Greece: new law on public assemblies is restricting civic space
On 09 July 2020, the Greek parliament adopted a law regulating the right to assembly despite protests by the opposition, CSOs and findings of the Parliamentary Legislative Review Committee that some draft provisions are problematic. The main provisions of the adopted legislation include:
- Mandatory notification – the organizer is obliged to make the demonstration known to the authorities in a timely manner; otherwise the assembly may be banned or dismantled;
- Liability of organisers: The organiser is held liable for damage and injury caused by protesters;
- Vague grounds to justify ban or limitations: The authorities can ban or limit the protest if deemed to be “a disproportionate disturbance of the socioeconomic life in the area”.
The law was met with criticism by the opposition party and several other social and expert groups. The Parliamentary Legislative Review Committee in a report (in Greek) takes issue firstly with the articles regarding the obligation to make the protest known to the authorities. The authors argue that non prior notification does not make a protest illegal and does not constitute a valid reason for its prohibition. It also cites the ECHR case law, (Bukta et al v Hungary prgr 35-36 and Eva Molnar v Hungary prgr 38), to state that spontaneous gatherings are protected. The report also finds the articles concerning the reasons for prohibiting and dismantling a protest and the liability of the organizer problematic, citing also the ECHR Faber v Hungary prgr 43 and Alekseyev v. Russia prgr 75. Amnesty International has also expressed its concerns in a statement arguing that some of the provisions of the legislation are not in accordance with international human rights provisions. The Athens Bar Association also issued a statement that a breach of prior notification of an assembly alone cannot justify the dissolution of an assembly as this would “harm the core of the institutional right” as protected by the Constitution.
The right to peaceful assembly is essential to democracy and a central way for citizens (and others) to collectively express their views, contribute to political discourse as well asd hold the authorities to account. However, this right is increasingly under pressure not only in Greece but all around the globe and especially in light of Covid-19 restrictions.
ECNL is engaging with local partners and institutions to safeguard the right to peaceful assembly in a number of ways, such as working with local organizations in Europe, the Eastern Partnership and Balkan region to monitor laws and protests so that they can identify shortcomings in the legal framework. Moreover, ECNL also supports the efforts of various UN-level human rights mechanisms to create better standards for freedom of peaceful assembly.