustrative examples that show that in the contemporary context it is required a very complex vigilance for human rights.
- The reform of the nationality law and the rationalization of relevant mechanisms.
- Racist violence and racist speech as levers to undermine the enjoyment of a series of rights.
- The rise of neo-Nazism and the impact on the coherence of the rule of law.
Project – Activities
- Cooperation with the UNHCR (Office in Athens) for undertaking pilot court cases (strategic litigation) for asylum seekers and victims of racist violence.
- Appealing to the European Court of Human Rights in cases with critical interest (see Shipwreck case to Pharmakonisi in collaboration with GCR, Group for the rights of refugees & Immigrants ecc).
- Cooperation with the UNHCR for issuing the Yearbook Law Immigration and Refugees.
- Associate partner in the European network Migrant Integration Policy Index, which is coordinated by the Migration Policy Group and the British Council.
- Implementation of the project RAXEN since 2007. RAXEN is the national body for the registration and reporting of racism and discrimination against immigrants and minorities The reports are submitted to the Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU (FRA) and provide data for the comparative study and analysis of these phenomena at European level.
- Since June 2011, the League in consortia with the European Center for Constitutional Law, participates in the programme: Data collection and research services on fundamental rights issues (Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU (FRA)
- Implementation of the project “Legal, support and accompanying services to victims of hate crimes”.
- Implementation of the project “Action Platform for the Rights of Mental Health”.
- Partner of the Project CONTACT (Creating an Online Network, monitoring Team and phone App to Counter hate Crime Tactics).
- Member of NAFTHA –NAZI FREE THESSALONIKI ASSEMBLY Partnership for legal action against racial hatred practices & violence in Thessaloniki.
- GoldenDawnWatch – an initiative to monitor the trial against Golden Dawn.
- Participation in the research project TOCSIN (Teacher suppΟrt Confronting Social INequalities), study of consequences of financial crisis at school, in cooperation with UoA, UoM (funded by EOX).
- Partner in the Project REACT (Refugee, Assistance, Collaboration, Thessaloniki), providing legal advice to refugees staying at hosting structures of Thessaloniki, Neapolis-Sykies and Kalamaria, in cooperation with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Municipality of Thessaloniki, ARSIS, Praksis, GCR, XANΘ (funded by UNHCR).
- Implementation of the project Provision of legal and other essential information to refugees, providing legal information to refugees [2 groups in Thessaloniki, one group in Athens] [funding OSIFE].
Participation in national, European and international bodies and networks
- Participation in the National Commission of Human Rights (G. Ioannidis)
- Participation in the Council of Migrants’ Integration of the Municipality of Athens (Ang. Serafeim, Chr. Iliadis)
- Participation in the Council of Migrants’ Integration of the Municipality of Thessaloniki (K. Tsitselikis)
- Participation in the Racist Violence Recording Network under the coordination of the National Commission of Human Rights and the UNHCR (G. Spyropoulou)
- Participation in all activities of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
- Participation in activities of the European Association of Human Rights (AEDH), where the League is represented in the Administrative Council
- Participation in the activities of the “Access & Legal Rights Committee” in the frame of Athens Coordination Centre for Migrant and Refugee issues – ACCMR
- Member of the Network “Map of Idomeni” , the initiative of the Union of journalists of Daily Newspapers of Macedonia-Thrace , concerning the creation of the code of Antiracist Ethics of Greek Journalists. Other members till today: UNHCR, Faculty of journalism and Media (Aristotle Un. of Thessaloniki), Lab for the Peacemaking Journalisms of Aristotle Un. of Thessaloniki independent personalities, journalists of provincial media.
- Member of the Network Select Respect, a network of organizations that acts for the protection of human rights, the fight against discrimination and racism.
Other activities of HLHR is the Radio programme in Athina 984 radio.
Last, but not least, HLHR undertakes regular public interventions with press releases, press conferences, documentation texts, memos legislative proposals and reports.