Greece: Suspended sentences for conscientious objectors

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Two trials of conscientious objectors in Greece prompted a joint statement of War Resisters' International, the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO), and the Greek section of Amnesty International.

Giorgos Monastiriotis, a professional soldier who refused to participate in the Iraq war for ideological reasons of conscience, was again on trial on 18 February for the third desertion charge before the Appeal Military Court of Athens. He was sentenced to five months imprisonment, but the sentence was suspended for three years. Giorgos Monastiriotis refused to deploy to the Persian Gulf in May 2003, in protest against the support of Greece to operation "Enduring Freedom" - a contribution to the war against Iraq.

Condequently, Giorgos Monastiriotis was put on trial repeatedly, and sentenced repeatedly. On 13 September 2004 he was arrested and sentenced to 40 months' imprisonment for desertion by the Naval Court of Piraeus. He was taken immediately to prison in Corinth where he remained imprisoned for 22 days until his temporary release pending his appeal hearing. On 17 January 2005 he was sentenced again by the Naval Court of Piraeus to 5 months' imprisonment for a second desertion charge, because he did not return to his unit after his release. He appealed and was released until his appeal trial, which never took place because law 3346/2005 cleared all sentences up to 6 months' imprisonment. On 15 March 2006 he was fired by the army. On 31 October 2006 he was sentenced by the Appeal Military Court of Athens to 24 months’ imprisonment suspended for 3 years for the first desertion charge. On 21 February 2008 he was sentenced again by the Naval Court of Piraeus to 10 months’ imprisonment suspended for 3 years for the third and last desertion charge, because he did not return to his unit after his second release. On 18 February 2010, the Appeal Military Court of Athens reduced the sentence to five months suspended for three years.
Still, his repeated sentencing is a clear violation of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that "No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country."

The trial against Evangelos Mihalopoulos, a conscientious objector on ideological grounds, on 19 February 2010 on charges of insubordination before the Military Court of Athens ended with a sentence of eight months imprisonment suspended for three years. The prosecution against Mihalopoulos violates his right to conscientious objection since the civilian service which he is called to perform is discriminatory and punitive in nature and length. It’s under the authority of the Ministry of Defense and it lasts 17 months, while the military service lasts 9 months.

In their joint statement, the three organisations "express their concern about the continuing violations of the human rights of conscientious objectors in Greece." "The prosecutions against conscientious objectors are a result of the problematic Greek legislation. Significant improvements are required urgently. We are expecting the government to rationalize the institution and bring the process in line with the European and international standards", they stressed.

Sources: Greece: New trials against conscientious objectors - endless recoil, Joint Statement of War Resisters' International, EBCO, Amnesty International Greek Section, 17 February 2010; Email Alexia Tsouni, 19 February 2010