This article is about the legal rights of activists in Greece. Recently, a new law was passed that restricts the right to protest.
In July 2020, Greece’s parliament approved a “Peaceful Assembly Law”, in order to regulate street demonstrations which, according to the liberal-conservative government, cause frequent disruptions to the public and affect commerce. “The government ... dares boldly with a junta-inspired bill to promote new restrictions to quash and destroy a main democratic right, which our people conquered through bloody battles,” unionist Dimitris Karagiannis said before the vote. The legislation was approved by 187 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament.
The Law mandates the appointment of a liaison officer, restrictions on demonstrations or outright bans them, if authorities deem they threaten public safety. It also holds organizers accountable for harm or damage caused by protesters. Street protests occur frequently in Greece, which is still recovering from a deep socioeconomic crisis that erupted in late 2009 and led to three international bailouts on tough austerity terms. Demonstrations have continued during the economic recovery but turnout has fallen. The new rules aim to replace a 1971 junta decree restricting rallies. Unionists and opposition parties accuse the government of acting preemptively to quash any opposition to possible fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Iason, one of our members from Greece explains how the Law suppresses protestors:
“Under this law protest organisers are required to give advance notice of any planned public assembly. The police or authorities are given the power to impose restrictions and even refuse permission for protests outright on public safety grounds, or if ‘there is a serious threat to disturb the socio-economic life of a particular area.’ Spontaneous protests are effectively outlawed, as ‘unauthorised’ protests and those which do not abide by prescribed restrictions can be put down.”
So far, the Greek government has shown that the true nature of this law is not to protect the safety of the Greek citizens, but to help enforce the political agenda of New Democracy, which in 2021 has also introduced a law on establishing police force inside the universities and almost passed a bill that establishes censorship in art, under the preface of addressing hate speech.