Greece convicted on the religious oath
Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 22/02/2008
A couple days ago I read on the site of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, a NGO on Human Rights, of a piece of news which I must admit didn’t displease me at all! The European Court of Human Rights, (whose jurisdiction is acknowledged by Greece), convicted the Greek Goverment on it’s insistence on forcing people to take a religious oath inside the courtrooms.
On the specific case of Alexandrides vs Greece, a lawyer was forced to declare himself not a Christian Orthodox but an atheist. The ECHR didn’t think that it was a good idea…
«The Court held that the fact that the applicant had had to reveal to the court that he was not an Orthodox Christian had interfered with his freedom not to have to manifest his religious beliefs. There had therefore been a violation of Article 9.»
I’m not going to have here the full text of the decision, you can read it in greek and english at Roides who has a campaign going on, on the abolition of the religious oath and who’s banner I link to. Or you can read it from the source at ΕΠΣΕ (ελληνικά) / GHM (english).
There are two reasons that I find this decision to be a great thing for me as a jewish greek:
The privacy issue. I don’t feel comfortable on giving up private data to anyone, the same way I don’t like that anyone should know what soccer team do I support or what political party do I vote for. Why? Cause it’s simply nobody’s business.
The second, and much more important on the practical side, is the discrimination issue. Some might argue that it is unjust to treat judges beforehand as possible antisemites who will abjure their oath and discriminate against you as soon as they’ll find out you’re not a christian orthodox.
I’d agree on a purely theoretical level but since we live on the Real World(TM) I’d prefer not taking any chances. This holds especially true since it is fairly recent the discovery of an extrajudicial circuit which aimed to produce pre-arranged court decisions and in which some Greek Church officials played a major role and as we know there isn’t much sympathy towards jews in such circles. Also it doesn’t help out that in the recent neo-nazi Plevris trial some court members were blatantly hostile and pro-nazi and disgraced the Greek Justice system. This does not mean that the greek justice system is fundamentally flawed. But it is comprised of humans and in my opinion it is evident that the respect of civil rights in Greece is not a priority of the greek judges; this no less and no more than it is for the rest of the greek society.
Or to put it in simpler words: My experience with the public sector in Greece is that the conduct of civil servants all too frequently changed when their eye fell of the «israelite»on my ID card. I have no reason to believe that the greek Justice should be any different, especially given it’s not too enviable history on civil rights matters. So even though I’d prefer that I wouldn’t have to worry about the disclosure of my religious beliefs, I also would like to conduct a normal life without such worries.
In any case let’s hope that our Government will move soon to abolish religious oath not only in courts but also in the Army and in the Greek Parliament. Last but not least I’d like give my compliments to Mr. Theodoros Alexandrides who showed courage and succeeded in bringing home a great decision!